[Market-farming] large scale mulching

Paul Bucciaglia pbucciaglia at yahoo.com
Thu Dec 6 18:12:15 EST 2007

Hi Mark,

I love mulch. Great stuff.

We grow 15 acres of organicly grown mixed veg a year here in CT and mulch about 3 acres of that-garlic, strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cut flowers, and melons.  

Big picture:  those round bales you mentioned should be fine.  The key is to have it custom made-by you, or by a neighbor you trust.  Big thing is to cut the straw/hay before it sets viable seeds, or weeds in the mulch source field go to seed.  I have a neighbor bring me about 30 round bales of rye straw a year (cost around here is $35-$40 per bale delivered).  He cuts it at anthesis (when the anthers poke out) so it is plenty mature but did not have time to go to seed.  In the northeast, fall planted rye is almost weed free, and if it has no rye seeds , no problems.  The other problem you can have is if you get hay/straw that was sprayed with herbicides toxic to veggie plants.  If you choose teh species and the time of harvest carefully there should be no need for herbicides.  There was a sad story in Grwoing for market about contaminated mulch hay over the summer.

Our mulching:  we use leaves that local contracotrs dump here as well as the straw.  For garlic, we plant, spread leaves out of a spreader (ideally you'd use the spreader, this year we had to do a third acre by hand out of a pick up truck which is not nearly as much fun as watching them fly out of a spreader.)  Then we cover with a light layer of straw to keep the leaves from blowing away. The day after we finished we had a north wind at 40 mph and lost hardly any leaves--but you have to have the straw on top.

For tomatoes/peppers/eggplant, we lay black plastic with drip underneath.  then mulch.  For early plantings when we have no straw, we like to use leaves, we use the spreader to straddle each bed and put out the leaves, and then sweep off the plastic and plant with a Water Wheel transplanter.  We follow this in July with unrolled round bales.  For later plantings we just unroll the bales in between the rows and its usually fine.  Similar deal for melons, just get the mulch down before the vines spread.
We don't mulch shorter season veg like lettuc or carrots because its not worth the effort for us for these short maturity crops.  On a smaller scale you could do that with square bales but they are pricey and so is he labor to put it out.  

Cukes and zucs are in between--I have stopped mulching though because squash bugs in mulched crops (especially zucs) are often worse.

wow, must be winter, I actaully wrote something to the list ;-)

Hope that helps and good luck

Paul Bucciaglia
Fort Hill Farm
Organic Vegetables, Herbs, and Flowers
18 Fort Hill Rd.
New Milford CT 06776
(860) 350-3158

"Fear is the path to the dark side.  Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering."
Yoda, from Star Wars, Episode I

> Message: 7
> Date: Mon, 3 Dec 2007 09:45:26 -0600
> From: "TxBeeFarmer"
> <TxBeeFarmer at HotPop.com>
> Subject: [Market-farming] Mulch
> To: "Market Farming"
> <market-farming at lists.ibiblio.org>
> Message-ID: <000901c835c3$86a27df0$0300000a at Me>
> Content-Type: text/plain; format=flowed;
> charset="iso-8859-1";
> 	reply-type=original
> 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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