Deliberate Agrarian
Snippet #13

Plastic Mulch

Dateline: 26 April 2014

(click picture for enlarged view)

I have resisted using black plastic mulch in my garden for decades, but The Market Gardener (page 108) has prompted me to try it. I came to the conclusion that if I'm going to grow a large garden, with limited available time to work in it, I need some help. Black plastic should save me a lot of time and effort. And, unlike plant-based mulches, it does not promote the slug population. Some internet searching turned up This Plastic, which is UV treated and has a lifespan of 8 to 12 years. A 3' x 300' roll cost a bit less than $100 (shipping included). If the plastic lasts 10 years, that amounts to around $10 a year for 900 square feet of weed suppression. As the picture above shows, I "permanently" installed the mulch around My Raspberry Rows, and beyond. In tomorrow's snippet I'll show how I secured it from blowing away.


timfromohio said...

Another mulch alternative I've used with success is multiple layers of newspaper (sans the glossy ads) covered with grass clippings to keep the newspaper from blowing away. I put this down when I set out transplants or, in the case of direct-seeded plants, after they sprout and are several inches tall. I usually leave a space of a couple of inches around rows of direct seeded plants and a 4"x4" square (approximate) around the transplants. Cuts down on weeding big time and by the end of the season the newspaper has degraded enough I can till it in with the fall leaves. One can add grass as needed over the summer. It does take time to put down though, and I was also thinking of trying the black plastic for the same reasons you are trying it.

Andrea said...

I am curious, though, about the next year's growth of new canes. I am not sure if raspberries grow the same way as black berries. I grow blackberries in my back yard and every year I have to cut down the old canes and put up the new canes that sprouted out of the ground and will give next year's fruit. If raspberries are similar, how would you handle that with the black plastic? I've been seriously considering the black plastic mulch for my strawberries because we have a terrible slug and sow bug problem. This year, I had to toss most of my berries because they were eaten before I could get to them. Such a waste of work!

Herrick Kimball said...

My raspberries grow the same way you have described your blackberries. The plastic I put down is spaced 1 foot either way of the center of the row of canes. So they have a 2 foot width in which to send up next year's canes. I think that's plenty. I typically prune out any that grow any further away than that.

Newspapers with grass clippings work great. I've done that many times. But I don't have enough grass clippings (or newspapers) to cover a large area.

timfromohio said...

We never got a newspaper except for the free local one so I used to pester my coworkers for newspapers for the same reason!

Herrick Kimball said...

Same here. I haven't gotten a paid newspaper for years. I get them from my mother in law, and use quite a few wrapping some of the chicken plucker parts I sell.

Everett said...

For all you folks deficient in old newspapers, go to your nearest vendor and ask if you can have the ones he couldn't sell. They usually just cut the masthead off to send back and throw away the rest. I get hundreds of them like that. Everett

Herrick Kimball said...

Great tip. Now that you've mentioned it, I remember that my wife has gotten newspapers in the past from the local post office. They end up with a lot of extra weekly "penny saver" papers for some reason and are glad to give them to someone instead of throwing them out.