New for 2009.
It is the first year that we will be using the so called one year plastic mulch.
The Biodegradable & Compostable BioTelo Mulch Film, made of Mater-Bi, a corn starch based raw material, is biodegradable and compostable. The master batch pigment mixture used for coloring is also made of Mater-Bi. It leaves no toxic residues in the ground and we save on removal, recycling and land fill costs.
Temperature, humidity, and microorganisms in the ground transform BioTelo into
water, carbon dioxide, and biomass. There is no toxic residue left.
This mulch has the same mechanical and physical characteristics as the plastic
mulch without the negative impact on the environment, and there are no removal,
recycling and land fill costs.
It is this biodegradable product that makes it possible for us to grow more products without
having to spend days on end hoeing or in other ways fight the weeds.
It also helps to grow without pesticides because the plants have optimum moisture (dripline underneath) and the plastic is a deterrent for quite a number of pests.
Furthermore there is of course the issue of runners. Strawberry plants make lots of them. One
mother plant can produce as many 100 daughter plants in one season. But with the plastic they
won't be able to find the soil to root in.
The first year we have solved this by putting them down ourselves: scratch a hole in the plastic
and put the runnertip down with a construction staple, but we have already decided that the
sheer numbers are too overwhelming. With 5000 plants per acre, you may have to put down
more than 60,000 plants.
So we double plant and remove the runners. Most of these end up in the greenhouse and back
in the field after five weeks. We will have to wait and see how much of the biodegradable plastic
layer is left after the first year. It is possible there will be enough cracks in the plastic that the
runners will find a place, otherwise we will go to one year strawberries and plant new ones every year.
We'll see how it develops and we'll keep you posted.
As mentioned earlier, it is quite a job to settle the runners and the main issue with had with our first year experiment is that bio-degradable is dependent on soil born bacteria, which means it breaks down first where it goes into the ground. Which is at the bottom of the shoulder of the hills (ridges). Which is exactly where we would like the plastic not break down too quickly, because now it starts to flap in the wind.
So this year we have started using photodegradable plastic mulch. It is supposed to start breaking down after about 90 days. Wherever the soil covers it, it will not break down as quickly.
So far it seems to work. We have seen it slowly disintegrate under the sweet corn, the green beans and other veggies.
The clear (opaque) works best for warming up the soil, while the blck is better for keeping the weeds down.
Except!! We had not counted on the "plant from hell". The yellow nutsedge goes straight through the plastic mulch.
And we appear to have a lot of them.
So maybe we should try wood chips as a mulch. We have already incorporated some 35 cubic yard into a lower, heavy clay section to improve soil quality.
The first field trials with wood chips and sawdust/bark look pretty promising. Earth worm activity below the mulch is very noticeable within a few eeks already. The soil stays moist and weed pressure is fairly light.
The saw dust breaks down fairly quickly.
No regrets! We will stay with the woodchip/sawdust/ bark mulch. Sawdust/bark is cheapest and delivered while the wood chips have te be picked up.
Added to the mulch is of course also all the grass clippings that are being blown under the shrubs. We keep the paths seeded with grass.
We will keep using the photo degradable clear plastic for the veggies that need a lot of bottom heat. (peppers, tomatoes and beans)