Mulch

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I've just put in a big garden, 60'x14', with tomatoes, peppers, herbs, musk melons, peas, cucumbers, and strawberries. It's weed free at the moment but that can't last. Any suggestions mulch? I'm thinking straw or peat moss. I'm told that bark mulch is a bad idea.
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General Schvantzkoph wrote:

Mulch does so much for a garden. It help retains water, prevents water from splashing up on the leaves, repels slugs and snails, dissuades weeds, promotes a better environment for beneficial insects...etc etc.
Straw would work great. Perhaps peat combined with the straw would be better than peat alone. In order to stop the slugs and snails, you need to ensure there are rough surfaces among the mulch (the rough surface tears up the soft bellies of the buggers). Bark mulch is okay as long as it's "mulch" and not bark chips or nuggets. The slugs would just make houses out of them.
I use cedar mulch on everything. Awesome stuff.
..
Zone 5a in Canada's Far East
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Cedar? Really? Cedar shavings killed anything I ever tried them with, including tomatoes. ;-( That's why I switched to pine.
--
Peace!
Om

"My mother never saw the irony in calling me a Son of a bitch"
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OmManiPadmeOmelet wrote:

That is a myth. Something else killed the tomatoes, not the cedar shavings.
http://agebb.missouri.edu/hort/meg/archives/v7n3/meg6.htm http://www.garden-yard.com/garden-mulch/Articles/3_Fallacies_About_Cedar_Mulch_Debunked.php
..
Zone 5a in Canada's Far East.
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[snip]
Really? What do you use for mulch that repels? Mine always seems to keep things moist & cozy for slugs -- though I'd agree that the positive aspects of mulch usually outweigh this serious problem.
    -f
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Frank Miles wrote:

It definitely repels slugs and snails. I caught them at night having a buffet on my flowers last year before I put a layer of mulch down...then the flowers flourished. I've yet to find one in the mulch.
I have my raised beds surrounded by mulch and usually put landscape fabric under it. I'll find the odd slug under there but the fabric is stabled to the raised bed, so they can't take the tunnel route.
..
Zone 5a in Canada's Far East.
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How do you know if my bark mulch is not chips? I know when I get the mulch, that my gardener delivered, in my shoes, it hurts.
The slugs seem to be getting through though. I haven't seen them but some of the leaves have those lines of munching. I have also seen a few catepilars on the leaves, so maybe that is what is eating the leaves and not the slugs or snails.
I used some insecticidal soap from Schultz but with all the rain we had I am sure I need to do it again.
Alan
On Wed, 14 Jun 2006 19:52:49 -0230, cloud dreamer

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Alan wrote:

The chips are solid pieces around three inches long and wide. The nuggets are smaller versions of the chips...roughly an inch or more in size. Mulch is the same stuff finely chopped up. You have to use gloves to spread it cause it feels like its full of splinters and sharp edges. The pieces can be as large as the nugget or ground up to feel almost like clumps of hair (if it gets into your shoes and hurts...it probably is mulch). The mulch won't stop caterpillars or ants but will dissuade the slugs and snails. As I noted, I put landscape fabric down first (the slugs don't like crawling along the fabric) and then put the mulch on top. Since I staple the fabric to the raised bed, they can't go underneath either.
The mulch needs to be a couple inches thick (not too thick...or the stuff underneath will begin to rot and the buggers can get through). The mulch also needs to be at least a foot wide...or wider if possible. The wider it is, the harder it will be for the slug to travel over it.
If you want to find out what is munching on your plants you can go out after dark with a flashlight. If it's slugs, you'll see them then. You would also see their slimy trails in the morning. You can also try putting out a tray of beer (something with a low edge). Put it near the affected plants. If the slugs are the culprits, they'll show up in the beer. (It's always possible that a slug or two get caught in the area as you're laying the mulch....). All this varies depending on how you're set up of course.
..
Zone 5a in Canada's slug-infested Far East.
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General Schvantzkoph wrote:

