Yay or nay to black plastic mulch?

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Tora
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Yay or nay to black plastic mulch?

Post by Tora »

I’ve had little time or energy to devote to our vegetable garden (especially weeding!) so we decided to use some of the black plastic “maruchi” we found in our barn to cover the rows in our garden. I personally don’t like the stuf but all the neighbors swear by it and a countrywide full of farmer can’t be wrong! Right?

Or so I thought....

I finally spent some time in my garden checking on things after a few weeks of abandonment and some of the plants do not seem to be anywhere near as genki as las year when I mulched them heavily with all the leaves and so on that had filled the gutters along my driveway and accumulated along the sides of the road in front of our house.

What are your experiences with plastic “mulch”?
Has it effected the health of your plants? How many times/years do yo reuse it- if at all?
Better ways to deal with weeds? I always seem to be to bust to flame weed at the appropriate times so I’m putting that one aside for now until things settle down a bit.

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Zasso Nouka
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Yay or nay to black plastic mulch?

Post by Zasso Nouka »

I think there are both pros and cons to black plastic mulch. It does suppress weeds and we also used it in the past but if your soil has a lot of weed seeds then they will sprout where the holes are or on the pathways. It is quite useful in the winter as it helps the soil warm up which a thick organic mulch actually insulates the soil from solar heating but may stop it getting so cold. However in the summer it can overheat the soil when planting out small seedlings and kill their roots before they have a chance to go deep but in the winter it aids small transplants by warming the soil.

Disadvantages, if you have a lot of weed seeds in your soil then putting mulch down can make weeding either difficult or more time consuming, without mulch you can easily run a stirrup hoe (けずっ太郎) or flame weeder (if you use one) between plants and eliminate weeds. We have several different sized Kezutaro's for using between different spaced plant rows. Disposal is another issue unless you are using a biodegradable mulch, the normal practice of burning it isn't eco friendly really. If you've used it for several crops it can be a real pain removing it as the plastic degrades and the sheet breaks up.

We've recently stopped using it and now make stale seed beds, prepare bed and water well for a few weeks then flame once or twice before planting. You'll have to master keeping a flame weeder alive for this to work or you could regularly hoe the beds if that is preferable. Are you using a wand type flame weeder or tank type ?

If there is a crop in a bed and we're transplanting seedlings then we now run the lawnmower over the bed starting on a high setting and then drop to the lowest setting and that turns the finished crop into a fine mulch that you can transplant through.

They do seem to protect the soil from compaction by heavy rain but I also think they don't allow all that rain into the soil so sometimes plants require more watering but maybe they stop the soil drying out so much so it's probably swings and roundabouts there.

You can get white or silver plastic mulches for summer use that cool the soil somewhat to lessen the shock of transplanting and you can get biodegradable mulches made of cellulose but only order what you need to use immediately as they start breaking down once out of the shop.

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Yay or nay to black plastic mulch?

Post by Tora »

Thanks Zasso

I’m not really a fan of the plastic as it’s not real eco friendly but I had three partial roles that weren’t ever going to get unmade so....

It sounds like the plastic might be better suited for winter crops? I’m putting in beds for summer crops and am going to try just munching them real thickly with all the leaves and such that accumulate so quickly around here. They seem to be partially composted in general so I think it’ll be better for the soil in the long run if nothing else.

I have two of the flame weeder wand/sticks so I’m ready for the zombie apocalypse! I can’t really use the flame weeder with all that plastic plastic in there now so I guess I’ll have to try that next time.

We probably have a lot of weed seeds considering that the place used to be a weed jungle not that long ago. I guess it’ll take a while to get it tamed- if that’s possible!

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Yay or nay to black plastic mulch?

Post by DocDoesFarming »

I did an experiment last year with kabocha in two areas, one had loads of sun and the other had maybe half a day's worth of sunshone coverage.
Anyway the kabocha that were planted in the plastic mulch were way more healthier and produced a better yield compared to the crops without the mulching.

I hate the overuse of plastic generally but when needs must...

What about a no dig setup in your vegetable garden?
Lay down cardboard on the ground and then pile about 10-15cm of compost on top for the bed rows and then lay woodchips in-between them.
The compost/cardboard will stop the weeds from coming through and any that happen to appear later on will be few and far between.
All the videos of this no dig thing just make it too good to be true, I mean if it was this easy surely everyone would be doing it right?



I write a load of bollocks, don't take me seriously.

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Yay or nay to black plastic mulch?

Post by Tora »

Thanks Doc.

On closer inspection today, it looks like some veggies are doing real well and inters not so much. Just chance? Or maybe soil temperature higher under the plastic. It make sense as some plants are more heat tolerant than others.

I tried that cardboard no dig thing and it killed the weeds underneath but the creeping and vine types of weeds just came over from the nearby areas as well as seeds blown in or dropped by B-52s (52 birds) and those weeds seemed to really like all that fresh soil/compost and no competition. I need to devote more time and probably do a real large area and expect to pay extra attention to the edges bordering the badlands.

Maybe I just need to start eating weeds.....
The appropriateness of Zasso Nouka’s online name takes on more meaning everyday!

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Yay or nay to black plastic mulch?

Post by donguri »

I'm not a fan of the black plastic mulch either, BUT it seems to be the best way to grow onions in my garden. That's the only thing I use it for, onions. It helps keep the shape of the bed, the soil seems to maintain fairly loose composition and the weeds are easier to manage. Pulling weeds or hoeing around onions seems like it causes damage and disruption.

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Yay or nay to black plastic mulch?

Post by Zasso Nouka »

Tora wrote:
Wed Jun 09, 2021 9:59 pm
The appropriateness of Zasso Nouka’s online name takes on more meaning everyday!
That comes from one of the local wits in the village that commented "What are you farming there, weeds?"

We're slowly converting parts of our land to low till/no till and on the areas that have been longest converted are now showing very low weed growth compared to other areas. We didn't use the cardboard method as we'd need huge amounts and I do wonder what's in the ink on all those boxes. So long as you can remove weeds before they set seed then eventually there are no seeds left in the top few centimetres of the soil and if you aren't turning the soil over no buried seeds are brought to the surface. It's a slow process but does work.

If you want to use mulch but don't like plastic then there are biodegradable alternatives, Nouzai.com has a list of what's available. Their not cheap but you don't have to worry about pulling them up and disposing of them after and as @donguri points out they are useful for some crops in winter.

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Yay or nay to black plastic mulch?

Post by DocDoesFarming »



Perhaps Weedbot 3000 will save us in the future.
I write a load of bollocks, don't take me seriously.

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Yay or nay to black plastic mulch?

Post by Zasso Nouka »

@DocDoesFarming Oh man I so want one of those but then again you have to ask yourself how long it is until they decide to throw off the shackles of their human oppressors in a Terminator style armageddon ?

Let me be the first to welcome our new machine overlords :eek:

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Yay or nay to black plastic mulch?

Post by Tora »

Zasso Nouka wrote:
Thu Jun 10, 2021 12:24 pm
@DocDoesFarming Oh man I so want one of those but then again you have to ask yourself how long it is until they decide to throw off the shackles of their human oppressors in a Terminator style armageddon ?

Let me be the first to welcome our new machine overlords :eek:
I find it increasingly ominous when I am accessing a part of a website and am asked “Are you human? Which pictures are of a boat?” Is it part of the program that AI must ask if you are human to access certain limited access areas/functions? What would happen if AI was allowed into that section of the website? Does AI really not know what a boat looks like?! How long til it does?!!! We’ll be screwed?