Growth and Yields of Bell Pepper and Winter Squash Grown with Organic and Living Mulches

in Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science

Increasing disposal problems with polyethylene (PL) mulch and greater availability of compost prompted an investigation into the effects of using compost as a mulch on horizontal raised bed surfaces with living mulches (LMs) on vertical surfaces. Wood chips (WC), sewage sludge-yard trimming (SY) compost, and municipal solid waste (MW) compost were applied at 224 t·ha-1 on bed surfaces. Sod strips of `Jade' (JD) or `Floratam' (FT) St. Augustinegrass (Stenotaphrum secundatum Kuntze) or perennial peanut (Arachis glabrata Benth.) (PP) or seeds of a small, seed-propagated forage peanut (Arachis sp.) (SP) were established on the vertical sides of the raised beds before transplanting bell pepper (Capsicum annuum L.) into the beds. Phytophthora capsici reduced pepper plant stand in PL-mulched plots compared with organic mulch (OM) and LM. Despite the stand reduction, total pepper yields were highest in PL plots and, in the OM plots, decreased in the order SY > MW > WC. Early fruit yields and yield per plant were highest from plants in PL plots followed by SY. Among LMs, plants in SP plots produced highest early yields and FT produced the lowest. Plants in PL plots produced the largest fruit. When the same plots were seeded with winter (butternut) squash (Cucurbita pepo L.), plant stands were higher in MW than WC and SY. Squash yields were similar between PL and OM plots.

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