“The black plastic will warm the soil somewhat, it holds the moisture in. The plants, or fruit and/or vegetables, will all stay cleaner because there’s no dirt or mud splashing back up on them. Probably helps with disease some, and the big thing, especially with this organic stuff, is it helps manage weeds.” David Lay.
Since you’re growing for wholesale markets, it’s strongly recommended that you lay down black plastic before planting in your beds. One of the biggest benefits of laying down black plastic is helping to manage your weeds and thus your pests and diseases. It will also help save you some time when it comes to washing your product. Some early benefits of laying down black plastic are warming your soil and retaining moisture.
In our previous blog and video for Plow Disc Till, Roger mentioned that it’s important to till up enough of your soil to kick up over the edges of your black plastic to keep it down. There are several ways to lay down black plastic. In our corresponding video, we see one of the easiest ways to do that and that’s with a Rain-Flo Plastic Layer.
The Rain-Flow Plastic Layer not only creates your bed and lays down plastic but also lays down a drip line. To see this process in action, I joined David Lay in Hawkins County Tennessee. David starts by shoveling dirt over the end of the plastic, the start of his bed and then ties off the drip line to the shovel that he stuck in the ground. He then adds Nature Safe 8-5-5, an organic fertilizer that is approved for the organic growers group.
When laying down your plastic and creating your beds, it’s recommended that you leave about three to four feet in between each bed. This should be enough space for you to grow cover crops or drive a tractor through to mow. If left bare and tilled, this space can quickly turn into mud and cause a headache when it comes to time to harvesting and packaging.
One the plastic has been laid down and your bed created, you will need to finish setting up your drip line. Each row will need to be tied off at the end and connected to the trunk line.
Since black plastic does cause a lot of un-necessary waste, try using biodegradable paper mulch. You will first need approval from your certification agency. Not all biodegradable mulches can be used for organic production. Paper mulch can’t be laid down the same way as black plastic and only lasts for one season but can be easily tilled into your soil.
At the end of the growing season, you will need to remove your black plastic. The easiest way to do this is using a plastic puller. Since these can be a little pricey, you may just want to bush hog your plants and then pull up the plastic by hand.
After either method, you will then need to till your beds back into the ground and plant your cover crops.
Derrick Von Kundra