Dry straw would provide a lovely home for a mouse or nest for a snake, but once the straw is saturated with water and begins to break down and heat up inside the bales, the bale is not at all hospitable to a mouse or snake.  chicken wireIf you woke up in a hotel and the roof was leaking on your head every morning you would check out quickly, and that is how a mouse feels too.  If they are trying to nest, they need a dry spot to protect their baby mice.  If you let your bales dry out, or water very infrequently so they have a chance to dry up in spots, then a mouse might appear, but my experience has been that if I water regularly, they are not a problem.  Snakes are not attracted to straw, however if they already live in the area of your garden, they may take the opportunity to sun themselves on top of the bales before the bales are covered with plants to shade the surface.  Snakes are usually very beneficial in a garden, as they eat slugs and other pesky insects that can be the real trouble makers in a garden.  I sure wish I had snakes in my garden.  You will not find any more snakes in a Straw Bale Garden than you will find in a traditional garden in the same exact spot.

If you know you already have gophers, chipmunks, moles or voles, one great option is to unroll a long run of 3′ wide chicken wire, or hardware cloth, then arrange your bales right down the middle of the wire, bending it up on the sides.  This little wire “trough” will keep most of them from trying to tunnel into your bales from underneath.  If you have shrews, those suckers are tiny, so use two overlapped chicken wire fences with the holes off center.  This usually does the trick.  Hardware cloth wire is effective but it can be expensive, actually more expensive than two rolls of chicken wire.

If you find straw bales in the fall and you plan to store them over winter, do not keep them inside of your garage or potting shed.  The will serve as a mouse hotel if you do.  Instead put them outside, right in the garden where you will use them.  Store them so the string don’t touch the soil, and don’t bother covering them up, the snow or rain will help soak them and start some bacteria build up.  The real conditioning will only start when you add the nitrogen source.

You will discover that all of your concerns about rodents are usually overblown, and the damage they inflict is minimal at most.  So stop worrying about what you think is going to happen, and just start a garden.  Let the results speak for themselves, you’ll see your fears were mostly unwarranted.

 

1 comments

  1. Joel – I started last year straw bale gardening and had my peas, cukes, etc. die off. I figured out that moles or voles were coming up in my bales and eating the roots off my veggies. I hope using chicken wire this year will combat that issue. The only thing they weren’t touching were my tomatoes!

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