The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

How to Make a Sheet Mulch

Laying down cardboard for sheet mulchSheet mulching, lasagna gardening, and no-till farming are all related by the effort to grow crops without disturbing the soil.  They're trying to prevent the damage done by tilling, a common practice which mixes soil profiles, kills important soil organisms, and often causes erosion.  Instead, thick layers of organic matter are applied right on top of untouched soil, mimicking the leaf litter layer in a forest which prevents weed seeds from sprouting, holds in water, and provides a home for many soil organisms.

I would love to lasagna garden, but I just don't have the excess organic matter it requires.  I do intend to include some sheet mulching in my new forest garden, though, especially where the Japanese honeysuckle is so bad.  Monday afternoon, I tore up some old cardboard boxes I had in the barn to start the big golf cart path which will run through the north end of the forest garden.  For those of you without access to my new favorite book, here are the basic steps of a sheet mulch:

I've only done steps one through 4, and only over a small area, but I'll keep poking at it until I run out of cardboard and mulch.  This is a good task for cold winter days when you really want to garden but the ground is frozen!

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Lately stumbled upon an interesting, even controversial page with a wider viewpoint on sheet mulching

The page in entirety leaves the door open for two responsible approaches, as long as gardeners consider all the options, benefits and consequences. What criteria do you think would be the most practical for a checklist? For example, supposing the writer is correct, when does it become the better option to sheet mulch? Thanks, Phil. Will check back in a few weeks.

Comment by Phil in B.C. Sat Nov 7 13:46:02 2009

Very interesting article! Thanks for pointing that out!

I'm all for overthinking the garden --- it's what I do best. :-) I can totally see your point that the newspaper and cardboard would be better recycled (although in practice I've noticed that lots of places trash their "recycling" rather than paying to have it recycled. In that case, sheet mulching would definitely be a better option.)

I always think that it's better to use resources at hand than transport them from a distance, no matter what they are. So, cardboard and paper that shows up on my doorstep goes into the garden, but I don't actively hunt it down. Instead, I'm leaning toward more mulches from grass clippings and leaves, all from on site.

Thanks for the thought-provoking comment!

Comment by anna Sat Nov 7 15:41:02 2009

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