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Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

Posted by mdvaden_of_oregon West Side of Oregon (My Page) on
Fri, Oct 30, 09 at 11:45

Last summer, I began to have some suspicions about the no-till sheet mulching sometimes called lasagna gardening. Not about whether its okay for the garden. But about what it means elsewhere.

The numbers I found were surprising as I put together and uploaded my new web page topic about lasagna gardening being anti-green. The practice is contrary to sustainable living in many regards. It made me more proud of having just generously mulched all these years and dealing with vegetation in a variety of other ways.

Its remarkable how much water, energy and oil use is increased when the putting paper down to just rot, causes new product to be manufactured. Plus the pollutants discharged into the air. Its the other side of the coin of sheet mulching. So the practice seems completely safe for home gardens, but has other consequences in our environment.

Apparently some cardboards can't be recycled and are okay for gardens. Those may be the best choices. Like greasy pizza boxes. Guess pizza is not too far from lasagna.

: - )

M. D. Vaden of Oregon


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

  • Posted by jean001 z8aPortland, OR (My Page) on
    Fri, Oct 30, 09 at 19:33

I hadn't put all of that together. But it makes sense.

I've read info from reliable recycling resources that newspaper is more valuable when recycled than if composted.

Seems that a lot of what is claimed to be green isn't quite so.


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

Mario, since you said that you just generously mulched instead of these methods, I'm wondering if you understand that these are a prescription to save from having to till new growing beds for initial first-time use? They're for turf or dense weeds. They're not just for maintenance.
So no-till sheet mulching saves the fossil fuels & carbon contribution of the tiller, which is a direct contributor, as opposed to recycling paper, which is a left-over by-product of solid lumber fabrication, is from second-growth renewable forests, and (because of mass-production & it's light weight for the units we need) produces exponentially less carbon & pollution than motorized tilling.
Even if it were the opposite, the very tiny carbon contribution of making half a Sunday newspaper to put under your compost is a very reasonable use compared to the massive amount of work it takes to till the earth by hand... it's in the ballpark of walking 15 miles to work so you don't have to use the car; noble, but borderline unreasonable in relation to the other ways we could use our efforts to save. :)
- Tom


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

Best use for cardboard is the recyling bin. Who knows what things from China are leaching on.
Natural bark or vegetative waste is reddealy available by the bag or yard.
If there's a 24 hour dry day near 60 F glysophate can make a new big bed and kill seedlings popping up now.


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Sat, Oct 31, 09 at 12:40

The natural model is a single layer of litter over the soil, that is what the soil system is usually processing outside of cultivated areas. Plant and animal material drops to the ground, where it is then attacked and broken down by scavengers, fungi and bacteria. No alternating soil and litter layers (soil on top of litter is not usual, and could have a smothering effect) or alternating layers of anything.

• Newspaper and cardboard sheet mulches can be effective for annual beds if they are properly
maintained.
• Sheet mulches can prevent water movement and gas exchange if they are too wet or too dry.
• Use site-appropriate mulch materials. Permanent, ornamental landscapes, non-maintained sites,
and restoration areas are not appropriate locations for newspaper and cardboard sheet mulches

Here is a link that might be useful: The Myth of Paper-Based Sheet Mulch


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

And, don't forget the fossil fuels that are burned while taking said newspaper to a recycling depot.


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

  • Posted by botann z8 SEof Seattle (My Page) on
    Sat, Oct 31, 09 at 15:53

Newspaper subscriptions are way down. I no longer subscribe. I nipped it in the bud.
I covered most of my lawn in chips and I think it looks better with increased contrast of the garden, over if it was left to lawn. The rest will be covered by Spring. Anybody want to buy a lawnmower?
Knowing me, the flowerbeds will gradually creep in on most the chips.

Lawnless in Seattle


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

Muddydogs I like the way glysophosphate works for new beds too, but 6 layers of newspaper under 4-6" of compost, or other organic lasagna layers, gives you permanent kill on all existing vegetation & seeds. It breaks down & dissapears in about a year to give you the perfect controlled-release protection from weeds & grass underneath. Old newspaper is cheaper, and you can breath it and let it touch you. :)

Bboy & Botann, lasagna gardening/ sheet mulching used for weed maintenance on established beds is rare, and only a very minor use (I don't agree with it myself). It is usually published about by either people who don't regularly use it or by myth-busters like Linda who don't understand that is NOT the primary use of these methods.
What do you two use bust out a new vegey or ornamental bed that was grass or dense weed growth? By hand? A rototiller/ sodcutter?
(nice yard Botann!)


