Re: [tomato] Was: Red Plastic Mulch; Now Hay Books

William McKay (
Mon, 01 Nov 1999 20:01:52 PST

I am not clear regarding the technique.  Did you put down thick blocks of 
hay over everything (beds & walkways)?  How did you get water to the plants? 
  My understanding is that you need at least 4-5 inches of mulch to keep the 
disease organisms in the soil.  Is this how thick the blocks were?

I am ready to try just about anything, including spraying (which I never 
thought I would ever do).

BIll McKay>I did not use plastic mulch this year, but I tried Charles 
Wilber's hay book
>mulch.  He is the 83-year Alabaman who wrote the book, Growing Guinness
>World Record Tomatoes.  I interviewed him for an article on his method that
>will appear in the Jan. 2000 issue of Old Farmer's Almanac's Gardener's
>Companion.  I was impressed by some of his ways.  The man doesn't have a
>great deal of education, and he doesn't know about soil biology.  But, his
>experience and a keen sense of observation have taught him lessons
>scientists are only now understanding.  He said that he lays his hay mulch
>out in books (the sections off the bales) and butts them together, forming 
>solid, thick mat.  I had always used hay as mulch, but I fluffed it up like
>everyone else.  The fluffy hay did a good job, but soil-borne disease still
>splashed up on to the tomato leaves.
>Last spring I used Wilber's method of books that abutted.  The soil was
>cold, and we had a freeze after I planted.  I wrapped the transplants with
>newspaper, and they came through OK. I had absolutely NO disease on any of
>my 8 heirloom varieties, despite close spacing and overcrowding due to
>rampant vine growth.  When I pulled up my vines about 2 weeks ago, I found
>the hay half degraded, but still in a solid mat.  The soil underneath was
>very black and teaming with earthworms.  From my 8 plants, I harvested over
>500 pounds of fruit.
>Doreen Howard

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