Sheet mulching

I’m having a great time using all this manure. There are so many places on the farm that the soil is too poor to grow even such self-fertilizing plants as clover or crown vetch, and I feel like a good magician as I heap on the black gold and think of fruitful years to come.

Case in point, the sides of Backfill Hill.

The stony, clay-chunk-filled soil is too poor to let anything but coarse weeds grow. Rainwater thus slides off it mostly unchecked, which leads to erosion and even poorer soil. I tried to grow a cover crop of alfalfa to help improve the soil, but even alfalfa struggles to survive.

So this week I’ve started sheet mulching. First a thick layer of unglossy cardboard. Then a thick layer of manure. It works great so far, as the manure is sticky enough to stay on the slopes where mulch would just have slid off the cardboard.

The cardboard will smother the weeds underneath while the manure keeps it weighed down, blocks more light, and amends the soil as the cardboard breaks down. What you end up with hopefully is a very fruitful bed with a minimum of weeds. I hope to do this again next year, and also plant strawberries on it as groundcover to help with erosion (if we get a fruit crop from them, bonus!).

I was so proud of the change I had wrought that I dragged Josh out of the house to come and see our new raspberry patch.

“Doesn’t it look awesome?” I asked him, as he stood there looking bemused. “All the weeds are covered.” I prompted.

He hemmed and hawed a little bit and then ventured, “But … now the hillside is covered in poop.”

I had to laugh. It’s easy to tell the farmers from the engineers.

One Response to “Sheet mulching”

  1. Erin Says:

    I did this kind of lasagna gardening last year. I grew some great stuff with one draw back, things don’t root well in the cardboard:( Consequently all my corn was blown over and some of my carrots were very short. As long as you don’t expect to much in the first year while the cardboard is breaking down all is well. When we tilled at the end of the season it was 1/2 was broken down. When we tilled in the spring we could find no traces of it.

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