Author Topic: ground cover (garden)  (Read 2231 times)

scrubbyfish

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ground cover (garden)
« on: October 18, 2015, 05:55:43 PM »
Massive garden, flowers and organic veggies, limited labour hours available. Very healthy plants and produce. For weed suppression, we currently use (dye-free) cardboard + bark chips, or thick leaves, but need something involving fewer wheelbarrow loads.

If we can guarantee a rototiller fall and spring, we'll plant an enhancement crop. Just in case we can't, though, we're looking at covering it, then slicing open just the corner we're actively planting next year.

Can you tell me about static covers? Black plastic, landscape fabric... I love the sound of biodegradable, paper cover: http://www.easygardener.com/index.cfm/category/200/weedblock-biodegradable-paper.cfm

What's our cheapest, lowest-labour option for weed suppression that also looks somewhat tidy? All things being somewhat equal, kindness to earth will give major points to any given option.

MsPeacock

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Re: ground cover (garden)
« Reply #1 on: October 18, 2015, 07:03:34 PM »
Newspaper with soy ink, Covered with straw worked well for me. I don't like to use plastic because it sort of falls apart due to the sun and in either case you are left with a huge sheet of plastic. You could use an inexpensive tarp and cover with with straw for a temporary cover.  I find straw to be lightweight, inexpensive, and easy to transport with the a wheelbarrow (grab bundle, set it where you want it).

Thinkum

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Re: ground cover (garden)
« Reply #2 on: October 18, 2015, 07:30:24 PM »
I have used landscape fabric with mixed results. I have cleared areas for planting as well as walkways/borders. I still get some weeds that poke through the fabric and stones I used on top of said fabric. I would think that which ever you use, just make sure you put a few inches of cover on top. Whether that is bark, stones, or what have you. That cardboard idea sounds like it might work out.

scrubbyfish

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Re: ground cover (garden)
« Reply #3 on: October 18, 2015, 07:43:32 PM »
Great to hear about the experience with straw (lightweight, inexpensive). We're very keen on straw, but this year's supply in the region is sold out!

The cardboard + bark chips works somewhat well, but we don't mulch thickly enough for it to be super effective -lots of light/movement/spaces. We don't mulch higher only because of the limited barrowing/carrying labour available. (Our paths were very poorly planned, so these activities get tiresome quickly.)

I've been hearing different experiences of static covers (fabric, thick paper, etc), from "totally ineffective" to "totally effective", even in reviews for the exact same product, with about 50/50 replies. I wonder what makes the difference.

I'll ask what ink our local papers are using!

Thanks, Thinkum and MsPeacock!

mohawkbrah

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Re: ground cover (garden)
« Reply #4 on: October 19, 2015, 05:13:36 AM »
use a green manure cover crop. such as vetch & perennial rye or red clover. make sure you kill it by cutting at the base just before it sets seed so it doesn't grow back. Once you've killed it let it sit on the soil where it was growing so it decomposes and releases nitrogen into the soil.

Tilling damages soil structure so i would suggest not to till it under the soil

scrubbyfish

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Re: ground cover (garden)
« Reply #5 on: October 19, 2015, 06:21:17 AM »
Yeah, I'm cautious about rototilling (turning in general), but the garden is a collective project, so it's up to the group and it might go that way. We started with a big rocky mess, and have had phenomenal gains through (limited) methods borrowed from permaculture. If we can find solutions that circumvent tilling, I think the group will be all for it!

I've done fall rye in my own garden before, with great results, but turned it over (manually) before it reached seed. This group can't do that.

What do you mean, though, about killing it by cutting it at the base? Do you mean that vetch, fall rye, red clover, etc, will regrow only via self-seeding (i.e., unlike common field grass also using rhizomes)? If so, being able to let it die on top of the soil might be perfect. I hadn't known that was an option (not to mention preferable).

MayDay

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Re: ground cover (garden)
« Reply #6 on: October 19, 2015, 06:38:34 AM »
I do both cardboard/leaves/mulch/straw (depending on the time of year, mulch is sometimes available, straw is sometimes available, leaves are sometimes available).  I like leaves best.  I drive around this time of year on trash day and pick up the leaves that other people have raked, bagged, and put out for trash day) and landscape fabric.

Here is the deal with the fabric, in my experience. 
1.  It lasts at least 4+ years if it isn't covered.  If you put mulch/straw/etc on top of it, it degrades much more quickly. 
2.  Weeds will poke up through it if it isn't tight on the ground.  A few will still poke up through.  I use a combo of small rocks (about the size of a brick- in fact old bricks are perfect) and landscape fabric pins to hold it down tight.  I keep a small mountain of rocks in a corner of the garden, and whenever a week is poking up at the fabric, I put another rock there. 
3.  Method:  I put the fabric down in the spring when I weed, fertilize/compost, and plant seedlings (fyi this method really works best with seedlings, not stuff planted from seed).  I hold it down with plenty of pins and rocks.  I leave it up all summer, and all winter.  In the spring I take it up, prep beds again, and put fabric back down. 
4.  I have about half my garden with fabric, and I rotate what gets fabric, so one year it has fabric, the next it doesn't.