Today, we are talking about jute sheets and how they can be used for biodegradable mulching in the garden. Let’s delve into the topic of natural mulching and put it to the test in the field. Jute mulching the garden is an original and sensible approach. This robust, biodegradable, and 100% eco-friendly material is not widely used in this sector yet. The idea for this experiment comes from a jute net manufacturer, who sent us their materials for testing.
We conducted a cultivation experiment, comparing this jute mulching fabric with traditional ecological mulch made of straw. This way, we could directly evaluate the material’s performance throughout the plant’s growth cycle.
Jute mulching and Initial Growing Conditions
Our evaluation of jute sheets as biodegradable mulch for the garden started in June 2016 when the roll sent by the manufacturer arrived at our location.
Observing the Material
The material is known as “fabric/non-fabric” or “biotextile” or “biofelt”, made from jute fiber recycled from food sacks. The manufacturer claims it is 100% biodegradable, making it an entirely eco-friendly product.
Dimensions and Bed Choice
The sent roll measures 35 meters in length and 40 centimeters in width.
We decided to apply this biodegradable mulching fabric where we could obtain appropriate results on material quality. Therefore, we used a raised bed measuring 30 meters in length and 70 centimeters in width, with two irrigation tubes placed on it.
Applying the Jute Sheets
The next step was to lay the jute roll on the bed during the pre-transplanting phase.
To do this, we used a simple wooden stick inserted into the center of the roll, making it easier to unroll the fabric. As the bed was 70 centimeters wide, while the roll was 40 centimeters wide, it was not possible to cover the entire surface in one go.
Therefore, we decided to make a second layer, partially overlapping the jute fabric. This way, we covered the entire bed width.
But if a mulching sheet is too short, pulling from one side leaves some parts uncovered. Indeed, the length of the jute roll was not sufficient to cover the second part of the bed. So, a section remained “bare” (approximately 16 meters). We will see later how we decided to handle it.
As a technical note, at this stage, we emphasize that the size and weight of the roll were a bit excessive.
Additionally, being a strong but easy-to-tear material, laying it down without damaging it was not an easy task.[/caption]
Choosing the Cultivation and Transplanting Phase
As mentioned, the experiment of mulching with jute the garden started in June, specifically on the 15th of the month. Therefore, it overlapped with the ongoing summer crops.
To fully test the material, we needed a long and significant cultivation. For this reason, we opted for the Cayenne long hot pepper, which can be grown during this period.
Another question we had was: how can we puncture the sheet while maintaining the correct distance between the plants? To solve this problem, we used a simple kitchen knife and a meter.
Naturally, the part not covered by the jute sheet, which remained without biodegradable mulch, was also used for experimentation.
To mulch this piece of land, we decided to use straw. This way, we could compare the two types of mulch under the same cultivation conditions.
The natural mulch layer with straw that we applied was quite thick, about 4 cm in height.
Mulching with jute versus mulching with straw
For both biodegradable mulching with jute sheets and natural straw mulch, the pepper harvest was carried out on October 15, exactly 4 months after transplanting the seedlings. Let’s see how the cultivation progressed, with a particular focus on jute mulch.
Status of Biodegradable Mulch in July
The photo below was taken after about one and a half months after transplanting, towards the end of July.
The jute mulching responded very well. As you can see, there is not a single weed visible. We observed that the soil under the jute sheet remained consistently moist, even with infrequent irrigation. The plants are healthy and have grown vigorously. They were cultivated in the summer heat of the greenhouse, resulting in rapid growth.
However, we noticed that the part mulched with straw also had similar results. The only difference was that, in this case, the soil occasionally seemed a bit drier. As seen in the photo below, where the two mulches are compared after a month and a half, some small weeds can be seen in the straw-covered area.
Status of Biodegradable Mulch in August
Another month has passed, and we can now see the reaction of the jute sheets. As shown in the photo below, the jute mulch starts to darken due to the beginning of the biodegradation process.
This process causes the physical structure of the jute mulch to weaken. Naturally, some resistant weeds (in this case, Bermuda grass) can now pierce the fabric of the sheets. The same thing happens at this stage with the natural straw mulch.
Status of Biodegradable Mulch in October
Now let’s see the condition of the jute sheets for biodegradable garden mulching in October. At this time, the peppers are healthy and thriving, ready for harvesting.
The jute mulch is in an advanced stage of biodegradation in some areas, as expected for a biodegradable material. The advantage of this situation is that, in addition to mulching work, the fabric contributes organic matter to the soil.
As for the natural straw mulch, at a certain point, in September, we conducted a quick weeding to remove the weeds that had managed to grow through the straw mulch.
Conclusions on the Experiment of Jute mulching
Let us now draw conclusions from this experiment with jute sheets for biodegradable garden mulching.
- Weed control is around 98%, which is higher compared to natural mulching with straw.
- High ability to retain soil moisture, significantly reducing water requirements.
- 100% biodegradability, with zero environmental impact.
- Contributes organic matter to the soil.
- Excessive bulkiness.
- Difficulty in puncturing the sheet without precise references.
- Excessive cost, considering that the roll provided by the manufacturer for the experiment has a market value of about 50 euros.
Our assessment of jute sheets for biodegradable garden mulching is overwhelmingly positive regarding all the agronomic aspects that a mulching material should possess. In fact, the positive characteristics of mulching are greatly enhanced with the use of jute sheets. However, we believe that the cost of the material is still too high, especially for productions of significant scale. We hope that the manufacturer will be able to reduce the cost over time, making this product with undeniable qualities more accessible to everyone. In general, you can purchase jute sheets here.
We hope this experiment sheds light on the potential of jute sheets for biodegradable mulching and inspires further research and development in sustainable agricultural practices.