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Sun, Nov 1, 09 at 15:04

Kill with glyphosate and/or slice off/chop out. Sheet mulching is just spreading organic material over the ground to decompose, instead of composting it in a pile. What does not fit the natural model is alternating layers of different material, particularly when it involves soil on top of undecomposed matter. What you are doing is mulching, no need to make it complicated with casserole-like layering.

When there are tree and shrub roots beneath those smothering layers of old carpet, newspaper or cardboard those will be affected by the reduced gaseous exchange too. And the soil is a community, not a substance - you are smothering more than weeds and roots when you cut off the air (and rainfall and light) to ground you intend to use for planting later.


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

I don't think these methods are "natural", but neither are compost piles or tilling or glysophate or cedar chips in perrenial beds. I also haven't heard of a natural method that grows anything but weeds or trees in this area, and it certainly won't convert turf into growing beds overnight like these methods will.
---------
Slice it it off/ chop it out how? With an expensive & carbon-heavy tiller/cutter, or back-breaking manual labor? My point is that neither is necessary at all (nor handling/spraying cancer-causing chemicals).
Just because it's possible to do a method wrong (like the smothering carpet you mentioned) does not mean that the method doesn't work very well. In using these methods, it is important to match the weed-suppression layer to the proper amount of time desired to make it dissapear as soon as it's no longer needed. Cardboard, IMO, is a little too heavy and persists longer than needed, which could lead to some of the drawbacks mentioned. But 6 layers of newspaper is just about perfect, and is shreded to pieces by the time the sod is gone underneath. It allows you put whatever you want over it and never have to worry about the turf or weeds underneath. I like 4-6" of Cedar Grove compost over it, but you can do anything like the many-layered lasagna beds, plain topsoil, or just mulch over it.
It's the perfect replacement for tilling. :)


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Sun, Nov 1, 09 at 19:45

Cedar chips in perennial beds is quite natural, as is any use of cedar chips or other mulch on top of soil.

If you are getting a riot of weeds in your mulched beds you put the mulch on too thin, are trying to kill established large vigorous perennial weeds like blackberry or morning glory, or are using a too-fine mulch that weed seedlings can get started in.

The most Hellish perennial weeds are not going to melt away beneath paper mulches either.


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

You're right that they won't eliminate the very worst, like horsetail, but neither will glysophosphate, and especially not tilling.
-----
I guess you could say that cedar chips are natural, but remember that the methods we're talking about are NOT mainly for maintaining existing beds. You're comparing apples to oranges. The main task is preparing turf or dense weeds into a new planting bed, and single-layer mulches just can't do that.
Sheet mulching/ lasagna gardening takes the place of tilling, heavy digging, & poison; it doesn't replace standard maintenance or plain mulching.


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

Here's a question... if people used all their newspaper in their garden instead of recycling it, would Weyerhauser need to have a "real estate" division? I've often wondered if recycling paper products has the unfortunate side effect that sustainably managed forest land is reallocated towards other less environmentally friendly uses... the expansion of suburbia and strip malls.


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Mon, Nov 2, 09 at 11:06

A thick blanket of a single layer of an effective mulching material like cedar chips most certainly is likely to kill turfgrass.


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

I'm not sure why anyone would necessarily consider cedar chips on a perennial bed "natural" - most perennials do not grow in the company of cedars naturally nor do the cedars somehow chip themselves to provide a mulch. It is no more natural a mulch than any other organic mulch and quite a bit less so than some.
Adding cardboard, paper or other non-plant material is not a requirement of sheet mulching/composting/lasagna gardening so its "drain" on recycling resources (and isn't this just another method of recycling anyway?) and lack of sustainability is up for argument. Despite all our good intentions, not everyone is a recycler nor does everyone have the opportunity to recycle easily through more conventional channels. A lot of paper products still wind up in landfills - NOT recycled. If these products are getting used to grow edible crops or contribute in some small measure to reducing the carbon footprint, why can't that be considered a sustainable purpose?

