Which Garden Mulch is the Best: Hay vs. Straw vs. Wood Chips

Finding the right mulch for your garden will allow your plants to thrive and grow strong. Mulch locks in soil moisture insulate your plants during winter, prevents weeds, and protects your plants.

With different types of mulches available, it can be difficult to decide which is the best choice for your garden. This article compares three common choices of mulches to help with your selection.


Hay tends to decompose fast, making it an excellent choice for building soil. Old hay, specifically, works best than fresh hay as it adds organic matter to a vegetable garden.

However, an issue with hay is that it is likely to contain weeds. Besides, it is easy to create your own hay using grass clippings.


Like hay, straw decomposes quickly and this makes it an ideal choice for vegetable gardens and for strawberry plants. This garden mulch helps to insulate the soil, keep the soil moist, regulate the soil temperatures and prevent frost heaving. This makes it ideal for winter mulching.

More importantly, straw is inexpensive, clean, and adds beautiful color to your garden. And, you can choose between small, shredded, and large pieces.

Straw also prevents weeds and can help protect your plants from mud. However, you need to carefully consider the type of straw as some like oat straws can contain weed seeds. Furthermore, straw bales are usually sprayed and this can add chemicals to your soil. 

Wood Chips

Wood chips are an excellent choice for flower beds, garden pathways, and shrub borders. They are, however, not ideal to use for annual flower beds and vegetable gardens. Unlike straw and hay, wood chips are a bit heavy and more likely to compact down.

Although wood chips are a popular garden mulch, you should take into consideration that they can interfere with your garden acidity. Another issue is that wood chips from trees like oak, pine, hickory, and sassafras can be toxic to some plants.

So, Which Mulch Should You Choose?

When it comes to choosing the best mulch, you should consider several factors like your garden, size of the garden, and cost of the mulch. If you own a vegetable garden, old hay and straw can be an ideal choice. Wood chips, on the other hand, are the best natural mulch choice for flower beds and garden pathways.

Brenda Klaus

Learn More →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *