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Mulch (a Key Component To Growing In The Tropics)


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I'd like to talk about mulch, my favorite stuff is the inner part of coconut husks. You can get this cheap and even free in some places.

Has anyone seen mulch matting made from palm oil husks, similar to this http://www.ecofibre.com/ecomat&neco/ecomat.htm The stuff looks good, especially for keeping down weeds around seedlings.

Last night I got hold of a matting, I think it's made from coconut fibers and used in mattresses. The pieces I found had been thrown out, I'm going to talk to the recyclers who travel the sois. Maybe they come across this stuff in old mattresses and can collect it for me (I already get the fruit guy to give me his scraps for our worms).

Any other ideas for mulch? I've seen ppl use old carpet, newspapers and old boxes work well, problem is the termites love them, don't know if this has an affect on the soil quality etc.

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mulch great stuff !! I like to use a mixture of coconut fibre (brilliant for retaining moisture), banana plants; old leaves, chopped up trunks once they have fruited and thinned suckers (all a good so

Go grab a bale of rice straw somewhere, maybe pay for it. That'll be enough for your garden.

My mulching hero! Another genius Austrahlian! Now this guy doesn't mess around with a sprinkle of straw, he knows how to mulch.   Check it out:    https://www.youtube.com/watch?rel

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mulch great stuff !! I like to use a mixture of coconut fibre (brilliant for retaining moisture), banana plants; old leaves, chopped up trunks once they have fruited and thinned suckers (all a good source of organic pottasium), burnt rice husks and weeds (altough I burn any that are seeding). I collect all these towards the end of the rainy season and start to compost them using my homebrew BIM. Once the hot phase of composting is over (about 3 weeks) and I'm happy the materials are no longer using up nitrogen to decompose I apply it my vegetable beds to a depth of about 5 inches. This is not like well matured compost used for potting but a very coarse material which breaks down slowly over the growing season, in fact the banana leaves and coconut fibre take about 10 months to fully decompose. I top this off with another 5-10 inches of rice straw into which i make planting holes down to the level of the first layer fill them with homemade potting compost and then either direct seed our plant out plug plants. By the end of the following wet season everything has completely broken down giving maybe an extra 2 inches of topsoil and I start again. This has created raised beds on clay soil from scratch without buying in any "din dam". I started after the end of the rainy season (when the clay became workable but still had good moisture content by loosening the soil to a depth of 12 inches watering in some gypsum (an organic clay breaker) and proceeding as above 3 years ago. I now have some half decent soil !! Sure its a slow process and the area I was working on was only a kitchen garden but mulch really works!! My new project is a 2 rai site and I'm taking a different approach, It's paddy field I bought a couple of years ago and after a couple of rice harvests off it I'm turning it into my home plot. In the past 2 months I've had dug 2 fishponds the spill from which has raised the level of the plot by 50-70 cms I've just finished a post and rail perimeter fence made from eucalyptus. I'm gonna try the permaculture method using NFT's and sheetmulch to try and establish a wide range of fruit trees (a forest garden). See my earlier document link for some of the methods and the thinking behind it. I'm familiar with the mulch mats used in the U.K. and have started making my own by sandwiching corrugated cardboard with layers of old feed sacks using pva glue, hopefully the plastic feed sacks will slow down the termites but who knows. Love the idea of recycled matresses and will try and pump the mother-in-law for info as she used to make and sell them according to the wife. I know that in the U.k. the use of carpet is now frowned upon by organic growers due to the residue of cleaning chemicals in them (sometimes you just dont think of these things) !! My old man taught me the trick of reclaiming wasteground years ago when he took over a very neglected allotment plot just outside Barnsley by growing comfrey pissing all over the place, laying carpet and leaving it for an entire year. You can imagine the locals (most of whom used their plots to house their pidgeon lofts and were hard as nails coal miners) faces when this southern softie turned up and proceeded as aforementioned !!! A year later though I helped him roll up the carpet and it was pure loam not a weed in sight and more worms per square foot than I've yet to see again !! He grew some fantastic veg on that site for over 10 years !! I believe he stumbled across the method in an old book by Henry Doubleday . Other methods proscribed included reversing your car over over tough brassica stalks to crush them and speed up the composting process and collecting dogends from pub ashtrays to make a nicotine insecticide, definitely a man before his time !! happy organics folks

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I'd like to talk about mulch, my favorite stuff is the inner part of coconut husks. You can get this cheap and even free in some places.

Has anyone seen mulch matting made from palm oil husks, similar to this http://www.ecofibre.com/ecomat&neco/ecomat.htm The stuff looks good, especially for keeping down weeds around seedlings.

Last night I got hold of a matting, I think it's made from coconut fibers and used in mattresses. The pieces I found had been thrown out, I'm going to talk to the recyclers who travel the sois. Maybe they come across this stuff in old mattresses and can collect it for me (I already get the fruit guy to give me his scraps for our worms).

Any other ideas for mulch? I've seen ppl use old carpet, newspapers and old boxes work well, problem is the termites love them, don't know if this has an affect on the soil quality etc.

The Ecomat looks interesting, but make sure that it is permeable enough to allow irrigation water through. Some densely woven materials like this shed water and don't allow it to reach the soil beneath; try a sample before you commit to a large area.

Some of the materials that you mention have great properties for weed control and soil moisture retention, but things like old carpet, newspapers, old boxes etc may not have other properties that I consider important in a mulch material: permeability for irrigation water, decomposable for building soil organic matter content and food for earthworms. Newsprint, old carpet, cardboard boxes also have materials that you may not want to leach out into your organic garden if you are strict with non-chemical treatments.

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Coconut fibre mats are used as water filters in Indonesia. I had a koi fish pond which used the stuff it was very easy to clean and worked well. I dont know if they were a more open weave then what you have Smithson, but you shouldnt have any trouble with water pentrating it.

Isaanaussie

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hi

has anyone had experience with Ramial Chipped Wood, i read a bit about it and according to the studies made by the guys who "discovered" it, it is more efficent than compost and may held saving water because it is kind of a living compost whereas compost is kind of dead. i put one of the links i found on the web www.sbf.ulaval.ca/brf/regenerating_soils_98.html

Now if anyone used that technique which machine have the found in Thailand to make the job of chipping those "ramials"

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Coconut fibre mats are used as water filters in Indonesia. I had a koi fish pond which used the stuff it was very easy to clean and worked well. I dont know if they were a more open weave then what you have Smithson, but you shouldnt have any trouble with water pentrating it.

Isaanaussie

That's interesting, the other days I found several coconut fiber mats sitting beside a rubbish bin. I grabbed them and put them on top of the gravel in my pond filter. When they are filthy I'll use them as mulch mats and the trees will get some fish poo.

I think the mats were from old mattresses, so I'm thinking about talking to recycle yards to see if I can get old mats.

My pond's filters has several concrete tanks filled with gravel, the water flows over the top and down a nice waterfall. At the bottom of the filter is a tap, so I use the water from the filter for plants. I'm sure it's rich in nutrients. I also use water from the pond for plants, topping it up with fresh water. This gives plants nutrient rich water and while putting clean water in the pond.

Anyone else do this sort of thing?

Edited by Smithson
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  • 4 weeks later...

In the early 90's I seem to remember the RAS in the UK loudly lobbying the government to ban and/or restrict the import of coire from abroad. Their reasons were that it's low nutritional value would be to the detriment of UK soils, amongst others.

Now whether this was truely the case on their part, or if (heaven forbid) they were just protecting their corporate funde...er members however, is another matter. :D Me??.....cynical?? :o

Regards.

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On an 7/8 day turn round, we sell about 350hands of bananas, which leaves about 30/40 culms, when i have time i chop these up and place round the base of the new culms,

would these and the leaves be any good as a mulch on the vegtable/salad raised beds, under fruit trees ect, i also have about 2tons of year old rotted banana and sawdust compost, full of rhino beetle dung pellets, where is the best place for that? salad beds,papaya plantation, banana planation, under the various fruit trees, makua?

Thanks in advance from a diesel engineer learning to be an organic farmer, Cheers, Lickey..

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Hi Lickey

Yeah I compost the banana residues from out the back of our house with rice husks and cow manure. I know that banana peels have high levels of pottasium (Mum places them under her rose bushes ) and I assume it's the same for the spent culms. I found this extract a while back which confirmed I was on the right lines.

"In anticipation of the Philippines being a major producer of organic bananas, this study was conducted to provide a quantitative basis for certain practices in organic farming. The nutrient supplying capacity of banana residues in combination with leguminous materials and chicken manure was investigated in composting studies. Changes in the chemical composition of ten formulations of banana residue-based compost involving leguminous plants (Sesbania rostrata, Flemingia macrophylla, Arachis hypogea) and chicken manure were analyzed periodically during a composting period of 16 weeks. Results showed that combinations of banana residues (BnR) and chicken manure or leguminous plants were highly decomposed compared to untreated BnR. The use of leguminous plants and/or chicken manure enhanced the composting process significantly compared to the effect of Bioquick. The compost piles were characterized by increases in pH, total N and total P, and decreases in total K, total carbon and C/N ratio with time. Notably, BnR+chicken manure attained a C/N ratio of 15 at 4 weeks, while the BnR+leguminous materials reached such a low C/N ratio at 8–16 weeks. An incubation study was conducted under greenhouse conditions for 24 weeks. It was designed to follow the dynamics of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) availability in two clay soils (Antipolo and Lipa) amended with five compost formulations (BnR alone, BnR+Sesbania prunings, BnR+Flemingia prunings, BnR+peanut stover and BnR+chicken manure) and with uncomposted banana residue at an application rate of 20 Mg ha−1. Results showed that net N mineralization occurred in soils amended with BnR+chicken manure and BnR+leguminous materials, which had C/N ratios ranging from 12 to 16. Net N immobilization during the earlier period of incubation was observed in uncomposted and composted banana residues with a C/N ratio of 68 and 24, respectively. Significantly higher net P mineralization was obtained only in soils amended with BnR+chicken manure. An abrupt increase in exchangeable K was observed in all treatments 2 weeks after the incorporation of organic residues. Higher available K in pure BnR treatments (uncomposted or composted) exhibits the inherently high K content of banana residues."

So it might be worth composting them and then using the compost to mulch around the base of plants that have a need for potassium.Fertilisers for flowering plants are usually high in potassium. Likewise it is important for trees which produce fruits and species of fruiting vegetables such as capsicums, cucumbers and tomatoes. 

here's a  link about potassiums role in plant growth link 

I think it was you I was telling that I was gonna purchase a soil testing kit with the view to producing compost recipes for specific plants and this banana one is definitley something I will be working on in the future.

Cheers for now J

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  • 2 years later...

