I live in Toronto and am building a vegetable garden. I am looking to buy straw mulch for when I plant the seedlings but most stores (Home Depot, Lowes, Canadian Tire) only offer cedar mulch which I believe is better for a flower garden rather than a vegetable garden. However, I can’t seem to find any store that sells basic straw to protect my seedlings. Suggestions?
You can use landscape materials such as black plastic that will retain moisture and block weeds but also help to warm the top few cms of soil. Black woven landscape fabric, although pricier, will do the same function but allows air & water to filter through. However, organic materials used as garden mulch not only help to retain moisture and suppress weeds if thick enough (not more than 2″ or 5cm) but their decomposition adds nutrients and builds soil structure.
Both straw and hay can be used but hay, being composed of dry grasses, will also have weed seeds. Straw has bigger lighter stems permitting better air circulation to the soil, and is usually sold as weed free; however, keep in mind that straw which is from wheat, oats or barley, may have those seed heads. Small amounts of straw can be found in pet supply stores but may not be food grade to be used on a vegetable garden. Many nurseries do carry straw bales but only in the fall prior to halloween. I would recommend using a landscape fabric this spring and then buy straw bales in the fall for next spring. For further information on mulches see the web site below.
Another possible new alternative is hemp mulch. With the recent legal changes this may become a more common product.
We cannot recommend specific companies for any of these products but try searching on line for local suppliers.