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



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Enviro-Mich message from Barbara Jean Madsen <bjmadsen@umich.edu>
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Lowell,

	Perhaps you misunderstood or I was not clear enough.  I fully
agree that organic methods are vastly preferable (I use them in my own
garden).  I was merely disagreeing with your statement that the _purpose_
of mulch is plant nutrition as well as weed prevention.  You may see it
that way, and there are certainly organic methods available for achieving
both those goals; I was merely pointing out that many, even the majority,
of mulch users have in mind only weed prevention.

	Certainly any organic solution is better than shredded tires.

	--Barb Madsen


On Sat, 22 Feb 2003, Lowell Prag wrote:

> -------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Enviro-Mich message from Lowell Prag <lprag@mail.msen.com>
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------
>
> 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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