Wood chip garden mulch comparison


I’m surprised that the straw bales you purchased had grain seeds in them. By definition, straw is the stalk and chaff left over after the seeds are removed during harvesting of the grain. Some straw has more chaff than others, but if seeds got through to the bale then the farmer lost a valuable grain when harvesting. Perhaps what you’re seeing in addition to the stalk is the husk from around the seed (chaff) and not truly seeds?

I use a deep straw mulch every year on my raised beds and it’s wonderful–maintains soil moisture, inhibits weeds, props up small new plants and protects them from wind (I pile it 2-3 inches high around each transplant). It breaks down over the winter and, over time, is creating a light, loamy soil that gets better every year.

I’ve never had a volunteer wheat, rye, or any other type of grain growing from the straw I use as mulch. (With that said, if the straw was harvested from a grain field full of other kinds of weeds then you could be getting weed seed that way.)


Agreed! Half the straw mulch I use on my garden each year is leftover bedding from our goats. Their manure and urine is so much “cooler” than our chicken bedding that I can use it directly on the garden. I have to let the chicken coop clean-out compost down a full year before applying that.

Interestingly, I also let our goats graze in the yard and I’ve learned they stay away from plants growing in their former bedding so it acts a deterrent from the voracious little scavengers.

(bunny poofs–hehehe)


How did you go about inoculating woodchips? I’ve had mushrooms come up before in the past but usually nothing edible.


wow, can i move to your fairyland of seed-free straw? :wink:
I’ve never NOT had wheat germinate and grow from store-bought straw bales.
If you buy a bale and just set it out in a sunny spot where it gets rain, it will sprout wheat grass all by itself.
You’ve never seen this on, say, a construction site or somewhere someone put a bale and forgot about it?


ESN is one brand name of coated urea you can buy. It’s 44-0-0 instead of 46-0-0.


I’ve seen this…they did the interstate near here years back…all new concrete/etc…afterwards they had to redo the sides with heavy machinery (moving dirt/etc) and then they laid down some fabric crap…it looked like a wheat field after a couple months. I thought it was intentional? It was actually pretty cool. The wheat did really well. Probably a million rodents in there.


If I buy regular baled hay it has tons of seeds. Around here they sell what is called salt marsh hay, which has much smaller diameter and is pretty much seed free. It is more expensive but I only buy a couple bales a year so it is not a big deal for me.


yes with wine cap mushroom spawn 5 yrs ago. I’m still getting them popping up all over the yard. i made a starter bed 5’ x 5’ in a shady spot with 6in. of fresh hardwood chips. mixed in a bag of spawn and covered with 6in. of straw. the next spring i took those chips and mixed them into my chips i was putting around my plants. by the end of the summer i had shrooms coming up everywhere. as long as you put down fresh mulch yearly they will keep coming.


I understood that when landscaping companies roll out a thin mesh of straw it’s because they’ve planted grass seed underneath and the straw is there as a protection from wind/rain while the seed takes hold.


Sounds like the source is the key factor here. I grew up on a farm where we put up hundreds of hay and straw bales every year and dad would’ve been hopping mad if those straw bales were full of grain seed!

But, if some fields are allowed to sprout lots of other weeds along with the grain then those smaller seeds could certainly be getting through to the straw bale. We kept our fields pretty clean of weeds so that wasn’t a factor. And, I guess it isn’t from the source I buy from today (thankfully!).


I hear ya! Yep you can just see the whole grain heads of wheat in the stuff I buy :sleepy:


I know what straw is, that’s the reason why I decided to used on my raised beds but I wasn’t counting with all the seeds that would be coming with. You most have a descent farmers where you live and knowing what they’re doing, too bad for the ones I got my bales from but now I’m paying a price. I might going have to find another source or different way to mulch my beds!
Here are couple pics so you can see what I’m talking about.


YES! THAT! :rofl:
great pics.


A pet-store/garden center nearby sells wrapped hay bales here, for bedding and such, I’m sure. I get 1-2 a year, poke holes in the top/bottom and leave on the plastic. It sprouts inside the plastic and the sprouts get fried back (anything that comes out a hole I just rip out). Over the course of the summer anything that is going to sprout gets taken care of. By the next spring, it is beginning to break down nicely and the weedy seeds have all exhausted their energy.

I’m lazy and this way I get nice rotting hay for under my mulch in the veggie garden.



Great idea!


I bought a Sun Joe wood chipper (the 15amp model). Says it can chip up to 1.5" pieces but i’m not sure i’d go that thick. I did some a little over an inch and they went thru. I do like the quality of woodchip it produces. A lot smaller then the stuff you get free…should work better for making a good soil mix. Here is a 5 gallon bucket from some mulberry branches i had chipped up (removed a small tree that sprouted a year or 2 ago that i didn’t want. I have so many thinner branches from pruning that this will come in handy recycling those back into soil.


I think something else might be going on (different plants, different planting medium. Any high carbon mulch, such as wood chips, definitely, causes temporary nitrogen deficit in the soil when mixed into the soil. Laid on top of the ground as mulch, the nitrogen tie-up is very slow and at the interface of soil and mulch, perhaps as slow as nitrogen is re-released into the soil as the organic material breaks down. That’s the theory. This has been borne out by years of mulching a variety of plants with an inch or more of wood chips. Not only my observation but that of other also.

I’d like to see you do that comparison again with more control of potential variables. (Such as two halves of that leek or garlic bed in the background of your photo.)


I also think there must have been large amounts of alleopathic compounds in the wood chips or high amounts of herbicide in those wood chips, nothing else really explains that huge of a difference.

Im at my moms trying to help her do her fountain and she convinces me to trim this enormous hedge and i agree, So my mom hands me this fake looking sunjoe brush trimmer, I just look at her like why? and go ahead and try it to appease her and get kind of sad that im going to be trimming this 60’ long hedge with this fake utensil and eventually going to hand cutters. That thing kicked some serious butt and it took me less than a hour to shape up this flowering hedge. The sunjoe was as good as the gas ones i have used.


There was some slight variation in plant types but the bulk of the plants in those two beds were two beet varieties, all planted out on the same day. Otherwise the beds have been treated the same for the last several years (same amendments, etc). Yielding a direct and controlled experiment.

For my planting style, which is to use a dribbler to pop a small plug transplant into a planting hole, it was difficult to prevent some wood chips from mixing into the hole, even though I tried to carefully scoop back the mulch. That in itself was a drawback to using wood chip mulch - it significantly slowed down the planting process making things much less efficient.

I was hoping this would work, but my conclusion from this trial is that - for whatever reason - contaminated wood chips, inadvertent mixing of chips and soil, etc - this method was a bust for me.



The problem with wood chips is you don’t really want to till them under. At least with the straw, you can generally turn it under at the end of the season.

But even “clean” straw for me always ends up sprouting up more wheat than whatever weeds would’ve grown without it.