[Market-farming] Garden covering

rbuck rbuck at pacifier.com
Thu Oct 14 16:03:28 EDT 2010

Thanks for the comment Richard.  


I have 7-1/2 acres in SW Washington state not too far from Portland, Oregon.
We're up fairly close to the Cascades so the prevailing winds dump rain
before making it over the mountains.  I do get some water pooling at the
lower SW corner of the property during a really heavy precipitation year.  I
had asked the local conservation serve agent about building a pond but she
seemed to think it was not worth the expense.  True the plastic would likely
make this problem worse but, I suppose, I could just pull up the plastic in
that case.  Applying plastic seemed worth an experiment.


My thought was to apply the plastic by hand in such a way that it covers the
paths between the beds as well as the beds themselves but so that I can lay
the plastic back for periods of time during the winter to allow some rain to
get into the soil.  Perhaps by overlapping the plastic in the middle of each
bed.  Hopefully pulling the plastic back on occasion would allow aeration of
the soil.  The plastic over the pathways would not be pulled back at all
and, hopefully, would keep the pathways pretty dry so I could drive my
tractor on it in early spring.  My intent is that the plastic would stay in
place during the growing season as well.  Many farmers here use black
plastic mulch in the summer and punch holes in it for planting.  My thought
was to overlap the plastic in a way that would allow it to be pulled back
where I wanted to plant.  I've seen this done successfully in another garden
here in Washington state.  If memory serves I was told or read somewhere
that winter plastic covering was a no-no for NOP.  I'm not sure whether I
will ever get organic certification but there may be some reason for the NOP
requirement that make sense regardless.  Do you know anything about that or
thoughts about any of the rest of this?



On Tue, 12 Oct 2010 08:08:19 -0400 Richard Robinson hopestill1 at gmail.com

>Wow--where are you?


>I would worry first about where all that water is going if it's not sinking
into the soil as it's doing now. That's an enormous amount of runoff to end
up somewhere else. Offhand, I'd guess the biggest impacts on the soil itself
would be on depriving the soil of oxygen due to the long-term plastic
covering, and perhaps a change in the soil biota to a drier-loving mix. I'd
be less concerned about the second, more about the first, I think. If you
are laying the plastic by hand, you might consider placing it later in the
winter--the water that falls early in the wet season is going to percolate
out over time anyway, so diverting it may not be very important in the
drying out process. And if you are laying it by tractor, how will you get
the tractor in there along the uncovered and wet edges, in order to remove
it in the spring?

Richard Robinson


>>On Sun, Oct 10, 2010 at 1:32 PM, rbuck <rbuck at pacifier.com> wrote:

>> Hi folks,




>> I live in an area that gets 60-100? of rain between early Oct and late 

>> June.? My soil is heavy clay loam.? I?d like to be able to get onto my 

>> garden with a tractor in late fall and early spring in order to work 

>> the soil but I?m concerned about compaction and other problems working 

>> wet clay.? I had thought to cover the ground with black polyethylene 

>> plastic to divert the water during the winter but I?m wondering if 

>> there are downsides to doing so.? Would this negatively impact the 

>> biota in the soil or cause salt build up?? Could there be a negative 

>> chemical interaction between the soil and plastic where contact is made?




>> Any thoughts or advice would be appreciated.




>> Best regards,


>> Roy


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