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Temperate mulch plants

 
                                          
Posts: 4
Location: Fredericktown, MO
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Howdy from Fredericktown, Missouri. I'm new here, first post. I've been thinking alot about biomass for mulching, mostly for the kitchen garden which is currently heavily mulched with cardboard and straw. I've got lots of comfrey growing mostly for the food forests but am thinking about that large area and the viability of always importing materials such as straw and wood chips. I've got lots of dwarf sumac growing around here... LOTS and will probably start using that as a chop and wheel barrel and then drop but am looking for other ideas. anything really fast growing and dense that folks can recommend? Thanks.

been lurking and reading for awhile... great forum!
 
Joel Hollingsworth
pollinator
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
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A somewhat whacky idea that I'd like to try eventually is to grow jade plants for the lower layer of mulch.

They're easy to propagate, but also easy to control; they grow reasonably quickly; they break up very easily; and they store a lot of moisture if you want to dry-crop.
 
                                          
Posts: 4
Location: Fredericktown, MO
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Actually, since posting I came across a bit of video showing a pawpaw tree and was thrilled at just how thick with leaves they are. I've got five of them planted (all fairly small) but am thinking that they will offer alot of nice leaf mulch. Compared to standard fruit trees that seem to all have quite small leaves I can't help but think that more pawpaws are in my future. They may not be able to provide all the carbon material but perhaps a start.

Any other ideas? I just can't imagine that it makes sense to assume that straw or wood chips are something we can/should rely on as an outside input every year or even every other year. Perhaps the problem is having such a large kitchen garden? But really I want to be able to feed at least 6-9 people with food from our site so a somewhat large garden seems to be called for.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
pollinator
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
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From a theoretical perspective, if all you want is to maximise carbon, you can focus on plants that use C4-style photosynthesis, rather than C3.  From Wikipedia:

C4 plants represent about 5% of Earth's plant biomass and 1% of its known plant species. Despite this scarcity, they account for around 30% of terrestrial carbon fixation.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C4_carbon_fixation

Two of the possibilities listed on that page that particularly interest me are miscanthus gigantus and millet.

I also found a few good ideas at the links below:

http://lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/permaculture/2003-March/017788.html
http://fukuokafarmingol.info/faemilia.html

It seems like placing stick wood (maybe from an alder hedge?) in the garden paths, and turning it onto the beds once it's rotten, might be a reasonable replacement for exotic chipped wood.
 
                                          
Posts: 4
Location: Fredericktown, MO
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polyparadigm, thanks for the info and ideas... will definitely check it out.
polyparadigm wrote:
From a theoretical perspective, if all you want is to maximise carbon, you can focus on plants that use C4-style photosynthesis, rather than C3.  From Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C4_carbon_fixation

Two of the possibilities listed on that page that particularly interest me are miscanthus gigantus and millet.

I also found a few good ideas at the links below:

http://lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/permaculture/2003-March/017788.html
http://fukuokafarmingol.info/faemilia.html

It seems like placing stick wood (maybe from an alder hedge?) in the garden paths, and turning it onto the beds once it's rotten, might be a reasonable replacement for exotic chipped wood.
 
Nick Ritar
Posts: 20
Location: Meliodora, Hepburn, Victoria, Australia
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bee fungi solar
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Hi geekinthegarden,

Sounds like what you want ids just bulk organic matter rather than really high carbon organic matter.

Not sure about your exact climate, but all the classic nitrogen fixers are a shortcut to lots of OM. Try tagasaste, acacias,  locust, alder, casurina, albizzia etc etc etc
 
                          
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I am sort of in this mulch shortage dilemma.  No straw is available that I can find this year- I should have gotten TWENTY round bales 3 years ago instead of just five!  Luckily woodchips just cost me a 30 mile round trip, $20, and unloading them from my trailer for about 3 yards.  However I can't mulch the seed beds with them.  I am about ready to mulch any beds I will put plants into with wood chips but my raised beds sink down in level so much I fear it will be hard to 'get down below the mulch' when that level is uncertain.

I use shredded paper when I have something to hold it down with and lots of leaves though I try to compost them a bit first.  This fall more leaves and more of them straight on to the beds.

