Video Clip: Leaf Mulching and Cover Crops from Vegetable Farmers and their Innovative Cover Cropping Techniques


Farmers and their Innovative Cover Cropping Techniques [DVD]. V. Grubinger. 2006. University of Vermont Extension. Available for purchase from:a href= " (Verified 31 Dec 2008).

This is a Vegetable Farmers and their Innovative Cover Cropping Techniques video clip.


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Bob Muth, Muth Farms. Williamstown, NJ.

Audio Text

This is municipal leaves from Monroe Township, our hometown. Leaves were banned from the landfills in New Jersey back in 1987 because they were using up valuable landfill space and we hooked up with the town at that time and started to take them. Initially there were some serious trash problems, but over the years the town worked that out so it’s a very clean product. A lot of people have said that I should be charging some significant tipping fees for these but I’ve never felt that way, we’ve taken them for free all these years and it guarantees that I get a good supply every year.

The bulk of the township’s leaves come in November, December and early January. I prefer to spread when the ground is frozen cause I get virtually no soil compaction at that time. For me that’s December and January, that’s when it’s a very light work load then I can work on these things all day un-interrupted. We spread these anywhere from 3-6 inches deep. We use a New Holland spreader and it’s anywhere from 3-4 passes going at a slow rate with the spreader wide open.

When I started with these I had what I would call a lot of wives tales, people telling me how it would ruin the ground, how it would destroy your pH, you’d need tons of lime to counteract the acidity. It didn’t work out that way at all, I always had a good soil testing program and I saw that 2 or 3 years after we had applied leaves nutrient levels going up significantly especially minors and the pH numbers were actually starting to climb when I was actually expecting them to go the other way. They’ve been a godsend for us.

Normally we like to flail mow very low to the ground, however if there are any residencies or houses nearby we always mow higher and spread into a stubble and that way we don’t have leaves blowing off the fields and creating angry neighbors. This ground was just in vegetable crops and it won't be back in vegetable crops for another four years or so. We put leaves on the front part of the rotation because it gives them ample time to break down. And so they wont create problems later with tying up nitrogen and clogging up the mulch layering equipment. There’s your leaf application right there, that’s all you got left after four years.

Once thing I’ve seen over the years, if you could take leaf mulching and link it with a good cover cropping system, you can really help yourself. Over the years since we started this, we’ve slashed our fertilizer probably by 60-70% or more. There’s no need to apply, it’s already here.

This video project was funded in part by the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (USDA).

Published June 15, 2011

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