Steve Thorn wrote:Hey Daron, great informative post.
My go to has been mulch alone. I used to do some tilling before mulching, but my yard had a very agressive perennial grass that I seemed to just help propogate when I tilled it.
My personal preference recently has been, like you also mentioned in another thread recently How to use fall leaves on your homestead, is using leaves (*Edit-added link to other thread). I keep them whole to provide the most coverage and put them down thick enough to block out other vegetation.
The downsides for me, like you mentioned in your blog, are if you want to plant there immediately, it can be hard to plant seeds with the leaves, or you can wait for a season for the plants below to die off.
Really enjoyed the post and blog!
Mike Jay wrote:Hi Daron, I use sheet mulching with cardboard as well when converting grassy areas to something better. One problem is that the chickens love to scratch away the wood chips and then tear through the cardboard. So if you can keep them away until the vegetation underneath is dead, no problem.
One thing I tried last year was soil sheet mulching for a crop field. I had grass and wanted a sunflower/oat patch. So we laid down cardboard and covered it with an inch of topsoil from a nearby project. We had a drought this summer so it was very hard to keep it moist. But it still killed off the grass and I got a crop of sunflowers. I planted about 2 weeks after laying the dirt/cardboard so I just stabbed a hole through the dirt/cardboard and stuck in a sunflower seed (old steak knife worked well). Nearly all germinated and gave me a flower (8' stalks). If it was a moister summer I think the oats and other seeds would have worked too. Or if I did the soil sheet mulching in the fall so it could have broken down over the winter under the snow.
Nina Jay wrote:My experience of aggressive creeping weeds, like quack grass and creeping thistle, is that the mulch has to be 40 cm thick at least and it has to stay that way for a year, ie. you have to keep adding it if it decomposes and shrinks.
If I don't have that much mulch I use black plastic mulch on top and keep it on for a full growing season. It is tempting to start growing sooner but it really pays to wait for a full year.
Cardboard + mulch on top does not IME make much difference, the cardboard decomposes a lot faster than the quack grass dies. So the amount of mulch on top needs to be about the same, with or without cardboard.
I know plastic mulch isn't the most permie solution... I'm not that fond of it ideologically speaking. I've learnt to tolerate it because it's durable (I use UV-resistant black plastic mulch for professional veg growers) and lasts many years, doesn't tear, can be removed in one piece and reused and finally recycled after use, and you don't need much of it, one roll would be enough for most home gardeners for a life time.
Compare this with importing big quantities of manure and wood chips and I think it is not easy to say what is better. Applying large quantities of organic matter is labour-intensive and transporting them from far consumes more natural resources than transporting a roll of plastic mulch due to much larger volume and weight. On the other hand, the organic materials are good for the soil so you are importing nutrients too.
On my farm, I mainly rely on composted manure & bedding from my own animals and plastic mulch on top of it, until I find a better way
Whatever I do, I am careful not to dig, because I find it just makes the weed problem worse.
Yup. Their favorite thing is to go around just after the missus has raked the wood chips back onto the flower beds and kick it all back off again. Some day we'll outsmart them.
Daron Williams wrote:Good point about the chickens - are your chickens free range?
Daron Williams wrote:When you use mulch alone on the aggressive grass how thick are you putting the mulch?
Daron Williams wrote:
The grass at my place is not as aggressive as quack grass so sheet mulching has worked fine. Have you tried using burlap bags or multiple layers of cardboard? I have had some success with using burlap bags for dealing with more aggressive plants. But as you said it is labor intensive and takes a bit of time.
Daron Williams wrote:I have found that it is much more effective if I time the sheet mulching with the end of summer. As daylight gets shorter and temperatures drop the growth of the plants slows down enough that sheet mulching seems to be more effective.
Daron Williams wrote:When I apply it during the spring or summer I end up having to spot sheet mulch weak areas where the grass pushes through. But if I wait till late summer or even better the first half of fall I don't have the same issues.
When do you all tend to apply sheet mulching? Does it make any difference when dealing with aggressive plants?
Nicole Alderman wrote:I've got a questions about tilling. When I use a handheld cultivator to remove weeds, am I "tilling"? I often use something like
to pull out buttercup or other plants that spread by runners. How damaging is this to the soil?
Buster Parks wrote:I'm trying a variation on the till once and double dig options here this year. About 2500 sq ft mostly forked or dug by hand with a bit using the tiller (hated how the tiller did, it's being given away). I immediately planted fall and winter cover crops like wheat, rye, Austrian winter peas, favas, mustard and daichon radish. Since it's a small area I tried planting very dense in most areas to choke out any weeds that germinated or survived. Timing was important for this and I did it all in late aug thru early october. My plan is to thin the grains and peas that survive till spring as I'm ready to plant next year but keep some of the wheat and winter peas for shade and seeds. While not as flexible timing wise I like the results so far and I have nice greens for the chickens and rabbits hopefully thru some of winter.
Sounds like a good system Anna - do you think the seaweed helps get everything breaking down faster?
Anyone else have thoughts on fall leaves under cardboard?
After a season of silt fencing on bindweed sites, it is very gratifying to lift it and pull the mass of white roots that have accumulated at the surface : ) (Of course, they'll be back... so regular clipping back at ground level is also necessary)
A theory I have seen is that mulch also provides habitat for predators of slugs. In this area that includes a type of big black beetle and garter snakes.
What do you all think?