What are other people doing?  I will try to catch and use all my own leaves but often they have grass seed in them- the worst weed in my raised beds- and a concern with the imported leaves as well.
 
Leah Sattler
Posts: 2603
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jenn thats tough! are you in a drought area now? i always suggest people find spent or cheap hay if possible. people don't like hay for bedding and if it is moldy, spoiled, or of poor nutritional quality it is virtually worthless to most people. but I remember during a bad year here there was no such thing as bad hay. any hay was being fed to the animals and people were just keeping their fingers crossed that it got them through without killing anything.
 
                          
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Leah I am afraid  to use hay.  Twice now I have gotten a great stand of hay taking over my raised bed- eradicated the coastal (?) hay from this garden (but not from my lawn) but the milo I got into my place in TX remained there when I moved.

If I get hay I will feel the need to compost it first- I am ready to take this step though.
 
jeremiah bailey
Posts: 343
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I haven't tried it yet, but hybrid poplar grows extremely fast. Makes a great source for firewood and mulch in a small space. geekinthegarden, I'd like to know a bit about your experience with the pawpaws. I'm planning on planting a few this coming year.

I opened another thread on the organic practices forum that is rather parallel to this one. I didn't realize this one was going on. Here's a link to it : http://www.permies.com/permaculture-forums/2007_0/organic-practices/home-grown-mulch-any-ideas It just got started and I think it'd be relevant to this thread. I'd rather keep the replies to it here.
 
paul wheaton
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
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Since this is the permaculture forum and not the organic practices forum, my obnoxious opinion is a little different.

I think the long term mission is gonna be to grow stuff that will make for a long term ling mulch.  A polyculture.  With the soil getting richer every year without you doing anything more.

And ... when you are first getting started, sometimes it helps to take a shortcut - especially when planting in grasses or when planting in awful soil or ... well .... there are lots of excellent reasons. 

I heavily favor hay and straw.  I've written here before several times why I'm against newspaper and cardboard. 

Hay and straw do have the risk that they are loaded with seeds and suddenly you might be growing something you don't want.  My experience is that only about 5% of the straw or hay does this.  So when something pops up, I just throw more straw or hay on it.

 
rose macaskie
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polyparadigm, what is lower layer of mulch and what is dry-crop and more so mixed in with the information they store a lot of moisture. agri rose macaskie.
 
Leah Sattler
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i do the same as paul with layering hay. if something pops up just put on another layer. it depends on your situation though I am sure. I get grass popping up from blown in seeds either way and the bit that comes from the hay is easy to deal with in comparison. if I stick  roundbales on top of a pasture area and don't clean up the 'wasted' (no such thing here!) hay in the spring the dense layers of hay will prevent even the bermuda grass from coming up for some time and underneat it is a lovely bit of soil. the biggest thing is to have a thick dense mat.
 
                                          
Posts: 4
Location: Fredericktown, MO
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thanks to all for the replies. agreed about growing a long term living mulch. this is a new garden just in the second year. the cardboard/straw combo was put down to cover lots of grasses and prepare the soil. as i work with standard annual veggies i am going to be adding in a variety of perennials.  i've had a real problem this year with tomato hornworms so will be looking to add in as much color and scent as I can. i'll be mixing in lots of herbs and flowers as I get them propagated. i'd be very interested in hearing what you suggest for long term mulch and will look for your writings regarding cardboard.

thanks again!

paul wheaton wrote:
Since this is the permaculture forum and not the organic practices forum, my obnoxious opinion is a little different.

I think the long term mission is gonna be to grow stuff that will make for a long term ling mulch.   A polyculture.  With the soil getting richer every year without you doing anything more.

And ... when you are first getting started, sometimes it helps to take a shortcut - especially when planting in grasses or when planting in awful soil or ... well .... there are lots of excellent reasons. 

I heavily favor hay and straw.  I've written here before several times why I'm against newspaper and cardboard. 

Hay and straw do have the risk that they are loaded with seeds and suddenly you might be growing something you don't want.  My experience is that only about 5% of the straw or hay does this.  So when something pops up, I just throw more straw or hay on it.


 
I agree. Here's the link: http://stoves2.com
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