Mulch-laying 5

tomatoes and peppers under biotelo

Many vegetable producers rely on black plastic mulch or a biodegradable non-gmo corn-based alternative, like BioTelo, for weed suppression, warming soils, and getting an earlier start for some crops, ultimately resulting in earlier harvests. Using BioTelo eliminates the end-of-season removal and disposal hassles that come with the plastic since it biodegrades within the season.
We use BioTelo for tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, summer squash, cucumbers, and some winter squash. But unlike other growers, at this point we do not own the means of laying the mulch very efficiently. Tractor-pulled mulch-layers do this work quickly and well, with the added benefit of simultaneously unrolling drip irrigation underneath the mulch.

Our method is… quite labour-intensive, and lacking in the irrigation department, but is still effective and not too time-consuming. Below are a couple of photos documenting how this work is done.

Here we’re covering the end with dirt so it stays in place:


One person uses the ‘rope on a stick’ to pull & unroll the mulch, while two people bury the edges:


The One-man Mulch Layer

Bryan sometimes does this work solo (and I wish we had some photo evidence!). He wraps the rope around his waist and walks backward straddling a bed to pull and unroll the mulch. At the same time, he hills dirt over each edge using a hand-hoe. Feeling inspired, Xander wrote a little rhyme to commemorate the feat. Here’s an excerpt:

From his waist he pulls, the mulch he lays, 
The one-man mulch layer
A few steps backward, this may take days,
The one-man mulch layer

And so on…


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5 thoughts on “Mulch-laying

  • Sally Knight

    We have not used mulch like this yet and have to be honest the conversation on the field so far this year has been about using mulch for next year! Like you both we do not irrigate so we have concerns on how well plants will do with hand water. I have a question about the BioTelo, I met an organic inspector a couple of years ago and she mentioned that some mulches, she did not mention names can leave an oily looking slick over the soil. Have you ever come across this?

    • broadforkfarm Post author

      We haven’t seen any oily slicks on the soil from using the Biotelo. It doesn’t ever feel oily (either when we’re laying it down or as its decomposing). We try our best to put it down after a rain when the soil moisture is good and it does a good job of retaining the moisture. Other than after transplanting, we don’t hand water them again (except in very very extreme circumstances). When it rains the water goes into the hole, right at the plants roots and we have found that ok….but our yields would definitely be better if we had drip tape underneath, which is what we’re planning for next year. Two of our summer squash beds have soaker hoses underneath the plastic because the soil moisture wasn’t great when we layed down the Biotelo.

        • broadforkfarm Post author

          The bio-degradable mulch rips apart quite readily by the end of the season. Usually we will pull up the drip lines once the crop is done either in the fall, or in the spring. If it is too late in the season to establish a cover crop then we want to leave as much plant material and mulch as we can to keep our soil covered over the winter.

  • Miranda

    Umm….such a great poem! I love it…I would like to hear the rest please!! And bravo to you Bryan for being able to do a 3-person job on your own…very impressive! Love you guys!!