Thursday, July 15, 2010


Its summer and I'm breathless. Partly because the heat has been oppressive. But mostly because this is such a busy time of year.
The garden is producing nicely, lots of tomatoes and peppers (I see a salsa canning session in my near future),cantaloupes ripening on the vine, cucumbers are coming along and the zucchini are taking over
I promised y'all a report on the great sheet mulch experiment and...TA it is.

 Initially I cut the grass very short. Then covered the area completely with thick layers of cardboard. I piled layers of straw, compost and a little garden soil on top before covering the whole thing in a thick layer of straw.

Results were mixed. I planted Red Norland potatoes where the green beans are now (far right). The potatoes were surface planted in a straw/compost mix on top of cardboard. Yield was very low as blight moved in and I had to harvest before the taters all turned to goo. I'm not sure whether this was from this planting technique or because Red Norland is mildly susceptible to blight. Anyway, the sheet mulch had little effect on the bermuda grass. After the potatoes I planted pole beans in this bed. They are doing well but the grass is impossible to control.

The next area to the left is where I planted Petit Gris de Rennes cantaloupe. I did the same sheet mulch technique, then piled on some composted manure and black plastic mulch. I made long raised rows with swales between the rows before placing the plastic. Poked lots of holes in the plastic with a small kitchen knife. Very cathartic. I let this bed sit for two weeks to settle and for the soil to warm up, then cut small holes in the plastic and planted two seeds every 3 feet with rows 2 feet apart. I know this is closer than the seed companies suggest but I wanted the black plastic to be completely covered so my plants don't cook in the Swampeast Missouri sun. The results in this bed are howling success. The plants are so happy I think they're trying to take over the neighbor's yard, too. My teenager calls the cantaloupe plants "Godzilla". Oh, and I spaced out a few old bricks in the swales so I would have a place to step without crushing the vines.

To the far left, hard to see in this photo is where I planted oats, then mustard, corn and zucchini. This bed did not do well. The mulch didn't keep the grass out but was difficult to keep moist enough for the oats. Won't do that again.
Final results. Sheet mulch is very effective for areas where plastic mulch will also be used. I would use this technique for potatoes, melons, sweet potatoes and perhaps squash.

Its been a very busy Spring and Summer and I have so much more to tell you about. But not today.

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