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Straw Mulch vs. Hay Mulch: Which Is Better?

Straw mulch vs. hay mulch: In the battle to control weeds, add fertility, and improve the water retention of your soil, is one really better than the other? Well, in a word . . . yes!

Which is better -- straw mulch or hay mulch? (The Grow Network)

Straw Mulch vs. Hay Mulch: What’s the Difference?

Let’s start at the beginning. What is the difference between straw and hay? Or are they essentially the same thing?

Many people think they’re identical because they’re both often tied into square or rectangular bales, but a closer look reveals that they’re actually quite different. Understanding these differences may help in your decision about which material better suits your gardening needs.

Characteristics of Straw

What is straw, and does it make a good mulch? (The Grow Network)

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

Straw is the stalk of a cereal crop such as oats, barley, wheat, or rye after harvesting has removed the seed heads.

Usually a big machine called a combine harvester will come along into the field. In one smooth operation, it chops off the top portion containing the grain and sends the grain in one direction for processing, and then cuts the straw and collects it until a bale-sized block is formed.

The straw bale is automatically tied and is then dropped out of the machine, back onto the field for later collection.

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In many parts of the world, straw is seen as a waste product—a secondary by-product of the cereal crop—and is sold for practically nothing.

But where I live in Nova Scotia, Canada, it is actually more expensive to buy straw than it is to buy hay, because not much straw is produced locally. What straw we have is quickly purchased for animal bedding. We just don’t have the climate for mass cereal crop production.

Characteristics of Hay

What is hay, and does it make a good mulch? (The Grow Network)

Hay refers to grass that has been cut while green, dried, and then made into square or round bales. Hay is used mainly for feeding animals when no fresh grass is available. It provides bulk, fiber, sugar, and nutrients to animal diets.

The best hay smells sweet, and if you take a handful and get it wet, it still looks like grass. (Straw has an almost exclusively yellow color when it is baled, and just a hint of a smell.)

Hay bales can look like a greenish coarse grass, fine grass, or even flowery and weedy grass; it entirely depends on what plants were cut and dried to make the bales. The quality can vary hugely depending on the skill of the farmer making the bales and the quality of his hay fields.

It is very important to get hay that has been dried to the optimum level, so that it’s not crumbly but is dry enough to discourage mold growth. Overly dried hay starts to compost quickly when it is damp, and composting hay bales have been known to heat up and start barn fires.

Straw Mulch vs. Hay Mulch

So now that you know the difference between straw and hay . . . why would you choose one over the other for mulching your garden? I mean, it’s just mulch, right?

The benefits of mulch in a garden cannot be overstated and, if you’re reading this article, I assume you already know how terrific it is for controlling weeds and providing walkways.

A good mulch also helps the soil to remain cool and moist longer in summer and can insulate the soil in colder weather. Mulch creates a microclimate over your soil by essentially acting as a blanket to protect it from the harsh drying effects of the sun and wind.

All mulches perform this action, including our straw and hay—but did you know that other mulches used around the world have included wood chips, bark, pine needles, shredded leaves, and even rocks?

Yes, rocks.



The inhabitants of Easter Island recognized that mulching prevented the wind and rain from eroding the valuable topsoil, so they used volcanic rocks spaced out on their fields as a lithic mulch to slow runoff and wind erosion. (But I can’t imagine most of us deliberately placing rocks in the garden, can you? I know that in my own garden, I’m constantly doing the opposite, because every year my garden seems to grow a new supply of rocks.)

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Surely some of these mulching methods work better than others, wouldn’t you think? Do some work better in areas of wind or rain? Are some better suited for slopes? What about availability? These are all questions you need to answer for yourself. Then, experiment to see what actually works for you.

Planning is a huge part of having a successful and productive garden over the long term. You should choose the location wisely, taking into account the sunlight, type of soil, and climate.

But, in reality, most of us just have to use whatever we’ve got. Not everyone has 20 acres and can pick the perfect spot. So, let’s just say that you are growing in a typical home garden and the mulches you can most easily and economically get are hay and straw.