mulch great stuff !! I like to use a mixture of coconut fibre (brilliant for retaining moisture), banana plants; old leaves, chopped up trunks once they have fruited and thinned suckers (all a good source of organic pottasium), burnt rice husks and weeds (altough I burn any that are seeding). I collect all these towards the end of the rainy season and start to compost them using my homebrew BIM. Once the hot phase of composting is over (about 3 weeks) and I'm happy the materials are no longer using up nitrogen to decompose I apply it my vegetable beds to a depth of about 5 inches. This is not like well matured compost used for potting but a very coarse material which breaks down slowly over the growing season, in fact the banana leaves and coconut fibre take about 10 months to fully decompose. I top this off with another 5-10 inches of rice straw into which i make planting holes down to the level of the first layer fill them with homemade potting compost and then either direct seed our plant out plug plants. By the end of the following wet season everything has completely broken down giving maybe an extra 2 inches of topsoil and I start again. This has created raised beds on clay soil from scratch without buying in any "din dam". I started after the end of the rainy season (when the clay became workable but still had good moisture content by loosening the soil to a depth of 12 inches watering in some gypsum (an organic clay breaker) and proceeding as above 3 years ago. I now have some half decent soil !! Sure its a slow process and the area I was working on was only a kitchen garden but mulch really works!! My new project is a 2 rai site and I'm taking a different approach, It's paddy field I bought a couple of years ago and after a couple of rice harvests off it I'm turning it into my home plot. In the past 2 months I've had dug 2 fishponds the spill from which has raised the level of the plot by 50-70 cms I've just finished a post and rail perimeter fence made from eucalyptus. I'm gonna try the permaculture method using NFT's and sheetmulch to try and establish a wide range of fruit trees (a forest garden). See my earlier document link for some of the methods and the thinking behind it. I'm familiar with the mulch mats used in the U.K. and have started making my own by sandwiching corrugated cardboard with layers of old feed sacks using pva glue, hopefully the plastic feed sacks will slow down the termites but who knows. Love the idea of recycled matresses and will try and pump the mother-in-law for info as she used to make and sell them according to the wife. I know that in the U.k. the use of carpet is now frowned upon by organic growers due to the residue of cleaning chemicals in them (sometimes you just dont think of these things) !! My old man taught me the trick of reclaiming wasteground years ago when he took over a very neglected allotment plot just outside Barnsley by growing comfrey pissing all over the place, laying carpet and leaving it for an entire year. You can imagine the locals (most of whom used their plots to house their pidgeon lofts and were hard as nails coal miners) faces when this southern softie turned up and proceeded as aforementioned !!! A year later though I helped him roll up the carpet and it was pure loam not a weed in sight and more worms per square foot than I've yet to see again !! He grew some fantastic veg on that site for over 10 years !! I believe he stumbled across the method in an old book by Henry Doubleday . Other methods proscribed included reversing your car over over tough brassica stalks to crush them and speed up the composting process and collecting dogends from pub ashtrays to make a nicotine insecticide, definitely a man before his time !! happy organics folks

Sounds like you know your stuff.

But I'm hesitant to use so much trash and questionable materials and pissing all over the place in the hope the end result would be exceptionally good.

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hi

has anyone had experience with Ramial Chipped Wood, i read a bit about it and according to the studies made by the guys who "discovered" it, it is more efficent than compost and may held saving water because it is kind of a living compost whereas compost is kind of dead. i put one of the links i found on the web www.sbf.ulaval.ca/brf/regenerating_soils_98.html

Now if anyone used that technique which machine have the found in Thailand to make the job of chipping those "ramials"

Living compost? Isn't that a contradiction of terms?

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Coconut fibre mats are used as water filters in Indonesia. I had a koi fish pond which used the stuff it was very easy to clean and worked well. I dont know if they were a more open weave then what you have Smithson, but you shouldnt have any trouble with water pentrating it.

Isaanaussie

That's interesting, the other days I found several coconut fiber mats sitting beside a rubbish bin. I grabbed them and put them on top of the gravel in my pond filter. When they are filthy I'll use them as mulch mats and the trees will get some fish poo.

I think the mats were from old mattresses, so I'm thinking about talking to recycle yards to see if I can get old mats.

My pond's filters has several concrete tanks filled with gravel, the water flows over the top and down a nice waterfall. At the bottom of the filter is a tap, so I use the water from the filter for plants. I'm sure it's rich in nutrients. I also use water from the pond for plants, topping it up with fresh water. This gives plants nutrient rich water and while putting clean water in the pond.

Anyone else do this sort of thing?

I believe there is a whole city in northern Africa that has been doing that for a thousand years or so. Managing the water from source to final use. If I can find the name, I'll post it here. BBC or it's subcontractors did a documentary on it. Amazing gardens in the desert and equitable distribution of water rights and water use ensured by every family's contribution to the overall effort. Very cool. Did you choose gravel because sand would have been too efficient a filter?

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Coconut fibre mats are used as water filters in Indonesia. I had a koi fish pond which used the stuff it was very easy to clean and worked well. I dont know if they were a more open weave then what you have Smithson, but you shouldnt have any trouble with water pentrating it.

Isaanaussie

That's interesting, the other days I found several coconut fiber mats sitting beside a rubbish bin. I grabbed them and put them on top of the gravel in my pond filter. When they are filthy I'll use them as mulch mats and the trees will get some fish poo.

