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What to use for mulch in South West desert

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What to use for mulch in South West desert

Post  janetgouvas on 4/24/2010, 12:36 pm

I know I need to mulch or I'm going to lose plants to the heat. I'm already planning to put up some shade fabric over some of my plants. I have tomatoes, onions, peppers, eggplant, green beans and summer squash. What is the best mulch to use? Won't it eventually mix in with the garden soil and does that matter?

What are you Phx. area gardeners using?

Janet
Surprise, Az.

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Re: What to use for mulch in South West desert

Post  Retired Member 1 on 4/24/2010, 2:18 pm

We seem to be a bit divided on the idea of using mulch. Here's a couple of threads you might want to peruse:

http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/general-sfg-talk-f5/what-do-you-use-for-mulch-in-your-sfg-t917.htm?highlight=mulch

http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/lower-south-f10/mulch-t892.htm?highlight=mulch

I used cypress mulch in my regular "dirt" SFG, but realised I didn't want to use that in the new SFG with Mel's mix, so I've decided to use a mix of shredded leaves and pineneedles which in time will break down and become compost for next year.

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Re: What to use for mulch in South West desert

Post  janetgouvas on 4/24/2010, 9:36 pm

Thanks, that was helpful. I think I'll look for some leaf mulch since I don't have any leaves of my own. If it works out I'll save leaves for mulch next year.
Janet
Surprise, Ariz.

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How about compost for mulch?

Post  duckycards on 4/26/2010, 1:39 am

I'm a SFG newbie. The new SFG book DOES recommend heavy mulching for some plants but it doesn't provide any guidance about WHAT to use. I don't see how I some of the items that are recommended for mulching can be used in SFG without severely altering the composition of the Mel's Mix. I've been Googling the issue and was surprised to see that compost is recommended by some to use as a mulch. Does anyone here have experience using compost in that way? I'd like to try using some of my coarser home-made compost for mulching my veggies. Any comments would be very much appreciated! Smile I'm located in the NM desert, about 50 miles South of Albuquerque on the East slope of the Rio Grande Valley.

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Dilemma resolved! :)

Post  duckycards on 4/26/2010, 4:58 pm

Well, folks, after further Google research, I think I've stumbled on the solution to my mulching dilemma. It really was a serious dilemma for a newbie gardener like myself. Mel definitely recommends rather heavy mulching for some crops in the new SFG system, but he does not elaborate or recommend specific types of mulch. Among the products I've seen recommended for garden mulching I was drawn to the idea of using compost (see my yesterday's post). However, I didn't like the idea of upsetting the balance of ingredients in my Mel's Mix, which seems to be rather critical. Further research revealed a couple additional products which are commonly recommended for garden mulching: Peat moss and vermiculite. Those ingredients are fully compatible with SFG soil but, again, I didn't want to add any of them alone for fear of messing up the delicate balance of my Mel's Mix. Then I discovered that several experts recommend mixing mulch products to get the combined benefits. Well, that seemed like a possible solution to my problem: Why not mix compost, peat moss and vermiculite, perhaps in equal proportions, and use that for mulch...HEY, WAIT A MINUTE.... THAT'S MEL'S MIX!!! Dilemma solved: My veggies are already surrounded by three of the commonly recommended mulch products so further mulching seems rather redundant, don't you think? LOL! Now my challenge is just to keep my veggies sufficiently watered and, when necessary, shaded. Smile

Ducky

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what do you use for mulch?

Post  janetgouvas on 4/27/2010, 12:03 pm

Well, LOL, that is sort of what I did end up doing. At least temporarily. Especially around the squash and tomatoes. I thought they needed more depth anyway. I think I'll continue to add more here and there whenever it looks like it might help each individual plant. In the meantime I'll still keep looking for that magic mulch!
Janet
Surprise, Az.

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ditto

Post  SirTravers on 4/28/2010, 8:15 am

I have to say ditto on this. I just kept my boxes right up beside my house and just used the mix without anything on top. It seems to stay put as long as i keep it moist. The things ya learn as ya go....