Straw Mulch

Straw mulch in garden beds (The Grow Network)

Straw mulch in garden beds

The Pros of Using Straw Mulch

Straw is a terrific insulator. The hollow stems retain air and their chopped, light, fluffy texture allows for easy spreading. In fact, the principal uses for straw in the U.S. over the past 200 years have been as animal bedding, for insulating walls in homes (or building straw bale houses), and for covering the ice in ice houses to act as insulation so that the ice is available for use during the summer.

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When used in a garden, it also tends to remain lighter and fluffier than hay, and it keeps a beautiful golden appearance for quite a long time.

The surface remains dry even as the lowest layers touching the soil begin to decompose. Have you ever picked strawberries in a field? Almost certainly there was straw around the bushes and it gave you a good clean place to sit or kneel that felt soft and cushioned.

The Cons of Using Straw Mulch

Straw can be expensive depending on where you live, and you might not be able to grow it yourself. Straw can also act as a home to rodents because of its fluffy texture. It has a higher tendency to blow away in strong winds when it is first laid, unless you try very hard to pack it down.

Straw does add some bulk to your soil, but it is mostly composed of cellulose and fiber that are left over after the plant puts all its nutrients into the seed heads that were harvested for grain. Consequently, straw adds fewer nutrients back into the soil when it decomposes, and soilborne bacteria tie up the available nitrogen for a longer time to break down the tougher stalks.

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Because straw is fluffier and makes less direct contact with the soil, it takes longer to decompose . . . which is both a plus and a minus. If you want to add nutrients, this is a minus, but if maintaining a cover or walkway is important, then it’s a plus.

Blown-in weeds won’t land in a moist environment and sprout but, on the other hand, in-ground weeds are more easily able to push through a straw mulch from the bottom due to its fluffy nature. You can counteract this effect by weeding, putting down some newspaper before laying the straw mulch, and using a thicker layer—perhaps 8 inches thick or more—to provide a darker environment that most weeds simply don’t have the energy to get through.

Hay Mulch

Hay mulch, with winter garlic sprouts growing through (The Grow Network)

Hay mulch, with winter garlic sprouts growing through

The Pros of Using Hay Mulch

Hay is readily available and it’s possible to get a scythe and cut your own if you have a grassy area on your property. You don’t need to bale it—just cut it, let it dry, and then fork it into your wheelbarrow and wheel it over to where it’s needed. Even long grass clippings can function the same way as hay, because they’re essentially the same thing.

Hay left over from a previous year is often considered garbage by farmers who want to feed their animals the most recent and more nutritious hay. Consequently, hay is sometimes available for free during hay season in the summer.

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You can find it by looking at your local online advertisement site, such as kijiji or craigslist, or by asking your farming friends.

Hay contains a variety of grasses and legumes, plus often clover and other flowers (including both the leaf and stalk), so the plant nutrients are all there.

When hay decomposes, it adds significant nutrients to the soil to increase its fertility. It adds a balanced ratio of NPK, as well as all the trace minerals that were contained in the plant.

Hay tends to lay flat and pack down, so it decomposes fairly quickly.

It also has more of a sponge effect than straw does, which means that in heavy rainfalls, it buffers or slows down the amount of rain that soaks into the soil to help prevent erosion and leeching of nutrients.

Because hay packs down densely, the weeds from underneath get smothered and die very quickly. But weed seeds that blow in can sometimes sprout, especially in an older hay mulch that is very damp.

The Cons of Using Hay Mulch

Hay mulch has a tendency to attract snails and slugs. (The Grow Network)

Hay mulch has a tendency to attract snails and slugs in rainier climates.

In moist parts of the world, hay mulch has more of a tendency to harbor slugs and snails, so you need to keep a good eye out for them and have a method of removal ready.

Hay generally doesn’t harbor mice, because it’s too dense. Hay takes on a packed and spongy texture that holds water, so sitting after wet weather is likely to leave you with a wet bum.

