Mulch for All

Ruth Stout is a great inspiration for lazy gardeners. Using her simple mulching methods, gardeners of any age can drop seeds and smother weeds with a flick of the wrist. In this video she talks about how she got tired of waiting for her “plow man” to till her garden every spring, so one year she just started planting. Her seeds came up, and she learned how to mulch with straw and eliminate the use of “poison spray”. When weeds came up, she covered them with more straw. (Order your own video copy here).


Following her inspiration, I’m bringing large quantities of straw, from local farmers, to my garden up north. Transportation in our car has been a bit of a challenge.

For city gardens, obtaining straw is a much more expensive proposition. Try searching for “straw bales” on kijiji.  In Toronto, alternatives include free compost available at depots across the city. Autumn leaves can be raked and piled on top of the garden. Shredded paper works; I also use it to soak up excess moisture in my composter. Coffee grounds could also be part of the mix–apparently they are not as acidic as you may think. Tree care companies may deliver free woodchips, but there’s a catch: you usually have to accept a minimum of two or three tons. Each of these mulches has different properties in terms of what nutrition they add to the soil , how much they pack, whether they absorb or repel water.

What’s your urban straw?

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