The straw comes from a farm near Kukerin (about 300kms south east of Perth. Pea straw is the product left over when the pea crop has been harvested; after harvest the straw is raked and baled and stored ready for market. Many farmers grow peas as a rotational crop as peas are a nitrogen fixing plant and are useful for soil improvement - very important in our fragile environment! The straw itself does a good job for soil improvement when used as a mulch in the garden.
Most people know what mulch is. But there’s a lot to know about the different types of mulches, and many tips and tricks to ensure the best results in your garden.
There are four important reasons to mulch. The first, and probably the most important, is for water conservation. Mulch stops the top of the soil drying out, keeps the soil moist, and can reduce watering by about 60 per cent. Mulching also prevents weeds and weed seed germination, which compete with plants for moisture and nutrients. Mulching also keeps the soil temperature constant, and using an organic mulch means you’re adding extra organic matter to the soil. So that's an added benefit.
Mulches can either be organic or inorganic, but I prefer organic mulches because they break down and add organic matter to the soil. This improves soil structure and drainage, and encourages earthworm and soil microbial activity. Organic mulches, such as straw based mulches, are quite common. Try pea straw, but there is also lucerne and bean, and cane type mulches. They can either come by the bale or some people prefer to use the chopped product for a neater look.
Cube type mulches are also available, such as cubed pea straw which has other ingredients added to it. As soon as this mulch gets wet it forms a softer material. This can be used as mulch, but is better used as a soil conditioner and worked through the soil.
My favourite mulch is pea straw and I love to use it by the bale because it's easy to use and inexpensive. Simply grab a biscuit and lay it on the garden like pavers. Then loosen it up to fill the gaps.
(From the ABC’s Gardening Australia website)
A Commonly asked question about pea straw:
Q. Will I get pea shoots growing through the straw in my garden?
A. Yes. However this is not a problem as the peas add nitrogen into the soil while they are growing, thereby improving the quality of your soil and helping your other plants. When the pea plants get a bit bigger, cut them down and leave them on the surface as they will do the same job as the straw.