Hay holds moisture, allowing seeds on top to sprout, which is why some consider hay bale gardening to be such a great thing. But if you’re trying to suppress weeds, do you really want this? And often the hay itself contains seeds that will sprout once they get wet, so you could end up with a living pathway until the dry weather dries out the topmost layers of your mulch again.

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As hay decomposes, it is broken down by various bacteria and other organisms that all use nitrogen, just as we discussed for the decomposition of straw. So what happens is that these organisms get a new food source (your hay compost) and they multiply rapidly, which depletes the soil of nitrogen. As they run out of food, the organisms die and the nitrogen is once again available for the plants to use.

So planting directly into a hay mulch without any supplemental nitrogen source available probably isn’t the best idea.

Which Should You Choose?

Should you choose straw mulch or hay mulch? (The Grow Network)

Now that you know more about hay and straw as mulches, which one are you going to choose?

The Perfect Solution

In a perfect world, the solution is to use both—a thick layer of hay mulch on the bottom, where it will decompose and act as a spongy reservoir for moisture, topped off with a few inches of straw that will be a dry layer, preventing blown-in weeds from sprouting and giving you a lovely, dry, golden walkway.

What If You Can Only Use One?

But we don’t all live in a perfect world, do we? We’re just trying to make the best of what we’ve got, and that’s what makes a great gardener or homesteader—the ability to problem-solve. So, I’d suggest that if you have a choice of only one type of mulch, you use hay simply for the fertility it will add to your soil.

Use hay mulch instead of straw mulch if you can only choose one. (The Grow Network)

Use hay mulch instead of straw mulch if you can only choose one. If you can use both, do.

As all practical gardeners know, you use what you have or can easily get. Why pay money for straw if a local farmer will give you hay in July for nothing? If you can get it free, but you don’t need it all at once, then simply put the extra bales out by your garden, throw a tarp over them, and save them for next year.

If the hay gets wet and starts to compost itself, it really doesn’t matter. It’s all going in the soil in the end anyway, and the pile of bales can act as a windbreak while it waits to be used.

Your Evolving Garden

A garden is a living, breathing thing. It evolves from year to year and, as gardeners, we are the stewards of the fertility that is in our soil.

It depends on us to pay attention and make sure that we don’t take out more than we put back in. After all, we want our gardens to feed us for many years to come and to be places where we can teach our children and grandchildren the mysteries of growing their own food, too.

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Gardens are places where families and communities come together to work, talk, and visit, so we should try to make sure that, in addition to teaching the value of work, we also find pleasure in being outdoors.

Planning the best method of mulching your garden is important for fertility and moisture retention, and it will also significantly reduce the amount of time you spend watering and weeding, which will in turn increase your enjoyment of your garden.

A well-mulched garden also makes better use of the precious water resources that are becoming scarce in so many places. As a fellow gardener, I encourage you to try new things and experiment with mulches to see what works for you. But most of all, have fun in the garden!

What Do You Think?

What is your favorite mulch to use in your garden, and why? Do you have any other tips for getting mulching materials inexpensively or for free? Let us know in the comments!

__________________

This is an updated version of an article that was originally published on July 20, 2015. The author may not currently be available to respond to comments, however we encourage our Community members to chime in to share their experiences and answer questions!

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This post was written by Elizabeth Faires

COMMENTS(39)

  • Logan says:

    This article is well written and informative. This year I did buy a straw bale for mulch among tomatoes and peppers with satisfactory results. In the past I have used both hay and straw in the garden. The “cleaner” you can get straw (few weed seeds) the better. I found with hay, there will always be more weed seeds which simply have to be attended. Even so, it can be a good mulch. I once tried to grow potatoes in heavy hay mulch. The potatoes grew well but were damaged somewhat by centipedes drawn to the damp mulch. Articles like the this one are an excellent help in trying to get the best information on gardening. Good job!

    1. Thanks. I’m glad you found it useful.

  • Qberry Farm says:

    Practical use for rock mulch is strawberries on a steep hillside. This works very well for me. As they send out runners after fruiting I tuck them in the good soil in the crevices between the rocks. The berries stay clean and the cat sleeps on the big rock and keeps the birds away.

