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The Hidden “Danger” of Oat Straw Mulch

I’m a big fan of mulching with straw. It’s relatively cheap, especially if you shop around at general stores and grain elevators, rather than specialty garden shops. And the number of casual horse owners around where we live make sure that straw is always available since it’s a great bedding material. Note well, I’m not talking about hay which is a feed and which ideally comes with a fair amount of seeds. Straw, at least ideally, has most of the seeds removed since it’s a by-product of growing grain.

But even if most of the seeds are removed, some remain which means that as you spread your mulch, you’re also sowing “weeds.” My utterly pragmatist definition of a weed is any plant growing where you don’t want it. Sometimes you can can get rid of a weed by transplanting it to a more desirable location. For instance, I am notoriously soft-hearted when it comes to “volunteer” tomato plants, even though I can’t vouch for their variety and I’ll usually find somewhere to tuck them in. However with the grain seed sprouted from straw the best thing I’ve found is to yank it up gently by its roots, leave it in the sun for a couple hours then use the stalks elsewhere as more mulch. I find that for the most part, the straw seeds germinate within the layer of straw itself so I can pull them out much easier than if the same plants had rooted in soil.

I’m mentioning all this because today’s twenty-minutes were spent weeding out the asparagus bed. It was a dangerously beautiful day, dangerous because I would have been tempted to spend all day out side and thus end up burned to to a lobster red. With a nicely defined task, however, I was able to get outside, do some meaningful work and get inside again before I incinerated.

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