Mulching materials

I have a small urban organic vegetable garden within the city limits of Boston, and I'm trying to mulch the heck out of it this year to save on weeding and water. (I have soaker hoses I plan to place under the mulch.)
I have questions about what materials will be best for mulch. I'm concerned about: 1) whether the material is good or bad for the plant 2) whether the material is good or bad for the part of the plant I'll be eating i.e. toxic? 3) whether the material is a good mulch material (as I think it is) or if I'm deluded about its utility as a much material.
Here's what I have ideas of using:
- newspapers - straw (trying to get some bales delivered: anyone know a good source near Boston?) - cedar shavings (are they acidic or alkali and would that help/hinder tomatoes, beans, summer squash, cucumbers)
Does anyone have any other good ideas? I don't have a lawn, so don't have lawn clippings, although I might be able to get some from my neighbor. I want them for the compost heap anyway.
I'll be grateful for any suggestions or information folks can offer.
Thanks!
Priscilla urban organic gardener in zone 6
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suppress weeds. I usually put my soil amendments down first.

more nitrogen. If you use alfalfa, it is best to water it occasional for a couple of weeks before you plant. I use a sharpened shovel handle (dibble) to make planting holes in order to avoid turning the soil.

deposited in the heartwood. In broad-leaved trees the toxic compounds are usually tannins, well know for their ability to cross-link proteins, making animal skins resistant to decay. In contrast, conifers contain a range of phenolic compounds such as terpenes, stilbenes, flavonoids and tropolones. The most toxic of the tropolones are the thujaplicins which act as uncouplers of oxidative phosphorylation; they are particularly abundant in cedarwood, making this a naturally decay-resistant wood for high-quality garden furnishings, etc." <http://www.biology.ed.ac.uk/research/groups/jdeacon/FungalBiology/woodro ts.htm> If you plan on feeding it to your soil, I'd find something else.

mulch.
(Storey's Down-to-Earth Guides) by Stu Campbell
<(Amazon.com product link shortened)94901182&sr=1-1>
p.39
Compostable Material Average C/N
Alder or ash leaves ............................ 25
Grass clippings ................................ 25
Leguminous plants (peas, beans,soybeans) ............................. 15
Manure with bedding ........................... 23
Manure ....................................... 15
Oak leaves .................................... 50
Pine needles .............................. 60-100
Sawdust................................. 150-500
Straw, cornstalks and cobs .................. 50-100
Vegetable trimmings ........................... 25 Aged Chicken Manure  ........................  7 Alfalfa ................................................ 12 Newspaper........................................ 175 -------
http://www.composting101.com/c-n-ratio.html
A Balancing Act (Carbon-to-Nitrogen Ratios)
All organic matter is made up of substantial amounts of carbon (C) combined with lesser amounts of nitrogen (N). The balance of these two elements in an organism is called the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio (C:N ratio). For best performance, the compost pile, or more to the point the composting microorganisms, require the correct proportion of carbon for energy and nitrogen for protein production. Scientists (yes, there are compost scientists) have determined that the fastest way to produce fertile, sweet-smelling compost is to maintain a C:N ratio somewhere around 25 to 30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen, or 25-30:1. If the C:N ratio is too high (excess carbon), decomposition slows down. If the C:N ratio is too low (excess nitrogen) you will end up with a stinky pile.
Below are the average C:N ratios for some common organic materials found in the compost bin. For our purposes, the materials containing high amounts of carbon are considered "browns," and materials containing high amounts of nitrogen are considered "greens."
Estimated Carbon-to-Nitrogen Ratios Browns = High Carbon C:N Ashes, wood 25:1 Cardboard, shredded 350:1 Corn stalks 75:1 Fruit waste 35:1 Leaves 60:1 Newspaper, shredded 175:1 Peanut shells 35:1 Pine needles 80:1 Sawdust 325:1 Straw 75:1 Wood chips 400:1 Greens = High Nitrogen C:N Alfalfa 12:1 Clover 23:1 Coffee grounds 20:1 Food waste 20:1 Garden waste 30:1 Grass clippings 20:1 Hay 25:1 Manures 15:1 Seaweed 19:1 Vegetable scraps 25:1 Weeds 30:1
Note: Many ingredients used for composting do not have the ideal ratio of 25-30:1. As a result, most must be mixed to create "the perfect compost recipe." High C:N ratios may be lowered by adding grass clippings or manures. Low C:N ratios may be raised by adding paper, dry leaves or wood chips.
Many home gardeners prefer to put up with a slight odor and keep some excess nitrogen in the pile, just to make sure there is always enough around to keep the pile "cooking!" Learn more about building a hot compost pile here.
----------- http://www.homecompostingmadeeasy.com/carbonnitrogenratio.html GREEN (Nitrogen) BROWN (Carbon) Aged Chicken Manure    7:1
Fresh manures are way to hot and can burn your plants and roots! Leaves   60-80:1 One of the most important ingredients for composting, especially shredded or broken down (leaf mulch). Food Scraps   17:1
Vegetable Scraps   25:1 Straw, Hay   90:1
The best way to use is to shred for faster breakdown. Coffee Grounds   25:1 Sawdust   500:1
Commercially produced compost is high in sawdust or shredded bark chips. Use very sparingly! Grass Clippings - Fresh   17:1
Dry clippings would be higher in Carbon. Therefore, use as carbon source if necessary. Woody chips & twigs   700:1
Be sparing. Best use is small material at bottom of bin or pile. Fresh Weeds   20:1
Make sure you don't compost weeds with seeds, unless you insure that your pile gets hot - over 140°F/60°C. Shredded Newspaper   175:1
Has no nutrient content. Best used in vermicomposting. Always shred and soak in water for fast breakdown. Fruit Wastes   25-40:1 Nut shells   35:1 Rotted Manure   20:1
Horse manure should not be used because it contains undigested seeds that can sprout in the bin. Pine Needles   80:1
Use sparingly. Very acidic and waxy; breaks down slowly. Humus (soil)   10:1
This is nature's natural ratio. Use sparingly in pile. Best used to "seal" the pile by putting a 1-2 inch layer on top. Corn Stalks   60:1
Shred or cut up in small pieces for fast break down. Seaweed   19:1 Peat Moss   58:1
Has no nutrient value. In the bin it is mostly filler. General Garden Waste   30:1
Clippings from plants, stalks, dead flowers, etc. Excellent mix with leaves NOTE The C:N Ratios given in this chart are average and may slightly vary according to source, researcher or scientist!
"Kind hearts are the gardens, Kind thoughts are the roots, Kind words are the flowers, Kind deeds are the fruits, Take care of your garden, And keep out the weeds, Fill it with sunshine, kind words and kind deeds." - Longfellow 1807­1882
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Good idea. I may not get the straw until after I'm planted, though.