I think the mats were from old mattresses, so I'm thinking about talking to recycle yards to see if I can get old mats.

My pond's filters has several concrete tanks filled with gravel, the water flows over the top and down a nice waterfall. At the bottom of the filter is a tap, so I use the water from the filter for plants. I'm sure it's rich in nutrients. I also use water from the pond for plants, topping it up with fresh water. This gives plants nutrient rich water and while putting clean water in the pond.

Anyone else do this sort of thing?

Photos would really be helpful in truly understanding what is being discussed.

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On an 7/8 day turn round, we sell about 350hands of bananas, which leaves about 30/40 culms, when i have time i chop these up and place round the base of the new culms,

would these and the leaves be any good as a mulch on the vegtable/salad raised beds, under fruit trees ect, i also have about 2tons of year old rotted banana and sawdust compost, full of rhino beetle dung pellets, where is the best place for that? salad beds,papaya plantation, banana planation, under the various fruit trees, makua?

Thanks in advance from a diesel engineer learning to be an organic farmer, Cheers, Lickey..

How are beetles living in compost? I thought a true compost process killed all the critters and pathogens by burning them up?

If I understand the process correctly, if you've got one CUBIC meter of composting material or larger you will get an excellent result if you get the right oxygen-moisture-greens-browns balance.

If you've got two tons of compost it sounds like your soil nutrition problems are solved.

Is it kept in "cropped pyramid" form? I mean formed into a pyramidical row and the top equilateral triangle taken off? Hope that's a clear explanation.

Compost will work wonders no matter how you use it.

Just don't let it actually touch any green plant stems or stalks.

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hi

has anyone had experience with Ramial Chipped Wood, i read a bit about it and according to the studies made by the guys who "discovered" it, it is more efficent than compost and may held saving water because it is kind of a living compost whereas compost is kind of dead. i put one of the links i found on the web www.sbf.ulaval.ca/brf/regenerating_soils_98.html

Now if anyone used that technique which machine have the found in Thailand to make the job of chipping those "ramials"

Living compost? Isn't that a contradiction of terms?

The great link to a great article is much appreciated and I have distilled some points for the benefit of people who fall asleep trying to decipher reports like that:

Yes. "we must make soil."

Good. "hasten nature's work".

System is designed to cleanup after "logging operations".

Foundation is: "Branches and brushes".

Key drawback. "Mechanized chipping is costly in both labor and money."

Unfortunate omission: "Twenty years of experiments" avoided Asia where most of the world's people live.

Incompatibility: "RCW must not be composted"

Used in: "cold and temperate conditions".

My main issue with it: Not a locally renewable/repeatable process.

Excellent take-home point: "structural stability is the most efficient tool for regenerating soils."

Best revelation: "More than 75% of nutrients are stored in twigs. Twigs are the center of life."

Coolest features by which to measure alternatives: "mechanical barrier to drying, shield against UV rays, preventing weed sprouting".

Biggest question: what "desertification" in what temperate climates they were talking about.

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Living compost? Isn't that a contradiction of terms?

Absolutely not. The bacterial and fungal life in good compost, worm castings and brewed teas from both is the main benefit. NPK values are never as high as chemical fertilisers, but organic ferts feed the soil as well as the plants.

Edited by IsaanAussie
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  • 2 months later...

I'm in the lucky position of being able to get hold of coffee bean shells and rice husks free by the sackload. At present I've been using it to try and break up a clay soil, but also use it as a top mulch to keep weeds at bay. From my reading elsewhere I believe that anything with a high carbon to nitrogen ratio will temporarily cause soil microorganisms to grab all the available nitrogen in the soil; does this mean these materials are a problem when used as a mulch especially with small seedlings?

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  • 7 months later...

I'm in the lucky position of being able to get hold of coffee bean shells and rice husks free by the sackload. At present I've been using it to try and break up a clay soil, but also use it as a top mulch to keep weeds at bay. From my reading elsewhere I believe that anything with a high carbon to nitrogen ratio will temporarily cause soil microorganisms to grab all the available nitrogen in the soil; does this mean these materials are a problem when used as a mulch especially with small seedlings?

