[Market-farming] mulching pathways

Dalew Farms dalew at phonenet.ca
Tue Mar 1 20:48:44 EST 2011

I'm a couple weeks behind in my market farming list reading, and just getting caught up tonight.  Very happy to see the discussion about mulch/weed control in the pathways between plastic mulch.  I've been thinking about that same question lots here this winter.  As we've started using more and more plastic mulch, its become a bigger issue for us.  We used to use walk behind tillers to keep the weeds down between the plastic, and still do, except as we grow more and more veggies, that is one thing we're doing a poorer job at!  I always seem to use the philosophy that the plants on the plastic are doing ok because the weeds in the path won't reduce yield, so I concentrate on weeding a crop thats not on plastic.  Unfortunately, I always get mad at myself in the fall because we never do get back into the pathways between the mulch, and end up harvesting melons or squash in amongst a bunch of weeds!  

Last winter, I told myself we were going to use straw mulch between the rows of plastic, and apply it at the same time as we did the transplanting.  I was supposed to be strict about that, but we got busy and didn't do it hardly at all. :(  It is fairly time consuming as others had mentioned.  

What I plan on trying for this year (and this time I'm really gonna do it! LOL) is to plant fall rye in between the rows of plastic mulch.  If anyone sees a problem with this, please let me know!  I'm hoping that by planting fall rye in the spring or early summer, its not going to grow very tall without going through a winter, so I won't have to cut it, and then won't have the worry of having trash flung onto our crops.  (The only crop we grow on plastic I'd worry about that is for lettuce).  I plan on planting the fall rye with a drop seeder/spike aerater made for seeding lawns.  You can buy these to plant roughly 40" wide, and it could be pulled with our riding lawnmower.  I think using one of those would make it pretty low labour, without widening the centres to 12' like someone else had wondered about to use a seeddrill.  

At this point, my only concern I"m wondering about is if the rye in the pathways might attract slugs or anything that might like to feed on our lettuce on the plastic?  Has anyone else thats been using any kind living mulch/cover crop between the plastic been growing lettuce on plastic?  And have you found any extra bug problems because of the living mulch?  

Thanks again for starting this discussion!  


Dalew Farms
Web: www.dalewfarms.ca
E-mail: dalew at phonenet.ca
Phone: (705)594-1823
Fax: (705)594-1834
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