    I use hay that I cut from my fields for mulch to feed the soil but then I cover that with discarded carpet. It is an 8 foot wide expanse of carpet between the row and the fence but the vines are already climbing the fence mid July. A 4 foot strip of carpet keeps the raspberries from coming up in the pathway. I roll it up, add more hay and roll it back out. Seeds in the hay rot under the carpet. The rain goes through and the man made fibers dry quickly but the moisture is protected from the sun and wind by the carpet. Ask a carpet installer they will often deliver it free rather than pay the dump fee.

    1. Great examples of ‘use what you’ve got’.

    2. mp1z_b-n says:

      Far as I know, the vast majority of carpet in so-called developed countries have many kinds of chemicals in them, none of which I would want in my garden.

      1. cre8tiv369 says:

        You hit the nail on the head mplz. Carpets are toxic and if the are stain repellent, then they are also loaded with the same forever chemicals as Teflon… Very very dangerous and guaranteed to be absorbed by the poor plants that grow anywhere near them. I’ve seen gardens grown in carpet in 3rd world countries, but that is a simply a trade between not starving now for cancer and disease later. I highly recommend having your contaminated soil tested Qberry, and by all means, loose the toxic rugs.

  • Robert Valiquette says:

    I raise goats, chickens and turkeys. The hay cycle begins with feeding the goats. They are picky eaters (believe it or not ), they eat about 33-50 % of the hay and toss the balance aside from the hay rack. This becomes their bedding in the goat houses. The decomposition of the wasted hay, manure and urine provides a heated bedding during winter. This is moved to outdoor composting pad once the bedding reaches 4 ” in summer and 8-12 ” in winter. As the weather drains the top surface of pile of nutrients to core, it becomes more like dry straw. This is transferred to poultry coops for nests and bedding material. Once this bedding is built up, it gets moved to compost pile. The compost gets sent to gardens for spreading after crop harvest to break down chopped crop biomass over winter. Come spring, it is turned into soil for planting season. I reserve some for mid season fertilizing mulch (aka; compost tea and mulch of unbroken-down biomass components). This helps give the plants the needed boost and moisture conservation during flowering and bulk growth. Straw I produce from cutting tall dried weeds and grain stalk is used as base for hay compost and garden weeds composting. I also use garden weeds compost for growing my potatoes in. After growing potatoes, melon/cucumber/squash is grown in it.

    I started with 73 % clay soil 10 years ago. Today the clay content is about 48 %. My aim is 25-33% clay without going broke to get there. This year I had 3.5 tons (7 pick-up truck loads) to add to my 1/2 acre garden. I withdrew 1.5 tons of produce last year. This gives me a surplus of 2.0 tons of biomass to garden. Now only if the darn weather would cooperate!

    1. That’s an amazing system you’ve got working there. I’m humbled! You’re a good example of someone should has put some thought and planning into their system to get the most out of it. Nice work.

    2. bmaverick says:

      Robert, Seems we do pretty much the same thing. The only exception is, the goat bedding doesn’t go to the chicken coops. Can’t use that decomposing hay with good bacteria from the goats to the laying hens. We will pick up hay waste out of the goat feeders for that. Glad you can grow your own straw. Just keep the GMOs out of the picture. 🙂

  • Anne says:

    Where in Nova Scotia do you live, Elizabeth? I live in Halifax and travel around the province regularly for my job. When time allows, I’d love to see your homestead.

    1. We’re in the Annapolis valley. Hi neighbour! Lol.

  • Jim says:

    Not sure I understand this statement please clarify.
    Overly dried hay starts to compost quickly when it is damp, and composting hay bales have been known to heat up and start barn fires.

