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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sheet Mulch Shenanigans

by Michael
I work in the financial industry and I interact with a lot of people that are active stock traders. Many of them are successful traders. The most interesting thing is that they use many different methods to get them to their goal of making money. I have a lot of people that are starting out in trading ask me what strategies or indicators are the best. I smile because there really isn’t a best. There are a lot of ways to get to the same place.
Gardening is the same. There are a lot of different methods used in gardens and a lot of them work. In recent articles we have discussed row gardening, square foot gardening, and wide row gardening. I really believe that there isn’t one best method, it depends on the person, the area, the plants you are growing, and other factors. The gardening method in the spotlight today has many names but we will call sheet mulching. Many of you might know this method as lasagna gardening.
Sheet mulching is a process of layering levels of compost to make a nice, rich soil for your garden and plants. In order to sheet mulch a person 1) determines the area where they want to garden. 2) Remove all of the existing vegetation by mowing or cutting as low as possible. 3) Covers the area with 4 to 6 layers of newspaper or cardboard. This will kill the vegetation that is below the cardboard. 4) Adds a 2 to 3 inch layer of brown compost which can include dry leaves, manure, worm castings, straw, and wood chips. 5) Add a 2 to 3 inch layer of green compost like grass clippings, vegetable peelings, and plants and plant cuttings. 6) Continue layering until it is 18 inches to 3 feet deep.
It is best to start this process in the fall as it can take some time for the materials to break down and be ready for your garden. The easiest way to know your bed is ready is to check it. If the materials have broken down to the point that they are unrecognizable, you are ready to plant. Layers are added to the soil as compost becomes available.
Oregon State University has a great pdf on sheet mulching here.
Here is another from Washington State’s extension.
Advantages of Sheet Mulching
Since the soil is made by composting, it will be rich and full of nutrients.
Initial barrier helps inhibit weed growth.
There is no need for tilling so soil will remain undisturbed.
Soil is able to retain water efficiently so less water is needed.
Disadvantages to Sheet Mulching
Once the mulch is layered, a gardener has to wait a while (up to 6 months) before it is ready for planting.
Slug populations may increase during the initial composting.
Weeds and plant pathogens in the compost materials are not destroyed in the mulching process.

Have you ever used the Sheet mulching or Lasagna Gardening? Share a comment about your experiences.




Heck no. My growing season is 365 days; so I don't have the down time to dedicate a bed for 6 months.

This is a most helpful post though. I thought you were going to tie in composting with investing.

marisa said...

That is amazing that someone can have a 365 day growing season! Maybe in the near future we can invest in some ways to extend our growing season, but I doubt we will EVER be able to grow year round.

Michael Atkinson said...

I have not used lasagna in the garden. Never even heard of this. I love these articles on different styles of gardening, thanks a ton. It just contributed to getting me thru a heinous call.

Russell said...

why would you have to wait 6 months. use that bed to grow potatoes or plant tomatoes right through mulch. old rotting hay is cheap and easy to find.

David said...

Michael, Ruth Stout came up with that idea decades ago and actually wrote a book called " No Work Garden Book". It can still be found on Internet book websites. It came out in 1979 and I've been aware of that style ever since. When I re entered into the gardening world after not having a garden for 25 years, I modified the technique a little with raised beds just to look pretty for the neighbors (well, OK, and me). It's a great way for those that don't have a lot of time or maybe a lot of energy to have a garden. It works on flower beds too.

Have a great lasagna gardening day.

Mike said...

Maybelline- 365 day a year growing seasons sounds awesome.

Michael- Glad I could help you.

Russell- Good point. You might be able to get away with planting in the mulch.

David- Thanks for the input. I will have to look up that book and check it out.

daisy said...

I've used this to deter weeds under our new planting beds in the backyard. It does keep out most of the weeds. Thanks for the great links!