Lasagna gardening was developed to create new planting beds without tilling, not for weed control. That some smothering agent (damp cardboard, newspaper, etc.) is used to kill off the existing underlying vegetation has got to be better than employing herbicides or gas powered tillers and less of a contribution to the carbon footprint. And I'd have a hard time accepting that the use of these paper products in sheet mulching or lasagna gardening is of sufficient quantity to make a big impact on the recycling industry and the death of trees as a whole. A single Sunday newspaper will cover a lot of lasagna 'real estate' and most of us accumulate cardboard and paper in quantities far more than we can or need to use for this purpose. Paper manufacturing is most typically a byproduct of the timber industry, utilizing the scraps not otherwise practical for other purposes (as is the creation of wood mulches, btw) or it created from tree plantations grown expressly for that purpose. - we are not felling down old growth forests to create the daily news. And consider the energy costs associated with recycling that paper for reuse - delivery by the consumer, collection, shredding and all the enormous manufacturing input required. Certainly recycling what has got to be a small amount of this paper (most waste paper is generated by business/office use) in one's garden without any associated energy costs has got to be at least as good.

Sheet mulching or sheet composting is another process(es) altogether and I'm not sure I'd lump them in with lasagna gardening. This is actually mimicking the natural way organic matter accumulates and decomposes in the wild - a series of layers of dead or dying plant and animal life allowed to breakdown and decompose with weather, soil organisms and time. Paper products again are not a requirement, but if they are used, again how much of an impact can they have?

FWIW, the paper recycling 'facts' not included in this treatise is that in 2008 a record 54.7% of paper used in the US was recovered by recycling - this practice is on the upswing despite how much gets used in gardens across the country. Yet recycled paper contributes only about 37% of the materials needed for new paper manufacturing. And 40% of all waste going into landfills is still paper. At least using a small portion of this for sheet mulching or lasagna gardening is still a means of recycling this product and creating a 'green' product - an edible crop, an ornamental plant or just plain compost. "Anti-green" is not recycling at all.


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

Botann, gorgeous photo!


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

i've killed turfgrass with a thick layer of arborist chips. i've also done the sheet composting method.

didn't notice too much of a difference between the two methods- although i didn't really do a controlled study. both methods "worked" in that they killed the turfgrass without having to remove it. both beds eventually became very productive with nice soft loamy soil.

arborist chips are a very light material to work with. smells nice (well, i was using doug fir chips, yours may smell differently). easy to spread, easy to remove later. good looking. arborist drops off chips- you can wheel them over or move them in big buckets to hard to reach sites.

sheet composting is a bit more complicated. the smother layer is hard to lay down in the wind. its a bit more complicated to get the material to the site.

i would lean to arborist chips as the better method.


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Thu, Nov 5, 09 at 12:10

>didn't notice too much of a difference between the two methods<

Ding!

>sheet composting is a bit more complicated<

Ding! Ding!

Might be time to call it bologna gardening.


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

Hogwash, lol! ;)
First, a single huge layer of chips doesn't work for vegetable gardens, which is a very common use for these methods, because we can't plant seed in wood chips.
Second, just 'killing turfgrass' is not the same as having a finished-looking bed planted out in one day. Eeldip, did you plant out perennials like delphiniums, peonies, hellebores, dahliahs, etc., into the turf & chips, immediately at the same time, for a one-step process, or did you wait for the grass to die before planting?
Third, Eeldip, Have you had these kind of perennials thrive long-term under a layer of woodchips thick enough to kill grass? For instance, how are you going to grow delicate little treasures like galanthus, or anemones, or crocus in a foot of bark? When you get your bark so thick that it will kill the grass, you are also doing a "smothering layer", and it's consequences are that it severely limits you in the types of perennials & vegetables that you can grow.


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

for sure- the chip method involved more time.

i let the chips sit there for a good year before planting something small and delicate. after a year of breaking down, you can get smaller plants in by removing the unbroken down chips and spot replacing with with soil/compost. you can put bigger plants in right away by just digging out a hole and building up a sort of volcano of soil/compost around the plant.

but for a bed, you can get your larger plants in right away and just be patient about the smaller ones.

if you are converting an area to beds and want to plant "a finished bed" right away, i could see some advantages to the sheets.

for vegetable gardens i could see some advantages in just skipping the sheets and laying 12"-24" of good compost on top of the turf.

oh, and one more thing, my best success in vegetable beds from turf was super labor intensive. cut out and flipped over turf layered a few sheets thick with about 6" of compost over it gave me a very productive squash/zuke bed this summer. i had to pull out a little bit of grass now and again.


