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Using hay or straw in the garden can be a touchy subject! Some gardeners swear that using hay will ruin your garden and turn it into a bed of noxious weeds.
Other gardeners are afraid to use straw because there may be persistent herbicides sprayed on it.
Who knew that using hay or straw in your garden could be fraught with such dangers?
Well, it is very important to know what you are putting in the garden where you grow your food!
With so many gardeners creating straw bale gardens or using straw as mulch, you would think that straw in the garden is a no-brainer! But before you go looking for bales of straw or hay for your garden this spring, let’s take a look at the best sources and how to use it.
What is the Difference Between Hay and Straw?
Hay is dried plant material such as grasses, clover, or alfalfa that is cut for animal feed. Hay is nutritious and contains many vitamins and minerals to help sustain livestock during the winter when they can’t graze for sustenance.
Straw is the dried stalks of grains left over after a farmer combines the field to harvest wheat, oats, barley, or rye. Straw has very little nutritional value for animals, or for your garden.
Conventional farmers use herbicides to reduce weed growth in their fields. Because of this, it is very important to ask what has been sprayed on the hay or straw and how long ago the crop was treated.
It is very important to avoid those labeled as persistent herbicides in the pyridine family. These chemicals take so long to break down that even manure from animals that consume the crops sprayed with them can cause your broadleaf vegetables to wither and die.