Better Than Pea Straw

newly planted bok choy in homemade mulch

Once you get your mulch eyes on you’ll see that you are surrounded by mulch – any crop that’s reached the dry stalk stage is straw… not just peas! Though pea straw is awesome, its not the gold plated, $22 a bale awesome the shops think it is. My garden is full of straw right now (as will yours be, I warrant) – seeded lettuces and parsley, magenta spreen, buckwheat, corn, cosmos, cucumbers, tomatoes, beans et all.

Simply slash the finished crops down, roughly chop it, toss it altogether and call it straw.

Buckwheat, meadowsweet, yarrow homemade mulch

This homemade brew is better than pea straw by far because its a mix, and a mixture is the bees knees because it attracts a mixture of soil life to your garden party. The broader the range of soil life you got the stronger your garden is, so don’t lean on one product – in every way possible, mix it up!

Bought Hay + Straw

This is not to say that bought stuff is bad – far from it, if you can get hold of organic straw or hay, grab it with both hands. Such an awesome mulch to have on hand. Non organic stuff, however, I’m not that keen on. Fungicide/ pesticide + herbicide residue are counter productive to our goals of less work + higher production gardens, for the simple reason that they kill all our carefully cultivated life.

Stacked bales of straw make an excellent temporary shelter for vegetable gardens


Straw is the stalks left behind after a legume or grain (oats/ barley/ wheat) harvest. Its used as bedding for animals or mulch for gardens. While not as nutritious as hay, its still awesome – the hollow stalks provide air pockets and hold moisture really well.


Hay is dried grass. Its harvested while lush and green, left to dry then bundled up and used as stock feed. Its super nutritious, especially if its a mixture of grasses/ clovers/ herbs and if grown in living soils. It will likely be full of seedheads though which is why its not traditionally used as mulch. Avoid ensuing weedy infestations by leaving bales out in the weather, to sprout and rot before using it on the garden.

Avocado protected

During this rotting down period, use the bales – they are insulators par excellence and so easy + fun to build with!

  • As a 3 sided surround around compost, especially in cooler weather – warming + insulating for better/ faster compost breakdown.
  • As a temporary southern shelter behind young tender trees like citrus or avocado
  • As an awesome windbreak for vegie gardens while shelter trees establish.
  • A spray free, easy way to clear grass and bring in worms before a new bed goes in.

Bought bales are a great way to supplement your own supply. Especially in the beginning when your garden is young. As your garden develops and your companion plants and greencrops get going, you’ll find plenty of your own hay and straw.

Homegrown Hay

Young Feijoa tree protected by long grass

Homegrown hay is simply grass left long. Leave as many little pockets of grass to grow long as your mental health can cope with – such a handy resource. Slash it down as required.

A natural place to start is the grass between newly planted natives or fruit trees. Rather than spray or weedeat – leave it be. So many benefits here! Your trees prefer this sheltered, collaborative environment to the naked one we’ve gotten used to. As the tops grow long so too the roots and the deeper those roots dive the more nourishing the tops are.

Homegrown Straw


Hay or straw?! – I’m not at all worried about distinguising between them, its all mulch to me.

As you sow your next lot of peas and broadbeans, think not only of the delicious winter/ spring crops but also the straw they’ll provide for summer mulching. Wheat, barley, mustard and oats are all cool weather greencrops that can over winter for spring/ summer mulch supply. Slash them down green or dry, just as and when you need the bed or the mulch. Mix it up! Either way you’re returning the crop, going full cycle and providing soil life with an ever changing, vibrant food source.

And that, my gardening friends is the gold plated magic you are looking for.


  1. Hi Kath
    What are you cutting it up with? Corn is quite tough..

  2. Steve Wellwood says

    Where did you get the hoops from in the top picture ? Great site by the way . All the best for the future keep up the site it’ is wonderful

  3. Hi Kath. Would pine needles plus seaweed be ok?