Mulching with straw: advantages and disadvantages

Mulching with straw: advantages and disadvantages

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Mulching with straw:because it is preferred for mulching the garden. Comparison with pine bark mulch and with commercially available mulch film.

Advantages and useful tips for the management of the garden, flower beds and ornamental plants.

Therestrawit is an agricultural material consisting of cereal stems that reach the end of the plant's ripening period. In practical terms, thestrawis what remains of the cereals following the operation ofthreshing. For this reason, even though straw has a strong utility, it can be considered as aby-product of agricultural activity.

The main straw cereals (i.e. the plants that lead to the production of straw stalks) are: soft wheat, durum wheat, barley, oats, rice, millet, rye and spelled.

Mulching with straw: advantages

Mulching the vegetable garden and, more generally, the plants (even those grown in ornamental flower beds) is a very advantageous practice. The main advantages of this technique are three:

  • It retains moisture in the soil
  • Improve the soil structure
  • Prevents the growth of weeds

From a structural point of view, mulching avoids the formation of the crust (the compaction of the most superficial layer of the soil) and has the advantage of degrading more or less slowly. With biodegradation, the mulching material used can enrich the soil, becoming a useful organic substance for the formation of humus. Of course, this last advantage cannot be counted if you perform onemulching with sheets.

Therestrawit is made up of cellulose, lignin, waxes, minerals and silicates. Due to its composition, straw degrades very slowly and can lend itself to the formation of a long-term mulch, perfect for garden cultivation in spring and summer.

Mulch sheets

THE mulch sheets that are found on the market, even if they are biodegradable (made with corn plastic), they are unable to enrich the soil and improve the formation of humus. In addition, some substances used for mulching the vegetable garden modify the pH reaction of the soil.

Mulching sheets also have other side effects. In many cases, especially in summer, the black plastic of the mulch sheets becomes a burning means. This occurs especially on the cultivation of tomatoes (plastic sheets can burn the collar of the plants if they come into contact with them), zucchini and strawberries. The sheets can also burn the fruits as they grow close to them.

Mulching of the vegetable garden and flower beds

In the small home garden, pine bark is widely used. The bark for themulching of flower bedsis it really good? Yes, it manages to retain water in the ground and brings the advantages seen above, however, we must consider several aspects that are too often underestimated.

Pine bark is rich in resins. In the long run, it ends up acidifying the soil, making it no longer suitable for plants commonly grown in the garden. Since pine bark acidifies the soil, it is recommended to use it only for flowerbeds that host acidophilic ornamental plants (azaleas, hydrangeas ...) or to mulch the paths.

The pH reaction of the soil, ideal for the cultivation of common garden plants, sees values ​​that are around 6 and 7.5. In addition, pine bark is a material that contains a lot of carbon and little nitrogen. What does it mean? That if not properlycompostedbefore direct use on the ground, it ends up absorbing nitrogen from the soil causing a mineral imbalance reaction.

For the reasons listed above, themulch with strawit should be preferred to the one with pine bark, at least in the garden.

Mulch with straw

The benefits of mulching with straw are clear. This material, slowly degrading, becomes a good organic source for the formation of humus in the soil.

Straw has a good proportion of carbon and nitrogen. It has a neutral pH compared to the soil so it does not change the pH reaction of the soil.

However, it has a disadvantage: it is very light. To get goodmulch with strawit must be arranged in layers of adequate thickness. Only by depositing a good amount of straw will it be possible to contain the phenomenon of evaporation from the soil (thus optimizing water management) and prevent the growth of weeds.

In the introduction, we reported that straw is perfect for mulching the garden in the context of summer and spring crops. In winter, mulching is not a popular practice: weeds spread more difficultly and you don't have to pay attention to the evaporation of the soil. It should be noted that in the case of particularly humid and rainy seasons, straw could cause mold problems.

In summer, the danger of mold is averted by the abundance of sunlight. At the end of cultivation just work the soil by burying the straw used for mulching, this will increase the organic substance content in the soil.

It may interest you: mulching materials

Video: Deep Mulch, No-Till, Garden at Prairie Road Organic (May 2022).