Hay and Straw: What’s the Difference?

On the left you have straw. On the right you have hay. Can you see it? Hay is greenish, dried grass. Straw is what’s left over once grain is harvested. One has plenty of nutrients, one doesn’t. There in lies the lesson. If you are FEEDING an animal, get hay. If you are mulching, making bedding, stuffing a scarecrow, get straw.

You can mulch with hay. It’s not very cost effective unless you have a connection with someone with loads of spoiled hay. But, since hay still has seeds in it, you will want to pile it DEEP so any weeds that find the ground, never find the sun. (See the The Ruth Stout No-Work Garden Book for instructions.)


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  1. Thanks for this – I have asked, and been asked, the difference and have never known. I am allergic to hay (mildly) but can walk through straw with no problem. I was beginning to wonder if they were one in the same or if I was imagining allergens… now I know.

  2. I have had a on going argument with my husband about this very thing…..he won! I said they were the same thing and he said it wasn’t!