Whole Leaf Tobacco

Why I mulch

Plöjarn

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I have been organically growing vegetables, herbs and flowers in the same spot for 15 years. I have been using different forms of mulching all this time and is convinced that this is a great method to use for small scale organic growing. Bare soil is an unnatural state that barely exist in nature. As soon as some soil is exposed nature will try to fill it with pioneering plants. What we call "weeds".... If we keep fighting it and try to keep the soil "naked" the microfauna will die off because of drought and sun exposure. These worms, bacteria, fungi and other organisms are essential to a healthy and fertile soil.

If you keep the soil covered with organic material you will protect and feed these organisms and will be constantly adding new organic material to the soil. This will give your plants a steady, natural and long term supply of nutrients. The soil will keep getting better and better.

I use all kinds of organic material I can get my hands on. The best is freshly cut grass and herbs, which will add lots of nutrients. But leafs, hay or straw will work as well. In the growing season I will constantly add new material between and in my rows as the older material will compost and be drawn into the ground by worms. The mulch will keep annual weeds away effectively. Since the sun won't shine directly on the ground the water won't evaporate. I never water anything after planting. After harvest I will cover everything with a thick layer of mulch. This will keep the worms active late in the autumn. In early spring I remove the mulch when the heat arrives so that the beds can be heated for a couple of weeks before sowing and planting. The soil is usually so porous from all the worms and pretty much weed free so i can just sow directly without even digging.

Pros:
+ The soil will get better and better every year.
+ Annual weeds will be kept at a minimum
+ The microbes and worms will work for you, keeping the soil healthy, nutricious and porous.
+ The mulch will become a nice environment for all kinds of insects, like predatory spiders, that will help keep pests away.
+ The need for watering will be minimised.
+ If the mulch is fresh and green it will add lots of nutrients = less need for manure.
+ You can collect your own mulch - it is free!

Cons
- It can be time consuming (but not as much as weeding and watering all the time)
- Rodents can thrive in the mulch. (I use a cat for this problem)
- Snails and slugs can become a problem in wet summers

I have tried to use those black plastic sheets that are used by professional growers. They will let water and air in, but keep the sun out. I have found that these will keep weeds away effectively, but the soil will not benefit from the added organic material and it will become extremely hot under the black plasic - killing off the microfauna. The soil will not improve under the plastic. I sometimes use these when I have some persistent perennial weeds to get rid of. But then I always add some organic material under the plastic to feed and protect the soil.

I have found that the best use for this plastic is for making new beds. I simply put out a sheet of plastic where I want my new bed. After a year all the plants everything the plastic has died and I can simply dig the bed and plant.
 

deluxestogie

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Excellent.

Tobacco draws nutrients from the soil as aggressively as corn (maize). You may find that manuring the tobacco area more than you usually would for vegetables may be helpful each autumn.

Bob
 

Charly

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Thanks Plöjarn for sharing your method, I will definitly try it as soon as the grass will grow again (it's so hot and dry that our grass is drying....) :)
 

Plöjarn

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Bob: Yes i’ve noticed! This is my first year growing tobacco. The most nutrient-demanding plants I usually grow is cabagge, but tobacco seems to need even more nitrogen! I have spread extra chicken manure around the plants because they have been showing signs of nitrogen defficiency. Especially the Burley.

Charly: Yes, try it! And please tell me your results in your climate and location. If you are having hot, sunny and dry weather you should definetly try to get something to cover the soil with. To keep the water from evaporating and protecting it from the UV light.
 

deluxestogie

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Many burley varieties are known as "white-stem" burley. These have a genetic deficiency in chlorophyll production. Their stalks and stems are nearly white, and the leaf lamina appear pale. That is normal and healthy for them.

Bob
 

Plöjarn

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Thanks Bob! That is really useful information. I might have mistaken some of the Burleys characteristics for a lack of nutrients.
 
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