Grow your own mulch!

A new technique this year....using a rye grass cover crop!

A new technique this year....using a rye grass cover crop!

This  used to be a soybean field…

Just last year this very field was covered in rows of soybeans.

Even before last year’s soybean harvest, Aaron pegged this field for our ’09 pumpkin patch. To prepare the former soybean field for pumpkins, Aaron had the idea of growing your own mulch–an idea he had seen attending a vegetable grower’s conference.

We were excited about the idea of mulch in the pumpkin patch for several reasons. First, we hoped it would keep the pumpkins cleaner while they grew and therefore speed up the washing process. Since our soil has quite a bit of sticky clay, the spot where the pumpkins rest on the ground while they grow is always caked in mud–which we wash off before taking them to market. Second, mulch can keep weeds down which results in fewer chemicals that need to be sprayed for weed control. Finally, a layer of mulch on any garden keeps the soil moisture in the ground lowering the need for irrigation.

So.. how does growing your own mulch work? Before the soybean crop was even harvested last fall–the rye was sown over the entire field like planting grass on a lawn. The rye seeds overwintered in the field, and came up as a nice even carpet of grass in the spring. After letting the rye grow taller, Aaron first sprayed strips in the field with roundup to kill the rye where the rows of pumpkins were going to be planted. Then he sprayed the strips in between the plantings. After the rye was sprayed, the dead stalks started breaking down and laying on the ground like… mulch!

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