Plastic Mulch Layers
3-foot mulch layer
Available in sizes to lay 3 or 4 foot plastic mulch, these units are made in the USA to fit walk-behind tractors and, properly adjusted, do a great job laying plastic mulch and burying the edges. (Unlike many 4-wheel-tractor mulch layers, this tool DOES NOT make a raised bed at the same time as laying the plastic; a walk-behind tractor does not have enough traction to both move soil into a raised bed AND bury the edges of plastic mulch at the same time.) The 3-foot model will flat-lay plastic mulch on a flat surface and bury the edges (in other words, the 3-foot model is NOT made to work in conjunction with raised beds)…however, the 4-foot model is designed to lay plastic mulch over a 30” raised bed if desired (it can also flat-lay as well). The best tool for creating the raised bed to work with the 4-foot layer is our BedShaper, as it makes the most consistently-sized beds.
4-foot mulch layer working on raised bed
These units come with no ‘pre-set’ adjustments from the factory, and with good reason: they perform differently in different soil types, moisture conditions, tilths of soil, etc. We always tell buyers of this item to “give yourself a few hours to play around with it” to get all the adjustments right for your soil. PREREQUISITES FOR USING THIS TOOL EFFECTIVELY ARE: WELL-WORKED SOIL, LEVEL BEDS, AND SOIL NOT TOO WET. Always figure that 4 to 6 inches of plastic will be buried on each side of the bed, so for example 3-foot plastic, once the edges are buried, leaves about 24 to 28 inches of exposed plastic to plant in. 4-foot plastic will leave 36 to 40 inches exposed if flat-laid; if over a 30” raised bed, it covers the top and “shoulders” of the bed, and is buried nicely at the bases of the bed, PROVIDED that the total width + height of the bed does not exceed the total width of the plastic mulch (taking into account the fact that 4 - 6” of plastic need to be buried on each side). For example: if you have a raised bed that is 30” wide at the top, and the bed is 6” tall, then the side “slopes” of the bed are probably more like 7 or 8” long each, let’s say 7.5”. So, 30” + 15” is 45”… This will not work! You don’t have enough plastic to bury the edges! Either the beds have to be narrower, or slightly shorter, so that once the top and sides of the bed are covered, you still have AT LEAST 4” of plastic left on each side to bury. FOR FORMING THE MOST CONSISTENT RAISED BEDS THAT WILL WORK BEST WITH THE 4-FOOT PLASTIC MULCH LAYER, WE RECOMMEND OUR “BEDSHAPER” IMPLEMENT.
30-inch wide raised bed being
plastic-covered by 4-foot mulch layer
The moisture-retaining abilities of plastic mulch also mean that irrigation is almost certainly necessary, as no rain can penetrate it. Drip-tape laid under the plastic is therefore almost a must. Both mulch-layer sizes have a drip-tape laying accessory available, which will lay down one row of drip-tape under the plastic as you lay the plastic down. Another option is to lay down the drip-tape manually, before you lay the plastic mulch…if you want multiple rows of drip-tape per bed, this is your only option. The drip-tape carrier works nicely with up to 1600-foot rolls of drip-tape (which we stock), but these are a higher price per-foot compared with larger rolls… so some folks buy one smaller roll and then re-use the spool and re-roll it off of a larger roll. Or, we also have an “expansion” accessory available for the drip-tape carrier to enable it to take up to a 3000 foot roll. (The disadvantage of this is that the larger roll is HEAVY and makes the implement harder to maneuver.)
Overall, this whole system is very simple and quite easy to modify to meet your needs. The tractor pictured above has 16 inch (total) axle extensions on it, which some folks prefer so that no soil under the plastic mulch has “tire tracks” in it (These axle extensions are REQUIRED for laying plastic over a raised bed, as you want the tractor wheels to straddle the bed) It is also recommended to have at least 22” tall wheels on the tractor for straddling a raised bed.
Dibble Wheel & frame mounted to Grillo G110 tractor
If you are doing enough planting with the same spacing to justify it, there is also a Dibble Wheel available to poke holes through the plastic for planting (which is an independent implement… there is no way to put the dibble wheel behind the mulch layer to do everything at one time)… each wheel comes with 6 ‘spikes’, which, equally spaced, put holes 1 foot apart. Extra spikes are available, and are fully adjustable on the wheel for virtually any spacing. Extra wheels can be added to the dibble wheel frame (up to 4 wheels total) for doing up to 4 rows in the same bed.
The 3-foot model will fit any walk-behind tractor with differential axle and minimum of 5x10x20” wheels; 4-foot model fits BCS 749, 852, 853, 750 and Grillo G110 only. Using mulch layers may require wheel weights, and work best when using 16” axle extensions to straddle the bed.
We also have Category 1, 3-point-hitch adapters to adapt these layers to small 4-wheel tractors.
NOTE: Mulch Layers DO NOT include any plastic mulch! We offer that separately, or you can buy from a local source. Mulch rolls 2500 feet or shorter are recommended.
ET 1006 3-point hitch adapter