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Re: What to use for mulch in South West desert

Post  TheJH on 4/28/2010, 9:03 am

I mulch my toms and isles with shredded pine bark that i get for $30 a truck load. I like to mulch toms to keep soil off the lower leaves. Also half of my toms are in 10 gallon white grow bags and it helps keep the soil moist.

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Re: What to use for mulch in South West desert

Post  ASFx on 5/8/2010, 9:32 pm

Here in Las Vegas, i've found that the absolute best thing to use for mulch is silver reflective film (mylar mulch). Just use earth staples to pin it onto the soil, or simply place rocks or bricks in the corners to hold it down. You can get this in many different forms. If you can't find it at your local nursery, you can use emergency blankets (individually packed or in perforated rolls), like the ones located here: http://www.shop.meyerscustomsupply.com/category.sc?categoryId=4

There are multiple benefits to using a reflective mulch here in the desert.

-It does not absorb heat. Light is reflected away to keep the soil and root systems nice and cool.
-Much less watering is required due to significantly reduced evaporation.
-It reflects full spectrum light back up into the foliage of the plants, increasing overall yield.
-It confuses many pests including aphids. Gardens that make use of reflective mulch here are mostly pest free for the majority of the year.
-You can feel free to let the plants sprawl on top of the reflective mulch without fear of it getting diseased from too much contact with the soil.

Honestly, now that i've learned about using reflective mulch and saw how much it really helps me, i wouldn't consider using anything else.

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Re: What to use for mulch in South West desert

Post  uintahiker on 5/9/2010, 1:30 am

I would never have thought about using the mylar for mulching. I would have thought it would cook the plants to have it on them. I am getting me some and going to try it out. I can't wait to see how cool it looks to have shiny gardens. I might have to string some christmas lights up just to watch them reflect off the new mulch

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Re: What to use for mulch in South West desert

Post  ASFx on 5/9/2010, 1:46 am

I also thought it might cook the plants at first (tin foil does), but mylar is much different. Reflective mylar is the next step up from using the red mulch for tomatoes and peppers which is also popular. The red mulch reflects light in the red spectrum back up into the plants which helps during the flowering stage. Reflective mylar mulch reflects full spectrum light though, so it helps at all stages of growth.

I learned the trick from "The Tomato Lady" here in Las Vegas. She's well known here and has several books on gardening in Las Vegas. I've been to a few of her free seminars at the local nursery here, and she has quite a few nice tricks. She also uses Netafim subsurface irrigation with emitters every 12 inches. The tubing runs about 2 inches under the soil. This helps to get water right into the root zone, and also keeps the tubing out of the way for the mulch.

She plants indeterminate tomatoes every two feet, and just lets them sprawl right on top of the mulch instead of staking. By planting them close, they help keep each other cool in the hottest summer months since they're not so high up. Even when it's 120 degrees out, it stays about 75 degrees under the foliage near the soil line.

As for peppers, she will transplant them three at a time from their 4 inch pots into a single large hole in a triangle shape. This also helps to keep them nice and cool, and you can leave a foot between each set of 3.

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Re: What to use for mulch in South West desert

Post  Chopper on 5/9/2010, 2:00 am

What about watering with the mylar mulch on? Doesn't it prevent water from reaching the soil?

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Re: What to use for mulch in South West desert

Post  ASFx on 5/9/2010, 2:04 am

It's best if you're using drip irrigation. If you want to water by hand, you will just have to cut the holes around the plant a bit larger so you can water each hole. With drip irrigation, I don't cut a circle into the mylar film. I just cut an X where i want to put each plant, then just lift the flaps up, put the plant in the ground, then let the flaps lay back down onto the soil.

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What to use for mulch in the Southwest desert

Post  janetgouvas on 5/9/2010, 9:57 am

This is terrific info! I can't wait to try it.

Janet
Surprise, Az.

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Re: What to use for mulch in South West desert

Post  uintahiker on 5/9/2010, 10:48 pm

Have you tried the mylar with other plants as well or just the maters? Cuc's and zuc's and some pumpkins are what I am working with.

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Re: What to use for mulch in South West desert

Post  schristi69 on 6/18/2010, 1:49 pm

I used the shredded redwood as mulch in my containers. Also saw shredded coconut husks. Might have to try those.

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Re: What to use for mulch in South West desert

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