How to Sheet Mulch to Improve Your Yields

| 9/25/2015 2:18:00 PM

Tags: mulching, permaculture, beneficial bacteria, healthy soil, garden planning, Joshua Burman Thayer, California,


Pulling weeds may currently occupy many of the precious free hours of your time. Watching a crab grass penetrate the root crown of a freshly planted baby basil plant can be  irksome.  Incessantly, we pull out unwanted plants only to disturb the soil, thereby creating the very conditions that allow them to outcompete our cultivated seedlings. Between lawn mowing and weed pulling, our nation seriously mismanages our time and labor.

How can we overcome this ferris wheel of weeding? If this interests you, read on.

Feed Your Soil

As I mentioned in my last Article How to Grow your Soil with Mycorrhizae and Beneficial Bacteria, the soil is very much alive. The microbes that convert latent nutrients into accessible nutrition for your plants are working night and day below the surface. By providing the right conditions, we can foster that microbial growth by 1) prolonging the wet period of the soil, 2) reducing weed penetration and 3) slow releasing nutrients. All three of these benefits can be achieved through sheet mulching.

Many permaculture blogs will claim that one can simply slap sheet mulch atop a former lawn and this will magically transform the “Rhizosphere,” or root zone into a fertile food-growing zone. In my experience, transforming over fifty lawns into productive and diverse gardens, this is NOT the case. The first step is to properly remove the lawn’s root zone. This can best be done the old fashion way with elbow grease. On a broader scale, this can be done initially with a rototiller. The lawn’s aggressive roots must be removed prior to sheet mulching, so as to start with a clean palate and give your young plants the best chance to thrive.

Innoculate the Soil

Once the land has been prepped, rake the soil into level.  Then is the opportunity to broadcast innoculants and soil conditioners. I prefer to utilize the Down to Earth product, BioLive. This product comes laden with Endo-mycorrhizae and trace minerals which will work under the sheet mulch when wetted to begin to foster microbial life immediately.

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