Monday, 15 September 2014

using pea straw mulch to create new garden beds

How do you start new garden beds on a budget when you can't afford to buy top soil and all the trimmings?!  Pea straw mulch!  We have a large block in an Australian country town, almost quarter of an acre (just under 1000sq.m depending on what language you speak!) - there is a lot of garden and we're keen to not just have a large expanse of grass.  We have seen areas of lawn choked under black plastic, but it can be a slow process and neither of us could be described as being particularly patient.  We decided to cut out the middle man (ie plastic) and create immediate beds using a thick layer of newspaper covered by an even thicker layer of pea straw.
Our first bed created this way (above) and has worked a treat.  The plants were all dug directly into the lawn, then we laid out our newspaper and pea straw.  A few months down the track, the straw has settled in well and has compressed down neatly into its new home.  We have had very few weeds.  They only tend to show through where the newspaper has disintegrated and it's a simple matter of topping it up again.  The soil on our site is rather patchy in quality, but we can see a huge improvement in this area since its been mulched in this way.  It's now much easier to dig and there are a plethora of worms any time the soil is lifted out of place - a delight to see!
This weekend we turned our attentions to a new area in the back garden (to be photographed) and along our front boundary (above), an area that was previously planted out but had become a bit weedy.  We have bulbs coming up and it's been hard to keep it neatly whipper-snipped for fear of deheading our daffodils, jonquils, hyacinths and more.  A few hours' work on Saturday afternoon was all it took to transform this sad area to looking like a much loved, much mulched garden bed.  We watered the straw down as we went along, helping it to pack down and hold into place and only stopped work when we ran out of newspaper lining - a job to be continued.

At around $6 per bale of pea straw and whatever newspapers you can beg, borrow or steal, this makes a cost effective and quick way to create new garden beds.  Have you done anything similar?  Have you any tips and tricks I can add to this post?!

Ps It also makes a great bed for our cat Marbles to enjoy the sun!


  1. Great minds. I spent last week chasing down our straw supplier to get my stash back up. I go direct to the farmer for $3.00 per bail and this year he asked if we wanted all the busted bales and the loose stuff off the ground for FREE!! I've found some wool bale bags that are going to be chockers. Loving your work. Wish you we're closer so I could fling your some cuttings. My bearded Iris are bursting this year. xx

    1. Leonie you're on to a good thing with your straw - I would be there in a flash! It would be lovely to swap cuttings, it sounds like you've had great success with yours!