I like to mulch with straw in our vegetable beds. It sets off the plants nicely and gives the garden a clean look. It does everything else a good mulch should do as well, retaining moisture in the soil and holding down weeds. Eventually straw just seems to melt into the soil, adding more organic matter for the plants to feed on. And at less than $6 for a whole bale at the farm supply, straw seems like a bargain mulch.
Straw has just one drawback: it’s not so easy to work with around small plants. The long, stiff stems are always getting in the way. Sometimes trying to spread straw in tight places is like trying to jam a square peg into a round hole. But I love straw so much that I found a way to make it more workable: I run it through my leaf shredder.
I originally bought the leaf shredder (really a weed whacker in a can) for making compost. It turns bags of fallen leaves into crumbs. It does much the same thing with straw, taking those long, tough stems and breaking them down into little bitty pieces.
Now spreading mulch around my tomato plants or broccoli plants or squash plants is a joy that takes no time at all, like stuffing goose down into a pillow. It’s such a pleasure, and the plants are so happy you can almost hear them purr.