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

It's actually very heartening to see a handful of folks get so passionate about the "greenest" way to garden (when I'd guess that the majority of folks simply don't garden at all).

Yowza!


BTW, I have been killing off large swaths of my grass lawn and replacing it with wooly thyme, sedums and other groundcovers, or in some places, just leaving a thick layer of chips. (Maybe some day my yard will look like botann's.)


I got a huge (20x40') used industrial strength tarp. Laid it out. Covered it with a 6" layer of wood chips... I only did this so it didn't look like I have an industrial strength tarp in my yard. After a year, I brushed off the chips, pulled up the tarp, and spread a couple of inches of chips back over the naked soil. I moved the tarp over 20' and started over.

I do understand that this prevents gas exchange, water penetration and a host of other beneficial processes. The soil seems to recover and sustain whatever I plant right away. I will be re-using the same tarp for several years.

There. Beat me up.


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

I agree, pj and gg48. Drive down all those suburban streets and look at the manicured lawns and wood mulch, it must be a very small # of gardeners that ever bother to use newspaper to kill or mulch anything. I've cleared areas of turf by newspaper layers or by black plastic sheets (talk about your nasty disposal problems). Something I really like is thick plywood or old doors, they take a long time to break down. In one area most of the resulting beds are densely planted enough that now they are practically weed-free, but where some beds adjoin turf it seems inevitably grass starts to creep back into the beds in spite of mulches. I admire those who can maintain those neat groomed edges. (Collectors Nursery, I salute you!)

I'm trying to make a paradigm shift in my gardening. I foolishly planted big monoculture beds at one point of daylily obsession (hemerocallis ~ hemnancy) only to find they were vole food, then interplanted with irises and daffodils to make the beds more unpalatable, and roses, lilies, etc. for flowers, but these plants don't cover the ground well, being vertical, and I am finding after one bad year when I was gone for the whole month of June and the grasses went to seed, that I can no longer catch up with weeding, in spite of a lot of back-breaking work, or chip, afford to buy, or beg enough deep mulches, so next year I'm starting a program of planting native plants that will cover the ground, and make new sources of food, medicine, beneficial insect habitat, and nitrogen-fixation. I have some trepidations about what this will do to the vole population. Increased cover may cause them to have a population explosion. I'm looking for plants repellant to moles/voles.

The new paradigm I'm trying to approach is having a garden that actually maintains itself. The closer it is to a natural assemblage for this area, the more likely it will work. Botann's photo seems close to self-maintaining, I can't see all the work that went into creating and maintaining the natural woodsy look. But if there is a breakdown of food distribution, what part of that beauty can you eat?

My observation is that the present garden world pursues vegetables resulting from centuries of breeding, from all parts of the world, plants that need starting, growing, setting out, fertilizing, mulching, and watering EVERY year. The Native Americans utilized the plants that grew by themselves and were totally adapted, needing none of this yearly maintenance. I'm studying what plants these were, how they can fit into my yard, and how they can provide food even year round without all that work, and also bring beauty, bees, and butterflies into my garden. I may have some success or failure, but there is always something to be learned.

So I am going to gamble that densely planted beds trump mulches. One of my beds that succeeds has tree peonies, Helleborus orientalis, Ceanothus gloriosus 'Point Reyes', Hebe glaucophyllum, Nandina 'Bar Harbor', and some hardy Geraniums, as well as a few ephemeral species Tulips and Muscari. But nothing much to eat. Throw in some native plants with edible roots or leaves, and I could come closer to something sustainable.


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

You mustn't have deer.


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Sun, Nov 15, 09 at 17:06

Unrestricted access by deer = unable to garden seriously.


