Homemade Plastic Mulch Layers

Placing plastic mulch over planting beds is an uncomplicated job, but doing it on a large scale consumes time and labor. Automated mulch layers make the process more efficient, but commercial layers are expensive, placing them out of the reach of many small growers. Some resourceful growers with architectural skills, however, have managed to design inexpensive, effective answers to the mulch-laying issue.

Plastic Mulch

Plastic mulches have been in use by commercial growers since the 1960s. They consist of a thin layer of plastic that is laid over the crop planting bed before putting and pressed snugly against the dirt. The mulch covering helps raise soil temperature and keep moisture, which results in fewer pest and weed problems, earlier crop maturity, higher yields and improved crop quality. Plastic mulches have proven particularly helpful in the production of crops such as melons, squash, cucumbers, strawberries and cut flowers.

Laying Mulch

Growers lay plastic mulch, which is derived from the maker in rolls, from unrolling the plastic above the planting rows. Plastic mulch works best on raised beds that help in raising the soil temperature, so bed planning is a vital step in the mulching procedure. The mulch also performs best when it is in touch with the dirt, so the grower should take care to ensure that the mulch stays flat, with no air spaces between the soil and the mulch.

Commercial Layers

Since putting plastic mulch by hand is a time-consuming and labor-intensive procedure, farm equipment manufacturers have developed automatic mulch-laying machines to make the job easier and faster. Automated mulch layers are tow-behind attachments that are pulled by a tractor. Commercial layers have parts that produce the raised beds, unroll the mulch and keep it in place, pressing it firmly to the soil. Some layers can also be fitted with attachments to give irrigation, fumigation and fertilization.

Homemade Solutions

Industrial mulch layers are costly, and small-scale growers may not require all of the add-on options that commercial layers offer. However, even small-scale growers can benefit from an automatic mulch-laying alternative, and a few growers have designed and constructed homemade layers. These layers may be as straightforward as a roller that mounts under a tractor and unspools the flux, leaving it to the tractor wheels to keep the mulch in place and press it in the dirt. Other solutions are more complicated, with shovels that form the beds and discs that place the mulch. A basic mulch layer isn’t a intricate machine, but assembling one needs mechanical aptitude and metalworking skills.

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