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Using black plastic  RSS feed

 
Suzy Bean
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Posts: 940
Location: Stevensville, MT
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I am not sure if there is already a thread on using black plastic or not but I was curious what peoples' take on it was. I worked on an organic veggie farm in VA a few summers ago, and we used it over most of our rows for several reasons, including lessening weed competition, warming soil temperature and moisture control (we had drip tape beneath the plastic). It was certainly useful for the farm set-up that we had. I would love to not need it though--even the biodegradeable version. I am fairly new to permacultural thinking and would love to hear what people may have to say.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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My impression of plastic products used in growing vegetables is that they don't last very long - maybe a season in my climate - so this is not a sustainable practice, in my opinion. I don't have a serious problem with using plastics when the object will last for years, such as rain tanks, piping, roofing, that sort of thing, though I hope that other, better materials may be developed.
 
Terri Matthews
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Location: Eastern Kansas
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I lay down woven greenhouse flooring because I can no longer weed, and I punched holes every 3 feet. I did this because I could no longer weed, and with the 4' tall grasses in Kansa I could not have a garden without it because I am slightly handicapped.

I do not consider using the woven plastic to be good permaculture, but I have not found any other way that I could garden, short of working the soil with a tractor. And, I do not have a tractor.

I still have to do a little weeding or the grasses will grow down through the woven plastic and damage it, but we are talking about scuffing grass seedlings off with the toe of my shoe. THAT I can do!
 
josh brill
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A farm that I work part time on uses it for many things and we always find little bits of it in the soil.  Pulling it up at the end of the year is quite a chore as well and we always rip it and end up leaving some pieces in the ground.  Not really what I would want in my soil. 

He does get much better yields with it and weeding is almost eliminated.  Except he is just borrowing energy from one place to save in another.  The corn stuff still has plasticizes in it and used a ton of fuel to make so I dont think it really fits in either. 

I think its a fine line we all try to walk between what works right now and what we would like to be doing in the future.  The tough part is moving away from the convenient once you have started doing it that way.
 
maikeru sumi-e
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I'm definitely not a fan. The thought of it in or on the soil is sickening. Plastic has this tendency of breaking down into a million billion microscopic toxic pieces. You can use heavy mulch instead if you want to cut down weeds. It may slow down the ground from warming up a little in the spring, but it builds the soil and helps out with water and nutrient retention, whereas black plastic does little. Not all "weeds" are weeds, either. You may want to look into companion planting or living green manures such as clovers which can help compete with and control other unwanted plants.
 
Terri Matthews
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Location: Eastern Kansas
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maikeru wrote:
You can use heavy mulch instead if you want to cut down weeds.
I tried this before I went to woven flooring: it was innefective for midwestern weeds.

For what it is worth, I do not care for it either but it is a choice between using it (and it should last for years) and not having a vegetable garden at all.
 
                            
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Soil likes covers of leaves and woody debris and scat and frass and nut hulls and bones. Soil definitely does not like being suffocated by plastic. I think this is fairly clear. Spending time in the forest, in the fields I can sense that plastic would not be appreciated. That said, I did salvage some black plastic and am covering up part of the front yard with it for a couple of weeks to kill the grass so I can use the space as a tree-seedling nursery. I think there are appropriate uses of salvage, but buying plastic to cover the soil just because mulching or weeding doesn't want to be done would be inappropriate.

Terri, have you tried cardboard covered by mulch?
 
Terri Matthews
Posts: 469
Location: Eastern Kansas
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wildeyes wrote:

Terri, have you tried cardboard covered by mulch?
Yeah.

Did yoou know that a morning glory shoot will grow 10 feet just from the previous years roots, which will get it out of pretty much any mulch? I do now. And, Midwestern grass where I live really will grow as high "as the withers on a horse", which is 5-6 feet tall. I will leave it to your imagination just how vigorous the native weeds can be: only a few varieties ever competed with the longer grasses but I have some of them.

The Kansas soil is rich and the farmers use roundup to deal with the weeds, but the idea of using it in my vegetable garden makes my skin crawl. I won't.

There is no unmixed blessing: grain grows well here but so do weeds.


The old time gardeners kept a dust mulch down by using a hoe to stir the top of the soil after every rain: this not only nipped off the end of the morning glories and Johnson grass a couple of times a week, which eventually exhausted the plant, it also killed the weed seedlings because the top of the soil was so loose that they dehydrated. They hoed walking backwards to keep their feet from compressing the soil enough so that the weeds could survive.

But, this is beyond me at this time.
 
                      
Posts: 56
Location: MONTANA, Bozeman area; ZONE 4
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Check out the examples on this page
- Dewitt landscaping fabric, with or without the top of the line water holding gel


http://www.hydrosource.com/serv01.htm

This lasts 15-20 years.

It is permeable by water but not plants.

Combine with their top of the line water holding gel, and it makes a home for greatly increased soil biology, keeps a very steady water supply which plants like.

Hugleculture mounds and such are great, but take a lot of work to establish. This has some of the same benefits methinks.
 
                        
Posts: 8
Location: South Arkansas
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I have a friend who did a study on his tomatoes he is 85 years old uses plastic on beans and cucumbits but not on tomatoes when you use the plastic it keeps out the rain and only what you water with drip line gets wet
 
                      
Posts: 56
Location: MONTANA, Bozeman area; ZONE 4
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The semi permeable plastic does allow water thru. 
 
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