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

Soil moisture under cardboard mulch

Cardboard mulchI'm sure you've all been perched on the edge of your seats for the last couple of weeks wondering: Will cardboard mulch retard water penetration and harm our plants?  A couple of days after I posted about our cardboard mulch, Mark had the great idea of poking a bunch of holes in the cardboard with a pitchfork.  Even so, I was a bit concerned that the perforated cardboard would keep the soil too dry.

Chart of soil moisture under cardboard mulchRather than waiting to see if our vegetables started struggling, we bought a $10 moisture meter from Lowes and took some measurements.  As you can see, the perforated cardboard actually kept the soil wetter than either whole cardboard or bare soil, especially in the top inch of the soil.  Whole cardboard, on the other hand, was a loser --- I headed out with the pitchfork to perforate the overlooked bed right after taking these measurements.

Some days, I wish I had about ten acres of research farm and three or four interns to turn my little play experiments into real experiments.  I'm well aware that three data points for each treatment isn't enough information to draw any scientific conclusions.  But the numbers were remarkably uniform, suggesting that perforated cardboard mulch is definitely a plus when it comes to water retention.

Mark's homemade chicken waterer is another Walden Effect farm innovation.

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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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