STRAW: The Best Winter Blanket for your Garden

From Barbara Wildfeir, Cornell Cooperative Extension Master Gardener

The chilly nights are telling us it’s almost time to put our gardens to bed. And, if we’re smart and use straw, we can leave them clear and neat and ready to plant in the Spring.

Here’s why I recommend straw:

It’s cheap: a half bale is enough to cover the 5×20 garden beds at Gateway with several inches. All seeds—and that includes weed seeds–need light, moisture, and the correct temperature to germinate. As with vegetables, there are cool weather (eg., chickweed) and warm weather (eg.,crabgrass) weeds. The straw eliminates the light needed for germination.

It’s easy: straw is light in weight, and you can pick it up and move it around as needed.

It’s reusable: come spring when you plant, you can push it aside or store it somewhere temporarily. Then you can put it around your seedlings as they grow to keep the soil moist and cooler than the air,  and stop most weeds from germinating all summer!

That means you can cut your weeding time dramatically and avoid spreading weed seeds everywhere.

Remember, it’s straw you want, not hay, which contains lots of weed seeds.