Mulching

Mulching is a practice often used by organic growers. Traditionally, it entails the spreading of large amounts of organic materials — straw, old hay, wood chips, etc. — over otherwise bare soil between and among crop plants. Organic mulches regulate soil moisture and temperature, suppress weeds, and provide organic matter to the soil. Mulching is most appropriate to small, intensive operations with high-value annual or fruit crops.

A few systems of no-till organic gardening have evolved from the concept of deep, permanent mulching. Among these are the well-known Ruth Stout method and Synergistic Agriculture — a raised bed system developed by Emilia Hazelip, who adapted concepts from Permaculture and the ideas of Masanobu Fukuoka.(30, 31, 32) Mark Cain and Michael Crane, co-owners of Dripping Springs Gardens — an intensive market gardening operation in Arkansas — have adapted Emilia's system to their farm with considerable success.(33)

Plastic mulch, as long as it is removed at end of growing or harvest season, is also permitted in certified organic production. Its use allows larger acreage to be brought more easily under herbicide-free management, though there are serious issues to be addressed (see discussion on High-Input Organic Agriculture).

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