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E-M:/ 'Organic', non-toxic sustainability



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Enviro-Mich message from Lowell Prag <lprag@mail.msen.com>
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On Sat, 22 Feb 2003, Barbara Jean Madsen wrote:

... see below ...

Hello Barbara,

The points you raise are well taken but ...

I tend to view all aspects whether it be home gardening, commercial
landscaping, farming, etc., from an 'organic gardening' perspective, as
that is the only way we can move Michigan towards an 'organic', non-toxic
sustainability in all those areas and eliminate the present damage we are
causing in all those areas, via petrol/chemical based fertilizers,
herbicides, pesticides, etc.

In regards to your observation that compost alone is not a good weed
suppressant through the effects of blocking sunlight, that is true to a
degree depending upon how much compost you have available, but if other
additional 'organic' weed suppression is desired, it is cheaply available
and is certainly better than shredded rubber from tires.

Some 'organic' examples are:

Corn gluten, a by-product of processing, is very cheap and if applied in
the early Spring prior to weed seed germination, it will not only prevent
weed seed germination but also, provide an excellent source of nitrogen
for later, subsequent desirable seed sowing for vegetables and annual
flowers.

In addition, corn gluten will not harm any previously developed seedlings,
perennial plants, shrubs, trees, etc. and thus, is an excellent way to
also 'organically' control weeds without the use of herbicides,
non-biodegradable opaque plastic weed barriers, etc.

Also, brown kraft paper in bulk rolls is a very cheap 'organic' weed
suppressor, as it will block sunlight and biodegrade after the growing
season. It can be laid between vegetable rows and then covered with
compost. The paper will then will allow moisture through while preventing
weed seed germination, and the compost on top, then feeds the vegetables.

I have used this method for years in my vegetable garden and have yet to
be bothered by weeds. This method is also very easy to use in large scale
row farming. In instances where something more durable is needed when run
over by a tractor, there is a very cheap biodegradable, opaque, breathable, 
water permeable, plastic sheeting in bulk rolls which can be used instead
of the kraft paper and then covered with compost.

I prefer this kraft paper method to corn gluten in my vegetable garden, as
I plant many vegetable seeds very early in the Spring around the time one
would apply the corn gluten and thus, in addition to suppressing weed seed
germination, I would also suppress the vegetable seed germination. I do
however, use corn gluten in my established asparagus patch, early Spring
emerging garlic which was planted in the Fall, fruit trees, etc.

In regards to the points you raise on commercial landscaping to suppress
weeds around trees, flower gardens, established lawns and shrubs, etc.,
corn gluten is the best 'organic' solution and it can also be used for
suppressing weed seed germination in the seed sowing of new grass if
applied about 6 weeks prior to the new grass seed application.

If one also then wishes to apply wood chips for further suppression or
esthetics in flower gardens, around trees, etc., the nitrogen in the corn
gluten will then prevent the bacteria which will then compost the wood
chips over time, from pulling the nitrogen they need, from the soil and
thus stunting the plant and tree growth.

In short, it is an easy matter to apply 'organic gardening' principles
throughout Michigan, not only in regards to weed suppression but all other
aspects of moving us towards non-toxic sustainability. It is simply a
matter of education and developing the will to take the long term view of
life on this planet.

Lowell Prag


> I have to disagree in part with Lowell's posting.  Most people use mulch,
> and consider its purpose, to be entirely that of preventing weeds and
> maintaining soil moisture.  This is especially true for landscaping
> applications (as opposed to vegetable gardens), and especially for large
> commercial landscapes and landscapers.  Most of the plants that are
> mulched under these conditions are chemically fertilized, anyway, so
> people are not concerned about the carbon/nitrogen balance of the mulch
> and soil.  Compost is an ideal growing medium, so although it is a
> fabulous soil amendment, it tends not to be all that effective as a
> weed-preventing mulch.  It also breaks down much more quickly than
> materials like wood chips.  Lowell is right, though, that something like
> wood chips blended with a nitrogen source like grass clippings solves both
> problems.
> 
> Lowell also makes an excellent point about the tendency of all mulching
> materials to "escape".  If tires are used for mulch, they will certainly
> end up all over the landscape.
> 
> 	--Barb Madsen
> 
> 
> On Fri, 21 Feb 2003, Lowell Prag wrote:
> 
> > -------------------------------------------------------------------------
> > Enviro-Mich message from Lowell Prag <lprag@mail.msen.com>
> > -------------------------------------------------------------------------
> >
> > What this discussion ignores is the purpose of mulch. The main thing
> > is to use something that will feed the plants and trees, in addition
> > to suppressing weeds and helping to maintain moisture in the soil.
> >
> > For that, compost is best, not shredded rubber from tires.
> >
> > A note in passing:
> >
> > wood chips and other such materials that are high in carbon, are also not
> > good for mulch unless certain precautions are taken, as the naturally
> > occurring bacteria which will then proceed to compost the mulch material,
> > need nitrogen to do so and since the material is high in carbon not
> > nitrogen, the bacteria end up taking the nitrogen from the soil which in
> > turn is not good, as the plants and trees need this nitrogen for growth.
> >
> > Hence, if one uses wood chips and other high carbon materials, a nitrogen
> > source should also be added to the mulch, like grass clippings, etc. as
> > otherwise, you will stunt your plants and trees during the time that it
> > takes for the mulch to compost.
> >
> > Last, in addition to the fact that shredded rubber does not feed the
> > plants and trees, over time, it will get spread throughout ones garden,
> > jammed in lawn mowers, washed down to side walks and then into sewers and
> > water treatment plants, etc.
> >
> > Conclusion:
> >
> > I cannot imagine why someone would use shredded rubber for mulch.
> >
> > Lowell Prag
> >
> >
> >
> >
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> 
> 




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