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Plastic Mulch, What Works?


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#1 Wade's Wines

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Posted 30 November 2008 - 12:41 PM

Who's used what plastic mulch, what thickness, strength, color, under grapes? Embossed, black, white, green, clear, red? Re-usable?
Please let me know. I'm supposed to order Tuesday morning to combine my order with an order being placed by about 100 Amish farmers... save a lot buying with their bulk order.
Thanks!
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#2 trpottery

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Posted 30 November 2008 - 03:21 PM

Wade,

I've read that grapes shouldn't be mulched.

Tim

#3 Wade's Wines

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Posted 30 November 2008 - 05:17 PM

Tim,
Lots of growers mulch their grapes, lots of different ways. Some use compost, some use rocks, some use landscape fabric, some probably use plastic too. I mulched mine the first year with straw, the second with rotted hay and corn fodder, which introduced a lot of weeds but added a lot of organic matter to the soil.
I'm not crazy about using plastics in general. But with 360 vines, all 3-years or older this next season, and working pretty much full time, I need to figure out how to beat the weed growth next growing season. A biodegradable plastic may be cheaper than Round-Up. I use Round-Up but I'm not crazy about it so I don't use it enough, and it's not cheap.
If heat is a problem using plastic, then I may reconsider but I'm seriously looking that way.
Wade
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#4 knotsorich

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Posted 30 November 2008 - 05:38 PM

When the Willsboro Cold Hardy Grape Trial was planted four plus years ago, a regular 2 mil black plastic mulch was used for the establishment year to cut down on weed competition. That first year deer punched through the plastic allowing some weeds to grow in the little holes. The centers hadn't been seeded yet so during preparation to do so the small stones were picked and covered those hoses. A deer fence was placed aroung the perimeter preventing any further damage. Being in good shape the following spring, the plastic was left down. The centers were mowed, but the edges needed trimming with a weedeater. That would cut the plastic so the grass was allowed to grow to about 12-14 inches and then sprayed carefully with Roundup killing the narrow strip. As the centers were mowed and blown towards the rows, it toppled the dead grass and provided a further mulch. The plastic was in good shape the third spring so left again and treated the same way. Then came the fourth spring and the plastic still worked effectively. We have reached the end of the fourth year and the plastic is starting to tear a bit. We will probably need to remove it this coming spring and resume some type of spray program.

Hope that helps you in some small way Wade.

#5 Wade's Wines

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Posted 30 November 2008 - 05:50 PM

Thanks, Knotsorich, it helps a lot!
My only remaining question is whether black would be too hot for our Tennessee soil. It also comes in green, red, white and clear.
Anyone from warmer climates with any experience with plastic mulch?
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#6 K-9

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Posted 30 November 2008 - 06:18 PM

Be careful with plastic. Make sure that you have ways for the water and rains to get down to the vines. Irrigation is important.


#7 Wade's Wines

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Posted 30 November 2008 - 06:24 PM

I have them all under drip line, so that shouldn't be a problem.
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#8 knotsorich

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Posted 30 November 2008 - 06:52 PM

K-9
plastic mulch is not a problem at all in allowing water and irrigation to penetrate. Any small holes allow the water in, even without drip irrigation. The holes where the vines are planted let the water in. Also the plastic is commonly 3 or 4 feet wide, covered on the edges. When it rains it runs off the plastic or in the holes. It then goes into the soil and travels back under the plastic. Also grape vines are a deep penetrating, spreading root system, so they easily reach the water. Wade is on the east coast where there is plenty of rain, as I believe you are also. The mulch even helps the soils retain moisture by preventing some evaporation from the soil surface.

As an aside, many areas now have plastic recycling systems set up. In our area, we have a baling machine that comes around once or twice a year to collect waste farm mulch to be recycled. It is a no cost system and helps prevent adding to the landfills. Please use these systems where they are available.

#9 Hollywood Hill Vineyards

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Posted 30 November 2008 - 07:00 PM

Skip the plastic mulch. I planted 1.5 acres of grapes at an old vineyard I had with a friend of mine. It was a disaster. It looked nice for a couple of years, but the weeds started to grow on top of the plastic where dirt accumulated on the dips and folds. Weeds also started coming up through the hole where the vine was planted. The worst was the fact that voles and moles started making runs right under the vines and destroyed many vines. On top of that it gets caught in the mower and rototillers. IMHO, a little Roundup goes a long way...

