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Any non-synthetic material, such as wood chips, leaves, or straw, or any allowed synthetic material such as newspaper or plastic that is applied to the surface of the soil and serves to suppress weed growth, moderate soil temperature, conserve soil moisture, and improve over all health of the soil.

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Straw Mulching

Straw Mulching

Douglas Gayeton for Lexicon of Sustainability

Straw Mulching

Location: Greenbranch Farms, Salisbury, MD

Featuring: Ted Wycall, Tim, Virginia, Julia, Jon and Joe

“When health is the goal, and the proper actions are taken, the need for chemical crutches like herbicides are eliminated.” – Ted Wycall

Using straw as mulch vs. synthetic pesticides keeps sunlight from hitting the soil which prevents weeds from growing, prevents moisture loss through evaporation, and keeps the plant roots cool (It also looks great).

Instead of using chemical inputs to control his weeds (which rob the soil of vital nutrients) Ted uses straw from local grain farmers after they have harvested spring wheat. Straw mulching eliminates the need for pesticides because 1) the soil is amended and balanced (soil microbes digest the carbon and convert it to nitrogen) giving the plant boosted immunity to insect pests; 2) there is no bare ground for weeds to have opportunity to grow; and 3) the mulch ground cover conserves water and stabilizes the soil temperature to reduce stress to the plant. Greenbranch usually straw mulches the crops that have a long growing season or are very high value, like tomatoes, peppers, and garlic.



Douglas Gayeton


Instead of synthetic herbicides, organic farmers rely on a variety of tools to supress weeds, including mulch.

Location: Red Wagon Organic Farm, Boulder, CO
Featured: Wyatt Barnes
Plants grow by using photosynthesis to convert sunlight into energy. This process requires specific light wavelenghts, which differ from crop to crop. By reflecting light from the appropriately colored plastic mulch onto plant leaves, plant development can be greatly accelerated. Examples include red plastic mulch for tomatoes and metallized silver for peppers and potatoes.

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