Note to readers, attached is the complete final report for FNE95-086.
Judith Hall grows flowers organically. For weed control within the rows of flowers she uses black plastic sheeting. She has been depending on cultivation to control weeds between the rows, but this is expensive, time-consuming, and sometimes simply not possible, due to seasonal labor shortages. Her SARE project involved a comparison of various mulches, living and otherwise, as alternatives to cultivation.
Dr. Hall sowed perennial ryegrass, chewing fescue, and tall fescue in some of her inter-rows. She placed a layer of old canvas in another inter-row, and a layer of kraft paper covered with sawdust in another. Finally, one inter-row was cultivated, to serve as a control.
Results: Dr. Hall reports that of the living mulches, perennial ryegrass filled in the best. She reports that the old canvas was the easiest mulch to apply, and at the end of the summer was easily rolled up for storage until the following season. Old canvas had the further advantage that its width could be readily modified to accommodate small variations in the width of the inter-row, in order to obtain maximum coverage. The kraft paper was difficult to apply, but being biodegradable, no handling was necessary at season’s end.
Dr. Hall does not express a preference for any one of these mulches, but says that all effectively controlled weeds, and substantially reduced labor requirements. 1997 was a notably dry year, and 1998, notably wet, but the grasses thrived under both meteorological extremes. All treatments were trafficable, and all provided a better working surface than the bare earth left by cultivation.