BLACK PLASTIC MULCH HUME LIBRARY
Prepared by JUL 1 1972
Joseph D. Norton, JUL 1
Assistant Vegetable Crops Specialist
University of Florida, Gainesville
.F.A.S. Univ. of Florida
A new mulch, black polyethylene (.0015 inch), is now available at low cost.
Gardeners should try only a small quantity on part of their garden this
year to test the effects under their conditions.
Results with plastic mulch have been promising, particularly with straw-
berries. The black film controls weeds, warms the soil, reduces moisture
evaporation, keeps fruit clean, and reduces fruit rot. When applied in
strips 3-4 feet wide, rain or irrigation water runs in around the plant
or through holes punched in it. Much of the water runs off the edge of
the plastic where it soaks in the uncovered area. Straw can be used
between the strips to reduce moisture evaporation and control weeds in
that area; By following the above method, no weeds should be found in
In using black plastic mulch with any vegetable crop, prepare the soil
and apply fertilizer before the soil is covered with the plastic mulch.
When planting strawberries, the double-row or single row bed may be used:
For the double row bed, plant two rows of plants 12 inches apart and space
them 12 inches apart in the row. Beds should be 48 to 60 inches apart.
X Xr X X X X
X xz x x x
In using the single row bed, plants are spaced 12 inches apart and beds
36 to 40 inches apart:
X X X X -Plastic
Roll the plastic over the plants (within two or three weeks after planting)
and place soil on the edges to keep it in place.
Use a razor blade or sharp knifo and cut a slit in the plastic just
large enough to bring the plant through. It is fairly easy to see where
the plants are located underneath the plastic. Cut all runners off as they
develop. This will allow a largo plant to develop in a weed-free bed.
Berries are cleaner and fruit rot has boon reported to be much less
with the plastic,
For tomatoes, it is suggested that the antrip of plastic be applied down
the row. Cut slits in the plastic whore each plant should be located
and plant the tomato plant there. This same technique could be used for
most transplanted crops such as poppers, eggplant, cabbage, broccoli,
etc., by just changing the spacing.
Melons and Cucumbers
For direct seeded crops in hills like melons and cucusmers, good success
has been obtained by cutting a small circular hole (2 3 inches) through
the plastic and seeding directly:
O O O -Plastic
More testing needs to be done on this. It is possible that a flap-like
opening could be used and the seedlings could push their way through.
The flap covering may warm up the soil immodiatoly over the soed.
Corn and Beans
Corn and beans have been jabbed through tho plastic with a corn planter
with excellent results.
For certain row crops like carrots, turnips, boots, radishes, at,,
the plastic may be used to cover the middles with a 1 to 3 inch space
between plastic strips:
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It is not known how long the black plastic will last. After twelve months
it was intact on strawberries, For gardens, it is possible that the plastic
could be left in place and used a second year without plowing again. Also,
it can be taken up and put down again for another crop.
For detailed information on varieties, spacing, fertilization, etc., see
your local county agricultural or home demonstration agent. Certain
bulletins and circulars are available for specific crops in addition to
the home garden publications.