In 40 years of gardening I’ve had it happen to me twice (maybe three) times.
The good news is that it’s NOT grass.
What is Straw?
Straw is a by-product of growing grain. It’s usually the stems of either wheat, oats, rye or barley. So those sprouts that look like grass are one of those grains.
Why Does It Have Seed In It?
Seed of grain in bales of straw can be a result of it not being harvested properly. Or perhaps the grain head on the harvest machine was not set right.
Another reason can be the use of older combines that leave grain in the field that are then picked up by the baler (machine) collecting the straw.
There are probably other reasons that are beyond the farmer’s control.
Know Your Source If Possible
If you buy straw from various sources and/or big box stores you have no way of knowing the origin. There’s no way to even take an educated guess at what your chances are of getting seed-free straw.
I’ve gotten my (wheat) straw from the same family for 40 years. They know what they’re doing when it comes to proper harvesting, but in spite of that I’ve had seed sprout in the garden at least 2 or 3 times over 40 years.
What To Do When It Sprouts
It pulled out easily and I took out a little each day until it was all gone.
As long as you don’t let it form seed you can just pull it and leave it on top of the bed to decay.
Another Way to Handle Things
I’ve read that folks who raise rabbits often cut these clumps which encourages more growth. Each time they cut — that’s free rabbit food.
And while it continues to grow the roots mine nutrients from the soil.
Will Covering Them Kill Them?
In a recent comment left on this post, friend and reader Susan also asked if covering the clumps would kill them.
Probably would if the mulch was deep enough to smother it. The main thing you don’t want to chance is having it continue to grow and set seed. My preference would be to pull it.
How About Using Pine Straw?
I had a brief email conversation with Susan right after she left her questions which included “should I consider using pine straw this summer rather than straw from Lowe’s?”
Pine straw makes an excellent mulch. When Bill was alive he would go to a forested area and rake up as many pine tags (a/k/a pine needles or pine straw) as could fit in the back of the truck. Over the years they’ve always been my favorite mulch.
If anyone has more questions about straw mulch (or any other kind of mulch) feel free to ask.
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