Backyard Project :: Sheet Mulching

by flowers on April 19, 2010 · 5 comments

Please go check out my guest post at Steady Mom. It’s something I’ve wanted to share for a while and I really enjoyed writing it.

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I know, I know. Not only did I leave you hanging, but I built up the suspense like maybe WAY too much. I’m afraid you may think I now have a three tiered self-cleaning pond system or solar panels self-installed on top of a bicycle shed built from salvaged materials. (I wish!) Sorry to let you down.

No, we started a little simpler and perhaps my pride is bigger than my product, but none the less I feel great about it. I showed you how nasty our mini-backlot was already. Not only was it unusable, but it was super gross due to an ill-managed and overflowing compost.

We have lots of ideas and big visions, but we also have two young children, a family business, a budget and a pregnant mama, so any step in a focused direction is good for me.

(Rambling over.)

****

We had an aha moment that sheet mulching was the perfect solution for the first step. It fixed both the problem of loosing our kitchen compost, creating some kind of ground cover, making the yard usable and working within our budget.

We first learned about sheet mulching while we were apprenticing on an organic medicinal farm outside of Asheville, North Carolina right after we were married. It is a permaculture strategy that involves covering, layering and building the earth, rather than constantly digging into it.

Sheet Mulching

  • Improves and encourages healthy soil
  • suppresses weed growth
  • encourages healthy microbial activity and worms
  • supports healthy native plants

In short, sheet mulching = good for everything and everyone.

Step 1: Compost

The first thing we did is distribute the fill in the yard evenly. We unearthed all that buried compost and threw it around. Stone broke down the compost (it was broken anyways) and we spread that around too. We then took all the leaves we had raked and kept round the tree in our front plot and used a tarp to move them to the backyard.

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Step 2: Weed Barrier

We broke down cardboard boxes we’d been storing for a rainy day and then got more from a local grocery store. Usually you would wet down the cardboard to keep it from blowing away, but we don’t have an outdoor hose so we used rocks to it down in key places.

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Step 3: Mulch

(note: it is customary to put another layer of compost down. Since our compost was less finished compost and more kitchen waste we skipped this step.)

We recently learned that our town shreds all of the city’s Christmas trees and makes a mulch that is free for residents. A resident is allowed to pick up two barrels of mulch per day. We did this for two days until we realized it would take forever. Stone called the town and asked permission to just fill up our truck and they happily gave permission. Score! We all helped to spread the mulch evenly.

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Step 4: Plant

At this point most people plant by digging down and cutting through the cardboard to add their plants. Our space is so small and the sun is mostly blocked by the fences and houses. We have decided not to plant anything yet. Our long term plants involve either adding onto the house and/or building a bicycle shed in the back. After that happens I am sure we will add some native, shade appropriate plants, but for now we needed the place to be neat and usable.

I can’t tell you the relief it feels to look or walk back there. The kids have been playing kick ball and we’ve been dreaming about how we envision making the best use of the small space. With the baby coming quite soon and Stone’s busy season around the corner I am so happy we did it now.

Next, we designed a simple, new compost system. More pics and details to come!

*Note: Contrary to what the pictures show I worked alongside with the family. It was a great pregnancy workout!

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

PureMothers April 19, 2010 at 4:22 pm

Looks great Hilary! What a good idea. Now you need a good compost system, I agree. :-) Keep us posted!
.-= PureMothers´s last blog ..Book Review: Free-Range Kids =-.

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~Tara April 19, 2010 at 6:45 pm

yay for sheet mulching! it took care of all our grass – including crabgrass.

love the photos too. :)
.-= ~Tara´s last blog ..Goodbye Hair =-.

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Amber April 20, 2010 at 1:19 am

That looks great! I have a friend who’s doing sheet mulching, and I think it’s working well for her. I hope it works well for you, too.

(Also, I can’t believe I am this into gardening, that I know about different mulching methods and their pros and cons. But I kind of like that I am.)
.-= Amber´s last blog ..Cultivating Cleaning Enthusiasm =-.

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exhale. return to center. April 22, 2010 at 4:32 pm

oh this is great, hil!!! thank you so much for sharing!

and thank you for this, which gave me a good chuckle!!

“I know, I know. Not only did I leave you hanging, but I built up the suspense like maybe WAY too much. I’m afraid you may think I now have a three tiered self-cleaning pond system or solar panels self-installed on top of a bicycle shed built from salvaged materials. ”
.-= exhale. return to center.´s last blog ..a thousand words :: beach wandering =-.

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