The Resilience Hub & Portland Maine Permaculture Message Board › silly sheet mulching ???s

silly sheet mulching ???s

zengeos
zengeos
Gorham, ME
Post #: 22
OK,

So I plan to sheetmulch this coming Spring....lots of sheet mulching. I could do just a test bed, but, unfortunately, I have far too many plants planned for my gardens this year and need as much garden space as possible.

My plan is to sheet mulch 8 or so sections appx 4 x 20 each...perhaps 4 x 25. If I can, I may try to create 12 beds. I plan to lay them down in April, a week or so after the snow is all gone.

I will likely start planting into them about a month later. This will give them a short time to settle in. While it would be nice to give them an entire season, this is not possible for me because of my need to plant in them this Spring.

When planting my seedlings, I want to be sure I am doing the right thing. Some docvuments suggest I make a small hole by spreading the top mulch aside and putting in a shovel of compost to plant my seedlings in. Others suggest I move all the mulch aside and dig a hole in the undersoil to plant the seedlings in, making sure not to move too much of the mulch back over the plants. Finally, another method suggested is to just move the top mulch (straw, grass clippings, wood chips, etc) aside and plant into the compost they suggest be placed under the layer of newspapers.

So, which is the best method, or is there yet another I should consider?

Now, as for total thickness of the initial sheetmulch; some suggest 3-4" is sufficient...1 inch or manure or compost, a layer of newspaper 10 or so sheets thick and a layer of straw or other mulch around 2" thick overtop. Others suggest 8-12" total thickness. Still others suggest 18-24" thickness.

Hopefully this materials list will help..

newspaper and cardboard
Maple leaves....old leaves and leaf mold raked from my back woods
substantial compost brought in
straw bales brought in
manure, hopefully well seasoned, at least 6 months, hauled in.

later in the season I will have lawn clippings to top dress with.

Anything I should add to my materials list? How much of each should I have for each 4 x 25 bed?
David S.
stereoview
Washington, ME
Post #: 84
I hope you are planning on starting really early. I think laying cardboard in the fall would be better so it can settle over the winter. I had trouble with my little woods patches becoming too dry to support much of anything.

Undecomposed leaves and wood chips can rob your soil of nutrients.

You didn't say if your space was lawn, field, woods etc. Previously tilled land like lawns is probably easier.

If you have as many turkeys as I do, you may find your mulch beds get redistributed considerably making success a dicey proposition. Many types of seed I have distributed get picked up immediately.

Last fall I laid big sheets of plastic out in semi field/woods to try to flatten and kill off weeds. I will pick up the plastic and mulch it over probably with hay a la Ruth Stout.

I have had real good luck in the past with growing under plastic sheeting btw.

Down a Jody's house we tried growing underneath a recycled trampoline. Her son had ruined it and there was a bare patch of dirt underneath from lack of sun. We turned it upside down over the dirt/mulch and cut holes and planted using the frame and legs for weight and positioning. It's pretty porous so water goes through it easily. The legs also functioned as trellises. I bet you could get them free in uncle henrys.

BTW, there is a place called freecycle.org where people recycle free stuff. There are groups around Portland and So. Maine. What do you need or want to get rid of?
A former member
Post #: 92
I have read that uncomposted material such as wood chips or leaves only rob soil of nitrogen (and I assume any other nutrients) if they are dug in, but used as a mulch they are fine.
Lisa F.
lisa.f.organizer
Group Organizer
Portland, ME
Post #: 243
David's right that it's ideal to sheet mulch the previous fall, but it is by no means out of the question if you want to plant this year as long as you "beef up" your mulch and be selective with what you grow there this year.

It also looks like you're going with sheaves of wet newspaper which is by far better than cardboard for the beds. Cardboard is great for paths or to suppress really tough areas for a season or two before converting to growth. Again, no need to til under your sheet mulch.

As I mentioned before, there's no one accepted recipe for sheet mulch. You are on the right track with your materials. If you're planting within a month or two of creating these beds, then go a bit heavier on the top layers with your compost and/or compost/loam mix so you have a medium to plant into. I recommend just taking your trowel and cutting open a planting hole just below your straw layer and putting your seeds or starts into those holes. Depending on what you're planting you can amend into that hole w/more compost, etc. and you can leave the mulch peeled back a bit around the plant if you want the sun to warm the soil. Pull it back in close later on in the season.

My best advice is to experiment with what works well for you and maybe try 2 or 3 diff methods and take notes on your results. Our sheet mulching has definitely evolved and probably still will...

Oh, I will say that one bed we mulched about 18" - 20" deep "collapsed" to nearly flat within one season...the worms et al did their work and we had the most gorgeous black gold just under the paper layer. So don't worry about going too thick.
zengeos
zengeos
Gorham, ME
Post #: 23
Thanks for the replies all. I just don't want all my efforts this year, growing from seed, sheet mulching, etc to all be for naught.

The area I am planning on sheet mulching is actually around 50 feet behind the house. I hope to use companion planting/guilds to keep the deer from making a quick lunch of everything. The area has been lawn for oh...3 years and before that was basically a wildflower field with lots of hay mixed in.

The whole area was a more traditional farm field for years before my house and several others were built.

So, if I figure on 2-3 bales of straw per bed, 1 to 1 1/12 yards of compost, and, perhaps, underneath all that, an inch of manure, I should be ok. I might actually be OK with a yard of compost for each 4 x 25 bed, if my calculations are ok, and a 3-3 1/2 deep layer of compost is ok
A former member
Post #: 85
You might want to consider matching the nutrients in your compost to the nutrients preferred by different vegetable and fruit groups; also consider the impact on PH levels as well as trace minerals.

and remember that neither scientific gardening nor endless fretting will thwart Mother Nature's helpers.

Good luck, take before & after photos and let us know how the 'experiment' turns out.
Ted M.
TedMarkow
Brunswick, ME
Post #: 13
So, here's a silly newbie question about sheet mulching: Can it be done so that a garden can be planted the same season? I have 3 garden plots that have been used, but depleted (my bad). The last couple of years they were not tended well and became weedy. Is it feasible for me to sheet mulch them as soon as the snow melts in time for me to plant after last frost? Should I add any amendments to the soil before sheet mulching?

Ted
zengeos
zengeos
Gorham, ME
Post #: 28
Ted this is what I plan to do this Spring...sheet mulch in April, plan 4-6 weeks later. Many lasagna gardeners say they plant into their lasagna beds immediately, and sheetmulching is a form of lasagna gardening...or is it vice versa???>>>
Lisa F.
lisa.f.organizer
Group Organizer
Portland, ME
Post #: 254
Hi Ted - see the recent herb spiral discussion thread...
A former member
Post #: 55
Ted,

You can plant transplants or large vegetable seeds the first year just not tiny seeds like carrots etc. that like a finely prepared soil.

Winnie
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