We use newspaper, three layers, covered with grass clippings and chopped up leaves. Straw should work fine but you should check the pH of your soil before adding peat moss, peat moss is pretty acidic. HTH
George
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Be cautious with straw or hay. It tends to be full of weed seeds.
I've had grass clippings take root if they had any joints/rhizome remnants.
--
Peace!
Om

"My mother never saw the irony in calling me a Son of a bitch"
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In previous years I've put newpaper down with cedar mulch on top. This year I'm trying to reduce the cost of my garden and have decided to just put grass clippings down. So far it's working ok. And it's free. Will try to save some seed this year too. The soild is finally where I like it to be so no more major amendments are necessary. I had the soil tested by the local coop extension and everything they tested for was great. I have yet to do it, but for my strawberry patch I am going to use the dried, overwintered cut seagrass (ornamental grass) from the property as a substitute for straw since it's very similar in appearance.
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Straw is full of seeds and could cost more than you might like to spend to get good coverage.
Peat moss blows away easily.
Getting all those bales of straw or peat to your location may be a problem unless you have access to a truck or pay for delivery.
Leaf mold is good mulching material and it/s often free for the hauling, but you still need a truck.
Grass clippings are free and conveniently located near your garden.
My garden is a bit smaller than yours (40' x 16'). I plant in 4' wide beds with ~2' wide strips of grass in between the beds. It/s easy to maintain and highly productive. Once the plants begin to mature, they produce their own 'weed controling, moisture conserving mulch' as the foliage from the high-density planting shades the ground. Weeds between the beds are controlled with the lawn mower.
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"TQ" <ToweringQs AT adelphia.net> wrote:

Nah. ;-) People throw out bags of leaves all over town all the time. Just cruise the ritzier parts of town where folks pay to have people rake leaves. The bags are on the curb and you can toss some in the trunk, back seat and passenger side.

Just make sure it's just clippings, and not strands of grass. Since I have bermuda, it's been a problem to try to use them. I had to quit. The damned things took root.

--
Peace!
Om

"My mother never saw the irony in calling me a Son of a bitch"
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OmManiPadmeOmelet said:

I can get at least three bags in the trunk, three in the back seat, and one on the passenger side, and I drive a compact sedan. The best bags are full but not really heavy. (So not only do I drive around picking up other people's bags of leaves, I'm *picky* about it.)
These get shredded each fall and compressed and bagged. Then I mix them with a small portion of cocoa shells before mulching everything. Yes, the cocoa shells are pricey. And as a solo mulch cocoa shells tend to mat up and mold. Leaves can sometimes mat when used alone, too. But mix some cocoa shells into the leaves--no matting. Plus, the cocoa shells will persist as the leaves dissapear.
(If I'm mulching where I've been having trouble with cats, I up the proportion of cocoa shells in the mulch--the cats don't seem to like it.)
--
Pat in Plymouth MI ('someplace.net' is comcast)

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snipped-for-privacy@someplace.net.net (Pat Kiewicz) wrote:

I use leaves mostly for winter mulching, and dump them as is. They rot down nicely by spring. I am experimenting right now with a large number of leaves doing "black bag" composting. They are about due. I wanted to give them one year. The heavy mil' construction grade bags are good for this.

I've never used cocoa shells but all the garden beds at work are filled with a heavy layer of pecan shells! A few trees are coming up but other than that, it seems to be working very, very well for weed control and it's attractive.
And it's lasting forEVer!

