It’s time to plant… is your garden ready? Don’t have a garden? Here’s how you can get one, fast! It’s called sheet mulching, and it’s the method I’ve been using for the past three years to turn my unsightly lawn into an abundant garden. Everyone has been asking for my secret, so here it is…
There are tons of benefits of this method:
- It builds a healthy and diverse soil life, the key for having a garden teaming with healthy plants and insects. The more diverse and abundant the organisms in your soil, the more plants will be supported by the soil. Organisms in your soil transform matter into plant food, “everything gardens!”
- It’s easy. No digging involved, now or in the future! Go right over lawn.
- It’s fast! Gathering the materials is the most time intensive part, but you only have to do it once. You can plant your garden the same day you build it or build it in the fall and plant in the spring.
- It’s convenient. Rather than removing wastes from your garden, composting them, turning the pile, and returning the finished compost to your garden, you can compost them in place.
- It’s cheap. Most of the materials can be obtained for free.
- It creates raised beds, which stay warmer and hold more water than a conventional garden, and release nutrients slowly over time.
This is one recipe, out of many. Feel free to adapt it to make your own feast! Just be sure to layer it on thick!
- Water well the night before.
- Slash or mow down any vegetation, but leave it in place.
- Add any soil amendments. Many Alaskan soils are acidic, so you might want to add lime, but it is a good idea to have your soil tested to be sure. Also consider adding rock phosphate or bonemeal for phosphorus, or greensand, kelp meal, or rock dust to add trace minerals.
- If your soil is clayey or compacted (as are most lawns) loosen it up. Stick in a spading fork, wiggle it around a bit and pull it out.
- Add a layer of high nitrogen material. Manure, food scraps, blood or cottonseed meal, or grass clippings. Water.
- A half-inch thick layer of newspaper or cardboard. Do not skimp! Overlap layers to make it continuous, going around any perennials.
- Water thoroughly.
- Another thin layer of nitrogen-rich material, especially if your bulk material is low in nitrogen. With manured bedding as my bulk, I skip this step.
- Add 8 to 12 inches of bulk organic matter. I like to use manured bedding, but if you plan to plant right away, be sure it is not “hot.” Chicken and horse manure need to age first. You can also use straw, spoiled hay, leaves, yard waste, wood shavings, or any mixture of these. You will want about four parts carbon-rich material to every one part nitrogen rich material, but this doesn’t need to be exact. This is a LOT of material, so be prepared! Water as you go.
- Add an inch or two of compost or soil.
- Add at least two inches of seed-free organic material: straw, leaves, fine bark or wood shavings.
- Plant! Push aside the mulch and plant into the compost/soil layer. If there is not enough, add a pocket of soil for your starts or seeds.