Sustainable Garden and Kitchen – Mulch Tips from Shady Grove Farm

by Randy Buchler

At Shady Grove Farm we rebuilt our old strawberry patch and planted new plants. I researched environmentally friendly ground cover for weed suppression, but didn’t find anything that met my picky requirements. So, I brainstormed…finally figuring out that if we cut the unopened end of our 3 ply empty chicken feed bags and then slice up the sides, it would create a large piece of ground cover that we could cover the mounds with and then plant the berry plants in holes that we cut in the paper.

The second project involved using pallets (cut in half-ish) to “fence in” our newer strawberry patch so I could stretch the bird netting from the greenhouse ribbon board to cover them. You will also notice the use of bale twine.

Cutting the 3 ply bags open makes it possible to rid them of the strings and unfold them to double the space they cover. Working out really well so far.

The failure of commercial availability of environmentally friendly materials sometimes leads us to a better alternative, and this is a perfect example of that.  Not just environmentally friendly and toxic free, but includes the upcycling of a material that is on the farm as a byproduct of feeding organic feed.

The absence of environmentally sound farming products, like a good toxic/chemical free ground cover/weed suppressant, also promotes and encourages creativity through brain storming a wide array of ideas!

Shady Grove Farm U.P. is a small, diversified family farm located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  The farm is Certified Naturally Grown, utilizes permaculture practices, adheres to strict and environmentally sound farming practices/standards, and became environmentally verified through the Michigan Department of Ag and Rural Development’s MAEAP (Michigan Agricultural Environmental Assurance Program) in 2012.  One of the things Shady Grove Farm strives to do is to maintain a “zero tolerance” to toxins or contaminants that may compromise the quality of food and farm products, as well as the soil and environment.  Because of these high standards, often times it is hard to find commercial products that fit into our vision.  This, in turn, forces us to get creative. But, that is what helps us to keep the integrity in farming!

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