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.

67 Replies to “Something is Growing in the Straw Bales”

  1. My Bales have been doing great , except for tiny flying insects all over ,it’s very discouraging.I have followed every step and used organic fertilizer.My plants are being destroyed .Does anyone know what’s going on.

  2. My pepper and tomato plants started well, but the peppers now have very small leaves, and the tomatoes have black spots on the leaves. I removed affected leaves, and sprayed the plants with a fungicide. We have had lots of rain, so maybe that is the problem.

  3. This is my first attempt at using straw bales. I laid them in one of my raised beds, with landscape fabric underneath. I am in Minnesota as well and comditioned the bales with organic blood meal. As I’ve seen here I really didn’t see much in the way of heat from the bales and just decided to plant. After about two weeks I certainly see the Chia Pet effect in several bales, while some have sparse grass, but I had/have no mushrooms. The extent of planting right now is cucumbers, pumpkins, zucchini, lettuce and I had an extra cabbage to I through it in. How often should the bales be watered now and is there any need to use fertilizer throughout the season since everything appears to be growing well?

  4. a lot of the “slime ” some of you are experiencing comes from the mushrooms. They decompose into a slimy substance, I’m not sure if that is detrimental to the plants. I tend to pull as much mushrooms as I can, but that does get tiring.

  5. The “grass” growing in your bales is not grass. It is sprouted grain, either oats or wheat that the thresher missed. There is bound to be some left behind when it is stripped off the shaft. Also, there is a big difference between hay bales and straw bales. It’s unlikely someone would sell you a straw bale that turns out to be a hay bale. They look quite different and it would be difficult to get them mixed up.

  6. Michelle, Obviously conditions are different here in Arizona. But I water every day. I do try and fertilize at least every two weeks. The bales are great but most plants eem to want more nourishment here in AZ.

  7. For Sue – sounds like you are dealing with soil, or fungus, gnats. Harmless in theory, except that larvae from the eggs they lay will eat the roots of your plants and destroy them. It takes persistence and determination to get rid of them. I am using vinegar traps and yellow sticky traps for the adults, and a weekly soil drench with BTi to kill off the larvae. Have saved all but one plant (my tomatillo ). Population decreased by 90% this way. Sick of dealing with them, but it was that or lose my ‘crop’. Will cover bales next time I conditon any to see if that cuts down on gnats during composting. Good luck, ang happy gardening!

  8. These inky mushrooms are very interesting indeed! I’ve also heard they are not harmful to any of the plants you’re growing, so I guess you have to deal with them.

  9. I just started nine straw bales, on day six of conditioning and it’s chia time o a lot of the bales..can I still plant in the chia? Will it choke out the plants? Should I try to pull it out?

  10. Chelito — Continue with the conditioning. You may want to trim the weeds that are growing or, if there are not too many, pull them. Make sure the bale has heated and cooled again before planting. Good luck!

  11. What do you think of the idea of using my weed burner to burn them after I soak the bales down. Let them roll a bit and then do that.

  12. I’m not sure fire is a good idea around stawbales. Have you checked out Joel Karsten’s books on strawbale gardening? He’s much more of an expert than I am.

  13. I’ve read and reread his book a few times. He really hardly mentioned the possibility of having straw with seeds in it. Tell you the truth, I gave up. My bales are totally full of oat seedlings . The bottoms are matted with roots. I finally just cut them out and am getting a different source for my straw and seeing if that will work. I think it’s a problem more common than he thinks.

  14. I agree it is a more common problem than people think. The source of your bales should know what kind of straw the bale i and whether it is “clean” straw. It sounds like you got oat straw with a lot of seeds still in it.

  15. I had very little trouble with grass last year. Got my straw bales from the same place this year, and I have lots of grass. I pulled some of it, but this takes a lot of tge bale with it. They must have changed the source from which they purchase staw.

  16. i usually get my bales from Home Depot, and I’ve NEVER had a problem with weeds in my straw.

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