Mr. McGuire: I just want to say one word to you – just one word.
Ben: Yes sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Ben: Yes I am.
Mr. McGuire: 'Plastics.'
The Graduate (1967)
I use 3 kinds of plastic in my organic garden – floating row cover, greenhouse plastic, and plastic mulch. On one hand, these products are petroleum-based and they do end up at a landfill, generally after 3-4 years of use. One the other, they allow me to avoid almost all use of pesticides and herbicides, organic or otherwise. And they hold in precious warmth and moisture. (OK, maybe the moisture isn't so precious right now.)
Floating row cover, sometimes known by an early brand name Reemay, is my favorite product. A porous material light enough to lay on top of plants without hurting them, it keeps out insects while allowing sunlight and rain to penetrate. I cover lettuce, basil, brassicas - even young squash and cukes, removing the cover when they begin to flower to allow pollination. Here is a video showing how simple it is to use.
Because row cover allows sunlight in, weeds grow along with the garden plants. Some growers use plastic mulch to eliminate weeds under the row cover, but so far I've only used it under plants without row covers. In addition to weed suppression, plastic mulch warms soil and slows the spread of soil based diseases like early blight. I'd like to do some more experimenting with plastic mulch: tomatoes and cucumbers seem to do well, but bed preparation in the spring is time consuming.
Next post: hoop houses.