Need advice about sheet mulching

EdenWest(Sunset23)May 1, 2005

Hi there!

I am mainly wondering if it is always necessary to put down a layer of newspapers or cardboard or whatnot before you start putting down mulch. I am hoping to hook up with a source of free mulch that will just come and dump stuff in my front yard for me to spread around. There are many areas where I could just spread 6-8 inches of mulch and just leave it undisturbed for a LOOOOONNNGGG time (maybe plant some trees again next fall). That would smother any weeds and grass, right? And the seeds wouldn't germinate unless the area is disturbed? I plan to do the newspaper thing in areas I will be using for annual plantings (vegetables), but in areas that are mainly going to be trees and pathways, can I just spread the mulch real thick and leave it be?

Also, what are your favourite odd things to add to the mulch? I have read shredded paper (any paper?), is there anything else that may be available around that people don't usually think of?



Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
kjggames(z9/10, sunset16)

Sayin' yo,

The purpose of the paper is to make a barrier the weeds cannot grow through. Although the mulch, compost, whatever, can do the same thing if it is thick enough, some of your tougher, hardier weeds will be able to not only break through, but thanks to all of your hard work, will have a wonderful soil in which to thrive.

To sum up, you don't have to put down paper, but it is a good idea.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2005 at 4:00PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Belgianpup(Wa/Zone 7b)

And if you're not going to mess with it for a while (like a year, or less), cardboard would be even better. Check out your local furniture stores.


    Bookmark   May 4, 2005 at 9:36PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
eden_on_earth(Z5 Flagstaff AZ)

I have sheet mulched with and without cardboard and am now fully behind using a base of carboard or newspaper. In the beds that I did not use cardboard or newpaper, grass is coming through very thick layers of mulch. Not enough to cause me much frustration, but I do notice some sprouting through. In places that I did use cardboard of newspaper, there are no weeds, and in many places the paper has totally broken down into lovely soil, all in less than a year. The cardboard smothers and composts the weeds quickly and for some reason worms like sheet mulch with paper better than without paper. In every place that I have laid down a paper product seems to florish with worms. Paper is like a magnet for worms.

As for what I use in my sheet mulch...anything I can get my hands on. I have had success with straw, pine needles, shredded paper, food scraps, anything. I have even used bags of citrus peels from the local grocery stores waste pile and covered them with a bit of straw and within a couple of months they are "melting" into the soil. Ignore the folks that warn you not to compost certain materials. I find that any organic material composts just the same.


    Bookmark   May 14, 2005 at 6:47PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I don't know how rural you are but if this is an area that could be let go wild let it do so. If want trees there plant 'em and let the rest go wild. Let succesion do the work for you.
My place in Ms. was once hard pan clay from years of over discing for use as a cow field. No top soil and hard as a rock. Now after several years of first wildflowers (weeds if you must), bushes (thank ya Lord for the wax myrtle!) and now a mix of trees the soil is loose and a rich black.
Use that wonderful free mulch close in to your house for bed development. Let nature work for you on the back 40.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2005 at 6:33PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
maureensnc(z7 NC)

Do use cardboard or paper, lots of paper. I didn't. I piled up lots of compostable stuff over liriope without covering the liriope. I think I'll be paying for that error for a loooong time, since I've merely created a heavenly environment for the very plant I was trying to kill.
Suggestions will be most appreciated!

    Bookmark   November 22, 2005 at 9:12PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I used 4 or 5 layers of newspaper in a small area of my garden about 3 or 4 years ago. I am now just getting some weeds. The newspaper did not break down. I can pull out a piece and read it. I am wondering why it did not break down. This stumped some master gardeners I met a sheet mulching class. I just removed 100 sq. ft. with a spading fork. Great workout. I will be using cardboard this time.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2010 at 1:14PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Belgianpup(Wa/Zone 7b)

Twister 9, lack of breakdown of paper or cardboard usually seems to mean that the soil is too dry underneath (you should wet it well before you lay down the paper), or there aren't many soil microbes in your topsoil to do the breaking down.

If the area was heavily contaminated with chemicals, that could be the reason. Microbes also need plant material to eat or they die off.

If you want to try again, wet the soil thoroughly to several inches deep, import some quality homemade compost that hasn't dried out (maybe from a friend?) to inoculate the area with microorganisms, lay some lawn cuttings or weeds over the surface (food), then lay your paper or cardboard down and cover it with mulch.

It's like making soup -- you need the ingredients; you can't just put a pot of water on the stove and heat it up and expect chicken/vegetable soup.


    Bookmark   June 14, 2010 at 4:04PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I started the sheet multching process on my lawn 2 weeks ago using brown paper bags and some good compost and leaves from my yard, it has stayed pretty wet from the rain, everyting looks good so far.

Here is my question, Is it too early to start planting a few perennials? I also want to use part of that space to plant pumpkin starts next month, but i imagine the grass underneath hasnt broken down yet....

    Bookmark   May 4, 2012 at 2:10PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
gardenlen(s/e qld aust)

yes the newspaper is a barrier to control weeds, needs to be continued beyond the bed to blend in with the weed barrier.

if the sheet mulching is deep enough say 6+"s then plant small seedling into using pockets of planting medium eg.,. potting mix or the like.


Here is a link that might be useful: lens straw bale garden

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 3:09PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Dana3 - If you have the depth in the sheet mulch to plant without digging through the barrier. If you dig through it might bring the grass roots back up to light & be work again to pull.

We've made several garden beds that way and have planted through the layers adding pockets of a finished compost & soil mix. Moles moved in after the earthworms, so I just pushed the raised mounds back in place.

In the vegetable garden we continue to sheet mulch over existing beds in the fall and plant in the spring. It's a great method for our dry summers because it retains moisture better.

I imagine the pumpkins will love that bed especially if you mulch after the soil is nice & warm.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2012 at 12:25PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Grapes in trees
I've been asking this in some of the other forums,...
Moringa Oleifera - Where can I find it?
Does anyone know where I can find Moringa Oleifera...
grant for permaculture enterprises app due Jan 14, 2015
As you may know, for the last year, our company TGI...
Wild Grapes with Black Rot
So, on the margin of my back yard I have some wild,...
internship, volunteers wanted Coastal Ecuador
Organic farm and permaculture teaching center that...
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™