I have no idea what this means.

OK. In other words, it would hurt my plants or make the veggies toxic?

Uh, no. I want moisture preservation and week suffocation from my mulch.

The information below seems to be about composting. I have a copy of _Let It Rot_. I have a compost heap, but what I'm asking about is mulch. There are things I might use for mulch that I'd never put in my compost heap: like landscape fabric, for instance.
Thanks.
Priscilla

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There are 2 other wrinkles to the approach I use. I've had problems from a rascally raccoon, so I now put chicken wire (held down with lawn staples) over the mulch/newsprint combo. To warm my soil for tomatoes and peppers I put clear plastic over the mulch/newsprint combo, and plant through holes I cut, "X", next to drip emitters.

"wood often contains potentially FUNGI-TOXIC compounds, which are

It means that cedarwood will take longer to turn into plant food, and to the extent that it is water soluble, may suppress soil fungi.
--
Teaming with Microbes: A Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web
Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis
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It's fine by me if the cedar takes a while to decompose. The soil the plants will be in is very good, and I'd appreciate having mulch that lasts the season without needing to be replenished. I know that cedar boards eventually decompose because my old raised bed which were made of cedar are falling apart after 12 years. The cedar shavings, BTW, are actually unused "Cedarific" cat litter which my cats don't like. I have a huge bag and am trying to find a use for it.

OK. I'm more accustomed to fungi being something one has to treat when it infects plants (or animals/people), so I would have regarded fungicidal tendencies as a good thing. I am now better educated on the topic. Thanks.

Yeah. Weed suffocation. Typo.

I think I mentioned in my original post that the mulch was going on top of the soaker hoses.
I haven't got any 6 weeks at this point. I want to put in beans, squash, etc. next week, and my tomatoes are arriving at the end of May. And there's lots of other work needing to be done.

Yes, I know. I compost, but weeds are so vicious in my yard and time/energy in short supply, so I'm hoping for mulch that will do its job and stick around for a while.

You've been very helpful. Thanks!
Priscilla
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want to add to the bed, I caan just pull it back, make my adjustments, and then replace it. It should be no problem with a soaker hose.

that goes into gardening.

the weeds, and the sunlight. I get away with 3" of mulch in my beds, and will have no weeds where the paper is put down and covered with mulch.

I hope you have a good season.
"All gardeners know better than other gardeners." - Chinese
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On Mon, 25 Apr 2011 15:37:00 -0400, Peppermint Patootie wrote:

I've been using Mad Mics Mulch, it's based on horse bedding and manure. I had an incredible tomato crop last year. I got mine from Dr Mulch in Westford, the closest distributor to you is probably Cambridge Bark and Loam in Cambridge.
http://www.madmics.com /
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Thanks! I'll look into it.
Priscilla
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On Apr 25, 3:37 pm, Peppermint Patootie

I got a bag of cat litter, compressed pine pellets I cant figure what to do with it. My one cat can't figure it out!!
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My cats hated the pine litter also, I used it on my walk this winter which was a mistake because it's still on the walks, the rain hasn't washed it away. It's not as bad as the clumping litter, I dumped some of that down a groundhog hole near my garden a few years ago on the theory that dirty cat litter would drive the groundhogs away. The clumping litter turns into a slurry and it never goes away, it's still there years later.
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