    1. cre8tiv369 says:

      Hay has always been a fire danger, especially when stored in large quantities. We have been salting hay for thousands of years because salt inhibits the bacteria that breaks down (compost) the hay. If hay gets damp in a barn, and it starts to compost (which can happen fairly easy), it will heat up enough to ignite into flames (and burn your barn down, no external spark necessary). If you ever go inside an old barn, you will see the floor boards beneath the hay area bleached white by decades/centuries of salting. The animals don’t mind the salted hay (they will just spend less time at the salt lick). Modern farmers still salt hay, even tho most currently store hay in metal shelters. If you don’t have to deal with a storing a lot of hay or farm history, then you may not understand salting hay and how easily hay can self combust in storage. Google it… There is a ton of info on salting hay, temperature variances between salted and unsalted hay, etc. Fire mitigation of stored hay, etc.

  • Russel says:

    I use pinestraw for my passage ways instead of hay or straw. It smoother like hay but stay dry like straw and breaks down slow as well as doesn’t blow or wash away. Doesn’t add nutrients but thats what manurer, compost, and fertalizer are for.

  • Judi S. says:

    I just read on this website that you shouldn’t have a straw bale garden because of the toxic herbicides used on the crop that the straw comes from. Wouldn’t that also apply to using it as mulch for strawberries? I have been using it for mulch on my strawberries and am wondering what else I should use. Thanks.

    1. cre8tiv369 says:

      You only want to organic hay or organic straw. The non organic hay/straw has been drenched in Glyphosate aka Round Up (as a desiccant to dry it faster for harvest). And you don’t want the non organic stuff as mulch nor as animal bedding (if you plan to later compost the bedding). If you don’t have decent access to organic hay/straw, look for a different mulch/bedding/feed that isn’t going to harm your gardening/composting/livestock health. Non organic straw/hay bales are good to sit on or make into a straw bale house, but that’s about it.

  • Bob Williams says:

    Jim’s confusion is justified. The statement about spontaneous hay combustion is wrong. It’s not overly dry hay that overheats it’s wet or green hay, and that can be because of loose bailing but more often by not letting green cuttings dry out enough before you bail. I also thought there would be more of a definitive answer to which is best and all I got was, “well, it depends”. You also mention “long grass clippings” as if shorter clippings are not useful. Most mowers mulch the clippings as you cut but even short clippings can be raked up and used unless you cut too often to make it worthwhile. I prefer clippings for mulch over straw or hay because it’s easier to work with.

  • Max Anderson says:

    The statement about spontaneous hay combustion is correct but can be mis-read. Overly drying the hay means the cells die and lyse, so that if water is put back in later it makes a sort of soup in which bacteria thrive initially, after which the bacterial enzymes can act generating a lot of heat quickly, becoming a self-reinforcing cycle, as the heat in turn speeds up the enzymatic activity. By contrast, if the hay is not overly dried, many cells may go into suspended animation and not lyse, so that if enough water is added back to enable rotting the bacteria and fungi can only decompose the cells and generate a little heat slowly over a long period. This is less likely with straw because the straw has a lot less nutrients for the bacteria to get started in the first place, the nutrients having been transferred to the grain by the plant and maybe leached out of the dead stem cells by any rain before harvest.

  • Max Anderson says:

    PS Just to clarify, Bob Williams is right in that hay fires are from baling too wet, it’s just that it’s important to not (over-dry and then let the hay get damp again) before baling. In the Annapolis Valley it’s seldom hay would get over-dried anyway. The main thing is to get it dry and keep it dry.

    1. cre8tiv369 says:

      You’re both still a little off Max. I recommend you google it as well as salting hay. The initial decomp heating is usually higher in temp than the second heating, but the second heating can be just as high depending on a lot of variables (some of which are very difficult to control with any consistency). Which is why salting or curing via other methods is still practiced. And there are a lot of guidelines and best practices to follow but all it’s takes are a few mice and a roof leak to cause issue regardless of its moisture content at harvest, bailing, and/or storage.

  • Carol Nieman says:

    This is the best source I’ve read concerning Straw and Hay differences. That said, I’m looking to protect my grass near the porch. We bought an old house and that area is quickly becoming a mud patch. I was looking for information on which material to use. I’m understanding that straw would work but would like any additional opinions on this matter.
    Help???
    Thanks all.

