From raised beds to large commercial gardens, properly mulching your vegetables will help them thrive while cutting down on the amount of time you spend working in the garden. There are a number of products that you can use as mulch, with materials ranging from newspapers to wood chips. However, one time-tested material continues to reign supreme: straw. In this post, we explore why straw is so popular to use to mulch vegetable gardens.
- Weed Reduction
Straw mulch ground cover is highly effective as a weed deterrent when used correctly. By placing it around your plants in a layer 3-4” deep, the mulch will retard the growth of weeds while allowing your vegetable plants to thrive. This is because it blocks the sunlight from reaching the weeds, preventing them from growing to maturity.
It is important to monitor the amount of straw mulch on your garden throughout the growing season because the garden climate causes the straw to compost and decompose quickly (don’t worry, this is a good thing!). Add more mulch as needed to maintain a 3-4” layer to ensure optimal weed fighting.
- Moisture Retention
During the hottest parts of the summer (and, normally, the most optimal part of the growing season), the sun ensures that the moisture from the soil evaporates quickly. The good news is that mulch can keep that water in the soil where your plants can utilize it. In fact, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, “Watering the garden once a week will be the norm, rather than every day or two. If you live in an area of the country that is experiencing rainfall shortage this summer or drought, straw mulch is gold!”
- Disease Prevention
The soil can contain a number of diseases that transfer to the plants, such as early blight. The straw mulch absorbs the rain and prevents the water from bouncing back up onto the plant’s leaves. Not only does this stop soil-based illness in your plants, but it also severely limits the number of moisture-based diseases, like blossom rot. The mulch creates a barrier between your vegetable plants and the soil to discourage diseases from occurring. Additionally, straw keeps the fruits from touching the soil; this keeps them cleaner and limits the amount of washing that they will need before consumption.
If you grow a vegetable garden, no matter what scale it may be, consider using straw mulch in your garden this season. Easy to apply, and with great environmental benefits, straw can revitalize your garden and allow you to enjoy the fruits of your labor instead of working like a dog in the garden this summer. Straw has a myriad of benefits as a mulch, from weed reduction to disease prevention.