Something is Growing in the Straw Bales

Inky cap mushroom in straw bale

This one is about to ink-out!

I haven’t planted anything in the straw bales yet, but something is growing! I have a big crop of mushrooms in one bale and a smaller crop of grass popping out of some of the other bales. Both of these are expected events, though still a bit surprising. The mushrooms are “inky cap mushrooms,” which are mushrooms that dissolve into a black goo after a day or so — I noticed the goo pretty heavily on one of the bales.

One bale is covered with mushrooms.

Cornell University’s mushroom blog has an interesting post on inky caps and their tendency to destroy themselves. In addition to sprouting mushrooms and grass, the bales are definitely heating up and I expect to be planting them out within a week or so.

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13 Responses to Something is Growing in the Straw Bales

  1. Bria says:

    I’m excited to follow your adventures in hay bale gardening–I can’t believe the temp was up to 100 degrees. Wowsa!

  2. commonweeder says:

    I’m buying a straw bale today. I’ve had grass growing in some, but not mushrooms. I get mycelium growing in my wood chip mulch though.

  3. Beth says:

    Hello again :) I posted a few weeks ago and thought I would check back in. I finally resolved to cover my 8 straw bales in plastic to help heat them up. I left the plastic on for a little over a week and when I took it off it was steaming. I never had the chance to actually measure their temperature but everything I had read said it would take 10-14 days with the method I used. I didn’t plant them until close to 30 days and finally started planting them this week. I laughed when I read your post though! I had several bales that turned into chia pets with grass like wheat sprouts and when I removed the plastic I had one that looks just like your picture with the mushrooms. I was totally shocked! I will say the wheat sprouts died off with the plastic on them and the mushrooms died in a couples days. (I pulled a lot of them manually too). My boyfriend started seeds this year but they haven’t turned out very well, so, out of of the 4 bales that I have planted so far – 3 have been seeds. I planted lettuce, cucumbers, and green beans with seed. I planted 3 tomato starts in the 3rd. (not sure if that is to many! this is my first attempt) I want to start my peppers from starts so I will probably do that this week. Not sure what I will do with the remaining 3. herbs maybe? Good luck to you! I look forward to reading how it all turns out :) I will try and post pic’s of mine as they start sprouting. How exciting! lol

  4. Mary Schier says:

    Beth — Glad things are moving along. I found that covering the bales with plastic does really fire up the decomposition. I’ve planted some zinnia seeds, a few tomatoes and potatoes in my bales. We’ll see how they do! The biggest advantage I’m seeing so far is that it’s tricky for the rabbits to get at the bales, so they are not bothering them. Good luck with your bales!

  5. Beth says:

    I said I would post some pics so I thought I would uphold my promise but it doesn’t look like I can on the reply… :( Mine are doing pretty well.
    I hope yours are going well!!! Can’t wait to hear an update. Those darn inky cap mushrooms are sprouting crazy just about every morning when I go out to check on the bales. They are worse on the ones that I planted seed and the ones I have not planted yet. My tomato bales only gets a few!

  6. Pingback: Straw-Bale Gardens Are Looking Good, Too | My Northern Garden

  7. marilyn says:

    I am doing my first straw bale garden this year and I too got the mushrooms and the grassy chia pet LOL I wanted to put pictures but can’t seem to figure out how.

  8. Nikki Ketchum says:

    Well Im glad to hear that Im not the only one with these nasty gooy mushrooms all over the place. I too get them every morning more and more. Pretty weird. that I only have just now one or two on my tomato bale. Does anyone know if they are ok growing with everything? Should I leave them? Pull them? Ive been doing a little of both. I really would just like to know how to get rid of them. Oh and mine look like chia pets too. But… I have 6 bales and I have watermelon, strawberries, 3 different kinds of tomatoes, pumpkins, 3 different kinds of peppers, cucumbers, red potatoes, peas, green beans, lettuce, carrots, and green onion and they are loving the bales, this is my first time so Im hoping they all turn out great!

  9. Mary Schier says:

    Nikki — Don’t worry about the mushrooms. They are harmless to your plants. (I don’t know if they are edible, so don’t eat them.) Just leave them alone and they will die out on their own. The chia pet look may mean you have weeds in your bales or the straw in them is actually hay — clean wheat straw should not produce a lot of weeds. If it really gets out of control, you could trim it, but it shouldn’t harm the vegetables either. Glad the bales are working out for you!

  10. nick says:

    I have grass growing in my straw bales. I was told they were straw, I am afraid that they are hay bales….. any ideas how to get rid of it? Is there a spray that will not harm my veg. plants? Any help is better than what I have. thanks!

  11. Mary Schier says:

    Don’t bother to spray the bales — that will do more harm than good. If the bales are really hairy, you can trim the grass off with a shears. Otherwise, leave it alone, follow the protocol for conditioning the bales and plant your plants. They should still do OK. Good luck!

  12. Katie says:

    Hi! We have some straw bales that have grass growing in them, which is a new thing for us. I took out some of the grass from the bale, and it looks like it’s growing from a wheat stalk? Does that mean it’s wheat grass? My mother is worried about weeds growing in the garden from the straw; is that something to worry about when we put down a layer of the grass-growing straw beneath the plants? Like I said, this is a new thing for us! It’s fascinating. My horse tried to devour the grass from my hand. Apparently it’s tasty stuff…
    I’ve never heard of straw bale gardening, but it sounds like it’s worth looking into!

    Thanks a bunch!

  13. Mary Schier says:

    Katie — If it is wheat straw (that’s the best kind), it could be wheat growing. It also could be a grassy weed. It depends on how clean the straw was when it was baled. Most straw-bale gardeners just cut off or pull out any weeds/plants that are not vegetables you planted. Good luck with your bales — it’s way too cold to plant anything here in Minnesota yet!

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