  • Adahdah says:

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    Yafafeed@gmail.com

  • Muddy says:

    Thank you,,, what a great article

  • peppypoblano says:

    Lots of great info. Thank you

  • Felicia Hobert says:

    I loved this article- thank you!

  • CraigDrummond says:

    I’ve been thinking of using saw dust/wood shavings as a mulch. Does anybody know if this would be a good thing or a bad thing?

    1. Grammyprepper says:

      If you have easy access, why not? The only suggestion I would make is letting them age some, dry out. Folks use wood mulch for decorative reasons. I would think raw but aged would work just as well if not better. The reason I suggest aging is I recall reading somewhere (can’t recall the sources) that raw wood actually draws nutrients out of the soil as it ages. If anyone can correct me on that, please do!

      1. cre8tiv369 says:

        Decomposition of any plant material requires a nitrogen, wood chips and saw dust require a lot of nitrogen (and the age of the chips doesn’t matter). This is why so many people have massive problems with that lame “Back to Eden” gardening (until the wood chips reach a decent state of decomp, they are a nitrogen nightmare). And Elizabeth Faires (the author of this topic), already hit the nail on the head in stating that sometimes straw is preferable because less of it contacts the soil and therefore draws less nitrogen from it. Any mulch derived from plant matter is going to draw nitrogen, but once it decomposes it will release that nitrogen. That is why grasses (straw and hay) and leaf litter, make a good direct mulch, they don’t draw too much nitrogen and they decompose quickly and give it back quickly as well. Keep that in mind when choosing a mulch.

        I like garden paths made of saw dust and wood chips ( wood chips with leaf debris… like from a tree service chippings, not the commercial dyed wood chips), and I plant clover in the chips/saw dust. The clover will grow in the wood chips and keep feeding it nitrogen (which speeds up decomposition), and once it has decomposed (almost completely, it can be used throughout the garden (also snails and slugs hate saw dust/wood chips). And I like to mulch with organic straw. The straw is light, airy, provides good shade, is great for bedding squashes, moisture retention, and it’s cheap and easy. If the straw is too long a couple passes over it (in a separate location) with a lawn mower is a quick fix.

        If I come across old organic hay, I compost it because composting will kill any seeds it might be hiding and it And the hay makes better compost than straw does. Both straw and hay makes really good Biochar that can be powdered really easy and sprinkled into your compost and then the Biochar becomes inoculated as the compost is made. Easy and efficient.

  • Grammyprepper says:

    I would be extremely careful in sourcing either hay or straw, as these crops tend to be sprayed with herbicides (and no, I haven’t yet read the straw bale article, this is something I have learned from multiple other sources). And if I am not mistaken (and I could have it bassackwards), doesn’t hay lend to potential introduction of weeds in the garden? Because the seed heads aren’t cut off?

  • Blair says:

    My dad was the first in our family to own a baler, he waited til several years after others in the area had owned them and had watched as a number of barns in the county burned due to the spontaneous combustion. Right or wrong he concluded that the best solution was to stack the hay bales in the barn cut side up and salt each layer liberally. the salt drew out remaining moisture that might be in the hay or even manifest itself later, it also had the advantage of giving the cows salt they needed when eating, they drank more water and produced more milk. 50 some odd years and never had any problems with heat, spoilage or anything else for that matter.

  • gtseamlessgutters says:

    I have found a good free mulch for my area(florida). The local power company has trucks that come through most areas that trem trees and other plants that are to close to the power line. They have a big mulcher that they put everything though. If you see a truck you can usually get them to drop off a load or you can call the power company and they will have it dropped off. It free and they deliver. It’s a great mix of wood chips,leaves and pine straw it’s great and is turning my Florida sand into soil

  • Amanda Greatwater-Ramsay says:

    It took me 4 years to realize why I suddenly couldn’t grow anything anymore. I had even gone to raised beds and purchased soil and grow buckets in a greenhouse.

