The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Cardboard and comfrey mulches

Cardboard mulchLast week, I detailed the results of my first summer mulch experiment, noting that cardboard is a potential winner.  Meanwhile, Mom found a stash of huge boxes being thrown away and snagged them for my continuing mulch experiments.  I'm trying the cardboard out on some cucurbits and okra, as well as on two troublesome, weedy beds that need a kill mulch.  Sister cucurbit and okra beds are being left bare for comparison.

Cardboard mulchDespite the fact that I soak the cardboard well before using it as a mulch, I'm a bit concerned that it might be too slick for easy rain penetration.  I'll keep a close eye on the cardboard-mulched plants and perhaps add some organic matter on top of the cardboard or punch small holes in it to increase water penetration.  As Mark pointed out, if I can work the kinks out of cardboard mulch, there's a neverending supply in nearby towns and it's much easier to transport than other mulches.

Cutting comfrey for mulchIn other mulch news, last year's newly transplanted comfrey patches are now big enough that I'm cutting them biweekly, adding the low C:N mulch to select garden beds.  So far, comfrey seems to be equivalent to grass clippings as a mulch --- providing fertilizing power, breaking down quickly, but letting some weeds through.  I have to mention that the bumblebees continued to feed from the cut flowers for over 24 hours after they were detached.  Another reason to plant comfrey in your if you don't have enough reason already!

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This post is part of our Farm Experiments lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I have the same concern about water penetration with sheets of cardboard and/or newspaper.

Perhaps soaker hoses underneath the cardboard might help?

Another idea is to tear the cardboard up before laying it around plants. Water would be able to penetrate through the overlapping tears, but it should still suffocate weedlings. Dunno.

Comment by Darren (Green Change) Wed May 26 22:14:46 2010
I was actually just out test-watering those beds after writing this post. The cardboard did seem to be repelling water, so I jabbed it with a pitchfork all over. The little holes let at least some water through, so the soil under the cardboard is now damp. What I'm not sure is whether it let as much water through as would have gone into bare soil. I'll keep you posted!
Comment by anna Thu May 27 07:21:42 2010

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