Steve Snyder
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#10 Wade's Wines

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Posted 30 November 2008 - 07:22 PM

Wow! Bad experience, hu? What kind of plastic were you using?
They have some biodegradable ones out there, one acts as a natural fertilizer as it breaks down (Bio-Telo Agri) but I'll bet it could still get caught in a mower.
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#11 Pat H.

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Posted 30 November 2008 - 07:47 PM

QUOTE (Wade's Wines @ Nov 30 2008, 02:13 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Who's used what plastic mulch, what thickness, strength, color, under grapes? Embossed, black, white, green, clear, red? Re-usable?
Please let me know. I'm supposed to order Tuesday morning to combine my order with an order being placed by about 100 Amish farmers... save a lot buying with their bulk order.
Thanks!
Plastic mulch shouldn't be used for grapes. It blocks O2 from the soil, blocks fertilizer, blocks rain, and is a royal pain in the arse to deal with. AND, worse, it self destructs.


#12 knotsorich

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Posted 30 November 2008 - 07:58 PM

QUOTE (Pat H. @ Nov 30 2008, 09:19 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Plastic mulch shouldn't be used for grapes. It blocks O2 from the soil, blocks fertilizer, blocks rain, and is a royal pain in the arse to deal with. AND, worse, it self destructs.



Everybody has their own opinion and I respect that, but I must say that the mulch made my life a lot easier taking care of this vineyard. Everyone visiting the vineyard had nothing but praise for the upkeep of the vineyard- including leading personnel from Cornell. Sure there are pitfalls to it like anthing else. It does not block 02 from the soils, it simply gets in from holes and around the edges. As far as blocking fertilizer- apply it at the edges or through the irrigation. No problems here or with millions of acres in commercial production letting water in. Yes it self destructs- we have gotten four years so far and probably 5 or more years from one application. In my own vineyards I would apply this to get the vineyard established for a couple years and then move over to regular spray routines of Roundup and yearly herbicide applications.

#13 oldjenx

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Posted 01 December 2008 - 08:24 AM

I have seen the Mennonites use a lot of plastic in their produce fields. I think the crop rows are raised and the plastic laid before the plant is put in the ground. I assume they just jab a hole in the sheet and insert a nursery plant. I wonder how they pull the dirt up around the plant's roots?

In the case of bare root plants, there is too much soil work to allow laying the plastic before planting. Do you plant first and then just "feel" for the plant and push the plastic down around it so that it breaks through the sheet?

In the case of grown plants such as Wade's, do you cut the plastic from one side and slide it around the trunk? If so, that creates loose edges near the plant. If you hold those edges down with soil you have partially defeated the weed control feature.

#14 Pat H.

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Posted 01 December 2008 - 10:10 AM

QUOTE (oldjenx @ Dec 1 2008, 09:56 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I have seen the Mennonites use a lot of plastic in their produce fields. I think the crop rows are raised and the plastic laid before the plant is put in the ground. I assume they just jab a hole in the sheet and insert a nursery plant. I wonder how they pull the dirt up around the plant's roots?

In the case of bare root plants, there is too much soil work to allow laying the plastic before planting. Do you plant first and then just "feel" for the plant and push the plastic down around it so that it breaks through the sheet?

In the case of grown plants such as Wade's, do you cut the plastic from one side and slide it around the trunk? If so, that creates loose edges near the plant. If you hold those edges down with soil you have partially defeated the weed control feature.
Annual row crops or row crops such as strawberries are a different matter. I lived in Northern California for 13 years, there may have been some use of plastic mulch there, but I never saw any of it. Perhaps it's a northeastern thing.



#15 knotsorich

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Posted 01 December 2008 - 11:04 AM

I'm not saying anyone should use plastic mulch. Wade asked what people do for using it. This is one instance of it being used. Here is a picture of it this spring before any growth.
Quoting Wade"Who's used what plastic mulch, what thickness, strength, color, under grapes? Embossed, black, white, green, clear, red? Re-usable?
Please let me know. I'm supposed to order Tuesday morning to combine my order with an order being placed by about 100 Amish farmers... save a lot buying with their bulk order.
Thanks! "


Then there is another picture of the rows later in the season. Sorry the two pictures are reversed. Still a few issues posting pictures due to the harware issues and upgrades to the forum here.

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