    I had not heard of persistent herbicides. I killed my garden with hay and straw as mulch. I don’t have access to organic, so I’m starting over from zero next spring. I am buying a couple of loads of garden soil, and I’ve laid in a good supply of wood chips. Wish me luck and be careful with the hay/straw.

    1. cre8tiv369 says:

      You will need a lot of nitrogen due to the wood chips. You might want to seed it with clover and look at the pretty green clover patch for a couple years before you try to garden in it.

  • bmaverick says:

    Knowing that straw is from gluten grains, I’ve used it only in rare occasions. Then knowing the average straw sold at stores, co-ops and feed stores are mainly the GMO type, I’ve totally avoid it now. Commercial straw is also sprayed with Monosanto glyphosate just before the grains are harvested. These are 2 strong reasons not to use straw; allergens and toxins.

    Hay is fine if you have a trusted source. The saying of, “Hay is for horses” is exactly what you are looking for in a garden. Horse hay is the highest quality one can find. Look up the balance of what makes it so great. As for composting horse hay, you will need a balanced manure percentage. I think that’s what Amanda was missing. We have taken barren land, robbed of all nutrients and brought it back to a healthy sustainable soil with horse grade hay and cow/goat manure. Both in the mid-southern states and in northern mid-west states.

    1. cre8tiv369 says:

      Um… You do know that gluten is not something that CANNOT be transferred to other plants right? And there are a lot of types of hay, but none of them are specific to horses.

    2. Emily Sandstrom says:

      “Dairy quality hay” where I live is best and most expensive. I paid an average $200 a ton for 20 or more tons when I had an elk and deer (and other wildlife) refuge. Elk stood in line respectfully when the truck with their winter food pulled into the hay barn area. It often smelled almost like mint.

  • Allison Sheldon says:

    One (or 2) things that I’ve noticed in this post is that, hay is not just grass or just have clover & such, as it basically states, they did mention towards the bottom of the article about it (hay) containing legume’s. In most areas of the US “hay” is usually referred to as Alfalfa or if it’s grass, they break it down to call it Timothy or Orchard. Or if the hay is a mix it’s Alfalfa & grass, some know the %.
    But while “hay” might breakdown faster, add more nutrient’s, what the author didn’t mention, but someone in the comment section did mention. And that is….Hay has the seed head of not only of the good “weeds” (clover, plantain, etc.) they also contain the seed heads of the weeds that most people don’t want in their garden Dandelion (despite being medicinal), Thistle, fox tail, chick weed, etc.
    so, by using hay that might be weedy for your mulch, your introducing more seeds to your garden then what you want.
    Plus, i don’t know about the author, but when I’ve used straw as mulch (not always an on purpose thing), when I’ve moved some off the ground after a rain…..it’s been dry for the most part, because the straw does hold/repel water, where as the grass mulch soaks it up (like was stated), but while it causes the grass mulch to get compacted, it also easily & quickly produces mold, where as the straw doesn’t (based on my experience).
    Using your grass from your yard as mulch, would be better (in my opinion) for your garden, then bringing in grass hay for it, because of the weed seed factor.
    And it was mentioned that you can cut grass (for hay) & not bale it, just dry it out. Well, if your using it right away for a food source or you’ve got an area big enough to house the grass to keep it dry from the weather during the winter, your right. It’ll be ok, but based on my experience from using loose grass hay for several years & not having a shelter to put it in. Once it snows/rains, it will spoil & it’ll mold in the middle or side of the grass hay as well as spoil on the bottom.
    But it does help produce some good soil underneath your pile.
    This is just my experience. :o)

    1. Emily Sandstrom says:

      I agree with everything you say here. Moldy hay is disgusting and will ruin plants. I rarely used either, and when I used hay, it was sparingly, and it was composted for at least two years in a pile in a remote area of my ranch.
      Even though my ranch is high desert, hay covered with plastic tarp outdoors is likely to smoulder. This happened once to me in a rainy season.
      One odd way to kill weeds easily is to acquire outdoor carpeting made from tires. In ten minutes or so, it turns any greenery under it yellow. In a day, what is under it is dead enough to destroy with a rototiller.

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