Makes sense. Cats would rather dig in sand instead of course organic matter. I live on a busy street. Loose cats don't live long. :-( So sad! I keep my own cats indoors.
--
Peace!
Om

"My mother never saw the irony in calling me a Son of a bitch"
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I guess that here, we are provided with large yard waste bins. Putting leaves and other yard waste in the trash is illegal. Nicely bagged up piles of leaves are unavailable. But I don't need them anyway. I get enough leaves from my trees that I don't need any.
For those of us who compost, the yard waste bin is helpful for large branches, and other woody materials that take a long time to break down. I also toss pizza boxes in there.
--
Warm Regards,

Claire Petersky
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my 2 cents worth, I agree with bark as being a bad idea, even for a flower garden. I have had trouble with it in every house where it has been. People have given you some good advice on mulches, I am going to throw in a few alternatives for you to consider. Spent mushroom compost I have found to be a good mulch and it is cheap (or sometimes free) as it is a waste product from mushroom farms. Untreated sawdust also makes for a thick weed barrier. It can be a problem absorbing rain when you want it on the garden. I have tried alternating layers of saw dust and used coffee grounds which are very good at suppressing weeds and grasses though I have not used them on vege gardens. Best of all both come free. If you have stables near by you can get free the stable scrapings of horse shit mixed with either straw or wood shavings. My rule of thumb is if it is free and a waste by product that it preferable to paying. I am using saw dust, coffee grounds and stable scraping round my garden at present. I have even seen people use kitchen waste, potato peels, orange peels, tea bags and the like as mulch.
rob
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You are looking at 4 to 8 cubic yards depending on how thick you lay it and if you do the paths. I don't now about where you are but enough peat moss for that garden would cost a bomb where I am. I agree that bark or wood chip is not suitable except for paths.
Look around your area for sources of material. Hay, straw, spent mushroom compost, rotted ground-up tree trimmings are just a few possibilities. Check out the price including delivery. Hay that is too spoiled for animal consumption may be quite cheap and can make fine mulch.
Look carefully at the material and where it came from. It is possible that it contains seeds and rubbish that you don't want, it is also possible that it is fine, there are no hard and fast rules. Consider straw, it depends on what crop the straw is derived from, how well it was taken off when harvested and what weeds (if any) were cut along with it.
David
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material and where it came from. It is possible that | it contains seeds and rubbish that you don't want, it is also possible that | it is fine, there are no hard and fast rules. Consider straw, it depends on | what crop the straw is derived from, how well it was taken off when | harvested and what weeds (if any) were cut along with it.
I always get wheat straw for mulching. It's a little more expensive but worth it in the long run. There's not as much 'junk' in it as regular straw.
For mulch I use discarded household leavings (fruit, veggies, egg shell, coffee grounds) along with pecan and oak leaves. A few layers of newspaper and some wheat straw on top.
Kimberly
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General Schvantzkoph wrote:

Grass clippings are a good, renewable source of mulch that disappears within the season. The cons, at least at my place, is that they seem to attract voles in a way no other mulch does. It is the best mulch to be added under existing plants, because it is light and fluffy and does not hurt them.
Leaf mold has the same qualities as clippings (renewable, disappears), and makes the best soil in my experience. That is where I like to plant my greens next year. Because some leaves tend to mat it is not so easy to add under existing plants, and also leaves at the top tend to blow and cover seedlings.
Wood chips last much longer (two years, and the biggest chunks much longer than that), and acidify the soil. On ground that has been covered with wood chips, you can only plant selected vegetables, which stand coarse, acid soil, for maybe three years. Greens and cabbages will struggle there. They ultimately make good humus though, simply because when you mulch with them you are adding a lot more mass. If you have thin soil, you could consider using it on a fraction of your garden.
Manure contains too many seeds, though I lay it before covering with one of the other mulches here. So does straw. Peat moss is for billionaires.
Cardboard, covered with a thin layer of mulch, is also pretty good and mostly disappears within the year. Or use newspapers if you have them. The only con is that you have to level the ground underneath very well. If not, water will initially run to the lowest point, and also there will be seedlings that are below the cardboard. I use cardboard with radicchio, which has big taproots and survives the winter here. In the spring I need to kill it. It will push through anything except cardboard.
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