Neal Creek Farm
Franklin County, Tennessee


Paper Mulch Mat
Mulching Blackberries, Raspberries & Blueberries

Paper used as agricultural and horticultural mulch has been tried many times in many places.

We purchased some paper mulch mat made up to 87-percent by weight from recycled waste paper and post consumer recycled paper that might otherwise go to landfill.

On July 15, 2007 we laid our first paper mulch roll at Neal Creek.  We have been using paper mulch  cut into discs for early weed control and soil moisture conservation on tomatoes and peppers.  About June 15 we planted 5 each blackberries, blueberries and raspberries as test plants for determining if the varieties we have chosen will do well in our location.

Photo Update July 30, 2007:  In 2-1/2 weeks you can see the vigorous grass growth
beside the edge of the paper mulch.  No weeds in the row.  We have had about 2 inches
of rain in the past week including 9/10th of an inch on Saturday night.

We suspended the roll which is 1 meter wide and 100 meters long (3'3" x 330 feet) from
the front loader on the tractor using an old steel fence post as the arbor.  The roll weighs
about 80 pounds (36 kilograms).

The tractor is positioned so that the roll will unwind parallel with the row of
blackberry and raspberry plants.

Pam unrolls the paper mulch along the length of the row.

The blackberries and raspberries are planted on 5 foot centers, so she is rolling out
about 65 feet of mulch mat.

The next step is to cut lateral slits into the mulch and pull it into the row.  Note that this
blackberry already has a disc of paper mulch around the base of the canes.  We put the disc
down the day we planted the berries.

The row of blackberries and raspberries is now fully mulched, assuring no hand weeding and
good soil moisture conservation.  You can see the tops of the pins holding the mulch
down.  Our creek bottom soil is very rich in nutrients and is also about as rocky as
any soil anywhere.  We broke 4 pins trying to get them past the rocks.We completed the same process on the blueberries (on 10 foot centers) which are in the short row to the right.  We put some chipped tree limbs on top of the mulch to provide some extra
protection against wind lifting the edges of the mulch during the next big thunderstorm.  We will spread the chips along the edges of the mat.  Time to mulch 15 plants, about an hour.

You can see the results here from across the garden.  We are waiting for the neighbors
to stop by and ask what in the tar-nation are you up to now?

One of the inestimable benefits of organic mulch rather than the use of chemical herbicides
is knowing that these 4 almost ready to fledge baby bluebirds which are in the top of an old
fence post between the garden and the berries will not be exposed to poisons.  And, when we
eat our first crop of berries, neither will we.

Note on the bluebirds: They fledged on Tuesday, July 17. Just got this photo in time!

Click here to see what we are doing for organic weed control on pumpkins and vine crops.