Saturday, October 27, 2007

Here's how to sheet mulch your garden plot

Sheet mulching is a simple and effective technique for keeping weeds under control during the rainy winter months while adding nutrients to enrich your soil. Follow these instructions for sheet mulching your plot:

1. Give your garden plot a good soaking of water: Let the water settle into the soil for about ½ hour. While you’re waiting, dunk several sheets of cardboard into a trash can filled with water. Next, use the pitchfork to poke some holes in the soil throughout your plot to help aerate it. Don't worry about removing weeds from your plot -- you'll sheet mulch right on top of them.

2. Add a layer of horse manure: Use the shovel to spread a layer of horse manure about 1 inch thick over your entire plot. You should refrain from harvesting any edible plants from your plot for at least two months after you have sheet mulched because the manure can pose a health hazard if ingested until it has broken down.

3. Cover your plot with a layer of wet cardboard: Take the wet cardboard sheets from the trash can and lay them on top of the manure to cover the whole plot. If you are keeping some plants in your plot, just position the cardboard around the plant giving it a little room at the base to breathe.

Be sure to fold down the cardboard along the edges of your plot, which will help prevent weeds from growing along the perimeter.

4. Add a layer of straw: Place a layer of straw on top of the cardboard layer. Try to lay the straw in a cross-stitch pattern, which will help make the sheet mulching more permeable so water can seep through more easily. Give it a good soaking of water with the hose.

5. Add more straw, and soak again: Finish up with another thick layer of straw laid down in a cross-stitch pattern and soak this final layer. Be sure to continue watering the sheet mulch once a week for another month. This will help the sheet mulching materials break down and discourage mice from making a home in the straw.

Thanks to Brent for leading the sheet mulching workshop and Wendy and Kelsey for helping with the demonstration!