[Market-farming] Mulch

Steve Bridges steve at texasgrown.com
Wed Dec 5 23:05:26 EST 2007

Howdy Mark, here's a couple of thoughts...

On using hay, if you get what is commonly referred to as 'clean' hay, then
it's highly likely that you'll be getting hay that was sprayed with a weed
killer (Grazon, 2-4D, piclaram) that will stunt or kill your veggie plants
when you plant into the hay. An easy way to discern if hay has been sprayed
is to grind some up, mix it half and half with potting soil and plant some
bean seeds into a pot. If the bean seeds develop their second set of true
leaves without curling or stunting then you'll know there is no herbicide in
the hay. Chances are this type of clean hay will not have a load of weed
seeds in it...

If you're getting hay that some farmers call 'organic' which is
non-fertilized and neglected (organic by neglect, not Certified), then
you're probably buying hay that will have several generations of weed seeds
in it. The few months of weed suppression you'll gain will not be worth the
years of newly inoculated weed seeds that you'll have to deal with.

Being in West Texas, chances are you might be able to find a farmer that
bales his wheat straw, which makes an excellent mulch and is going to have
far fewer weed seeds in it than hay. If you're around the Midland/Odessa
area I can guide you to a few farmers that even have Certified Organic wheat
straw for sale.

I would suggest that you check out a book called Lasagna Gardening for tips
on how to plant into a layered, or mulched bed. See
g.aspx It's gardening, but lots of good tips and growth for organic
agriculture have come from organic horticulture.

One thing that you might try is using a long season clover to plant in the
walkways to keep the weeds down. In a field trial of 29 different cover
crops last year I found that red and strawberry clovers keep even Johnson
grass from returning in the summer. These were huge trials of each variety,
40x800 feet, but where we had these clovers planted there was very little
weed pressure all the way through the following summer. This year I'm
trialing this as between-row plantings in cellulose and plastic mulched beds
to see if it will keep Bermuda and Johnson grass at bay. Also, I've rowed up
my beds for next years corn, planted these clovers and will strip-till to
plant the corn next year. I'm thinking that it's going to work judging from
what I saw in the trials last year...

Another thought is that, if you've got the land, you can grow your own mulch
crops such as a fast growing sudan, that you can cut and bale 2-3 times,
before it goes to seed, then you don't have to worry about what you might be
bringing in from another farm.
Weeds be suppressed,,,never gone!

Steve Bridges
Texas farmer

-----Original Message-----
From: market-farming-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org
[mailto:market-farming-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of TxBeeFarmer
Sent: Monday, December 03, 2007 9:45 AM
To: Market Farming
Subject: [Market-farming] Mulch

I'd like to try putting down mulch over my garden to reduce weeds and help 
the soil.  It's about 3 acres, but I'm really not sure how to get it done. 
Also not sure how to plant a garden on it.

Let me explain a little about my location, the soil, and how the garden is 
taken care of now.  It's in west Texas with a rainfall of approx. 17 
inches/yr. with very little or no irrigation because the water must be 
hauled in.  The soil is a sandy loam that tends to develop "hard pan" if not

plowed.  So, each Winter the stalk residue is shred down and disked lightly 
to turn everything under.  In the spring, it's deep disked, then plowed to 
create 36 inches rows.  Planting is done with a 4 row buster planter on the 
bed.  Weeds are either hoed or plowed using knives or sweeps.

The only mulches available are large round bales of oats, hay grazer, red 
top cane, alfalfa, or similar.  It's not practical for me to get mulch from 
town.  I don't have a dump truck and they don't deliver.

So it looks like hay is my only choice.
But, how can it be put down and how do you avoid growing a field of whatever

kind of hay is put down?  And how do you get it down?  Should I disk before 
putting the mulch down?  Should the mulch go down in the Fall or in the 
Spring?  How deep should it be? How can I make rows and plant without 
covering up the mulch?  Should I row it up, put the mulch down, then plant? 
As you can see, I'm having trouble understanding how this is done?  Seems 
the devil is in the details.

Perhaps I'm looking at this all wrong.  Need some help here folks.

Thanks for your help.

TxBeeFarmer (Mark)
West Texas Zone 7b 

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