Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Urban Farmer - Sheet Mulching

The Urban Farmer, Ron Berezan, returned to Lethbridge again this year. Ron demonstrated how to plant a garden using the Sheet Mulching Technique. Here are notes from Cheryl Deringer, Manager of Garden View Lodge.

Sheet Mulching – it’s sort of like baking a cake

by Cheryl Deringer

Sheet mulching is the term used for no-dig gardening that will destroy weeds, replace existing lawn and generate a healthy environment for plants.

You will need – spades, rakes, edger, dried leaves, grass clippings, well rotted manure or compost, coffee grounds, plants for planting, soil and mulch. You will also need a water hose with a hand sprayer attached. Have ready a 4 foot stack of newspapers with no glossy print and several broken down boxes with tape removed.

The steps for turning a patch of grass into a garden bed are as follows:

Lay out your plot – this can be curved into any shape that appeals to you. A garden hose can be used to define the shape of your plot.

Edge the plot – dig a nice edge about four inches wide around the plot to separate the rest of the lawn from your bed. Throw the clumps of grass and dirt into the plat.

With a sharp spade make a number of cuts through the grass in the plot. In 100 square feet of grass you need no more than 30 quick cuts.

Dig holes for bushes or trees at this point. If you are planting something that requires an acidic soil (such as blueberries, enhance the hole with coffee grounds. Plant the bushes and trees.
Now, starting at the cut edge (with the garden hose and sprayer ready to go) start laying down newspaper. Three or four sheets thick are good. Overlap and wet down as you go. Work from the edge towards the centre of the plot working the newspaper up against but not over the plants. Thoroughly wet down.

Take your broken down cardboard boxes and do the same. Overlap the edges and put down in one layer over the newspaper. Wet down thoroughly as you go.

Over the cardboard put a good layer of coffee grounds. Filters will break down over time so they can go in also. The rake may come in handy to distribute the grounds.

Over the coffee grounds spread a thick layer of old deciduous leaves and grass clippings.
Over this spread compost. Add more leaves and grass clippings.

Top the whole works with a thick layer of rich soil to which has been added compost or well rotted manure. We used potting soil from Bos Sod that was already enhanced with compost and manure. For 100 square feet you will need 1 to 1.5 cubic feet of soil. The rake was used to spread the soil around the plants. Hands are also a tool and be prepared to get dirty.

Now plant your bedding out plants and seeds. Put a layer of mulch such as cedar chips on top of the soil but do not cover the plants with it.

Water well. Enjoy.

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