Well SD, by now your should know the answer. Rice hulls are high in Lignin and breakdown slowly. Coffee bean shell cant help you. I carbonise the rice hulls and incorporate that to breakdown the soil the one thing to watch is the increased soil pH. Where I am this isnt an issue soil wise as it is very acidic, but not the best for small plants until it has been there a while. I brew probiotic like EM to get the microbes active, doubt you will get much just from rice hulls. Try spraying extended EM under your mulch. In the wet on top is fine the rain will get it into the ground.

EM is good to start cut weeds composting and will push weed seeds to germinate under the mulch not that, that will do them much good. You will get better microbe action from rice straw than hulls, especially fungal ones. May even crack it for some straw mushrooms.

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  • 1 year later...

I thought I'd add my thoughts. Thanks to this posting, I started using rice straw which we have plenty of, as a mulching between plants and especially for pathways, a year ago. Certain weed types have almost disappeared, for some reason we have less problems with insects (maybe because the frogs like it) and I can walk through the garden when it is wet or just watered. I don't think my vegetable garden budget would be sufficient for buying coconut matting, but I was very interested to read the posts in this thread.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Any ideas for mulching a large area with troublesome long grass/weeds?

Cut the long grass/weeds, preferably before they set seed, as close to the soil as possible and leave the cuttings in situ
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Cover it all with cardboard. 5 Baht (?) per kilo. Weigh it down with bricks, tyres, whatever. Keep it damp and after 4/6 weeks treat it as ground. IE: put a thin layer of sharp sand down (gritty type) and lay turf on it. Feed it, treat it as lawn.
Da, da.
If rocket science really was rocket science we'd all be......well, you know the rest......

smile.png

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<script type='text/javascript'>window.mod_pagespeed_start = Number(new Date());</script>

Any ideas for mulching a large area with troublesome long grass/weeds?

Cut the long grass/weeds, preferably before they set seed, as close to the soil as possible and leave the cuttings in situ

Thanks, sounds simple. But as i am a total newbie, i have to ask, when do these types of things usually set seed?

The missus thinks it'll mostly/all go away in the dry season. Not sure it's advisable to wait.

Cover it all with cardboard. 5 Baht (?) per kilo. Weigh it down with bricks, tyres, whatever. Keep it damp and after 4/6 weeks treat it as ground. IE: put a thin layer of sharp sand down (gritty type) and lay turf on it. Feed it, treat it as lawn.
Da, da.
If rocket science really was rocket science we'd all be......well, you know the rest......

Sounds like nothing will get back through that. By turf do you mean grass sod?

Thanks

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Yes, grass sod.
Your Missus is right. It will all die back in the winter if you don't water it. Problem is that the seeds are there too, and when the rains start, everything pops right back up.
Not sure where you are, but for most of Thailand the dry season starts at the end of November....ish. smile.png
Regards.

Another way is to let it all die down, rake it all off (or burn it) fill in all the depressions with sand, then feed and water it. Invest in a decent mower and as everything pops up again mow it aggressively. keep it short, not more than a couple of inches. All of the taller grasses will die off leaving just the shorter, softer grasses.

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  • 9 months later...
  • 3 weeks later...

Ash from burned banana plants is listed as being 50% potassium.

But how many banana plants i must burn to get 1 to of ash?

The cassava fabrik have some by-produkt to increase the quality of the soil. The price is between 10 and 150 Bath/to.

Also the skin of the cassava. In my eyes, for today, the cheapest by-produkt to increase the soil. Kompost, mulch or only cover the soil to protect it from sun and rain.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Would recommend the banana ash as a high intensity (likely to burn the plants if not carefully applied) and easily stored (in watertight buckets). Washes away in the rain, so not really a mulch, but I was responding to the comments about using banana stalks as mulch. Banana mulch tends to be very messy, durable, and a haven for all sorts of things such as scorpions and centipedes.

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