An earthly answer to a gardener's heaven is just under your nose...er, your feet. Any way you roll them out, rugs do an outstanding job as garden mulch. They kill weeds, let in the water, are readily available, and extremely cheap.
For a typical row garden, a used carpet can be stripped into 30-inch widths and rolled out to create an edge and pathway between crops. Use a sharpened fishing knife, tin snips, or an Exacto knife to slice 30-inch strips of old jute-backed carpeting. To add longevity to the carpeting, first cover the soil beneath the carpet with black and white, soy ink-based newspapers and let 'er roll.
For the typical row garden, lay the row string, sow the seeds, dress with your favorite fertilizer, water, and do the next row in the same fashion. While the color and look may draw comment, the result is a saving of hoeing time, water, and back pain.
Similarly, when setting out hills of squash, cukes, or melons, I use a large single square rug and cut holes in the surface with a pattern to accommodate the plants or seeds. This provides both spacing for the vines and the mulch for the soil surface. I handle my tomato cages by laying a 30-inch strip, placing the cages and plants in a row, then use a healthy amount of newsprint to cover the three-foot space between the cages before laying the next row of carpeting.
Keeping one jump ahead of the trash pick-up is the easiest way to obtain your reusable strip mulching carpet. Striking a deal with a local carpet layer and requesting remnants of old carpets salvaged from recent installments is also an easy source.
The strips can be saved from season to season by rolling them up and storing them in piles near the garden. Mine have lasted for four years. The pieces that succumb to nature and defy pick-up, I rake together and deposit at the base of fruit and ornamental trees for a permanent mulch. But beware—don't allow this mulching to become too thick or it will invite rodents to nest and use your tree for fast food.
Carol S. Larson