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

dottyid- I HAD deer problems to beat the band. I have welded wire fences around almost all of my growing beds (but not the one listed above). People think deer can jump any fence but if there is a small area and no place to land a 4-5' fence actually works. I created cheaper fences with wire stretched between t-posts with bamboo poles tied in at 1' or less intervals, then deer started jumping some of them after 2-3 years, or squeezing in, so I was constantly adding new bamboo poles and stringing higher wires, buying yet another 50 or 100' welded wire fence. Then presto, a neighbor moved into the house across the street with 3 killer German shepherds, who ripped into our duck run and killed our 2 remaining older ducks left from raccoon attacks, but also run off the deer. The owner put up a fence that doesn't contain them, has 2 strikes with animal control as they also attacked a dog. None of the kids down the street want to walk their dogs up here anymore. They try to get into our fortified chicken run and bunny hutch. But I can only report one nipped raspberry cane all summer. Anyway that could change at any time.

But not all native plants are eaten by deer. Some are unpalatable. Many of my perennials are unaffected, even some listed as edible. That's where the learning process comes in. I can go to an university and pay $100's to learn about gardening or I can try lots of different plants and learn. My list of 1000's of perennials I have planted here over 16 years has lots of casualties but the successes make up for it all.


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Sun, Nov 15, 09 at 22:31

Buying and planting out quantities of unprotected plants was probably not cheaper than taking a college course.

But all you have to do is buy and install effective fencing anyway. Peeler poles with plastic deer mesh worked fine to protect a small nursery I know of, some years ago. At the time the materials cost was about 300 dollars.


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

can i nit pick for a second?

it really depends on what culture you are talking about, but as a whole, native americans practiced all sorts of intensive agriculture. milpa agriculture extended all the way from modern mexico to new england. native americans produced some of the highest calorie counts per acre by intensively working the land.

some cultures had less intensive agriculture, some more.

additionally, lots of plants that native americans incorporated in their diet were slowly killing them. lots of carcinogenic and poisonous plants were eaten regularly.

they are human beings, not magical creatures.


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

eeldip- thanks for the input. I am interested more in the hunter/gatherer aspects of Native American (NA)culture than the agricultural aspects. Herbal and native plant nurseries sell seeds for plants I am researching. Most are on the Plants for a Future site that gives NA usages and information on toxicity. I am also seeking good books on the subject. Several native plants have high levels of Nicotine, etc. Like any herb you might want to use, it is wise to research toxicity and how to deal with it. Knowledge is power.

I think it is pathetic how little most people know about the power in the common weeds that grow in their yards (if they allow them to grow, that is) and how to use them. It is good to know, even if for a future emergency. But more important to me is to increase the diversity of the plants and herbs I consume, as each plant has a unique set of complicated chemicals it makes, and yet fits into a class of herbs with similar characteristics. If one plant in that group is not available, another one probably is. I have a Master's degree in biology and have been using and researching herbs for 30 years.:-) What is more "green" than having working knowledge of the plants around you and how to use them?


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deer

bboy- I'm dealing with 2 acres studded with many tall red cedars. To fence the whole thing 8' tall would be beyond our budget. (Let them eat cake...) Also the driveway and steep front bank are problems. I tried some "deer netting" in a new area this year, I could rip it with my fingers unlike bird netting I have bought. It is very hard to work with and around, a total waste of money as far my experience went. If it had not been a non-deer attack year I bet they would have found a way to deal with it. I fence only areas where I grow plants, and not all beds are even under attack. Deer are not responsible for any perennial plant losses thanks to my fenced beds. Rabbits and voles do much more damage to perennials. Some died out during that month of June when my non-gardening spouse failed to water them enough, some from not being well adapted to the wet winters here, not cold hardy enough, being set out in spring and then drying out when summer hit, or to vole damage, but I learned from each failure. I don't try to grow unsuccessful plants over and over, I stick with the ones that work. In spring my DIL says my yard is "Hobbit Land".:-)


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Mon, Nov 16, 09 at 21:54

The Salish encouraged and ate nettles in Island Co., WA. After Europeans introduced them to the potato, they took right to cultivating that.

Bucks with antlers were observed bouncing off the black plastic deer netting at the nursery, without the fencing being damaged. 10' high peeler poles with the netting stapled to it.

At what became the Seattle Rhododendron Society garden on Whidbey Island the Meerkerks grew vulnerable plants inside small fenced corrals, with rhododendrons and other non-menu kinds on the rest of the property.


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

"At what became the Seattle Rhododendron Society garden on Whidbey Island the Meerkerks grew vulnerable plants inside small fenced corrals, with rhododendrons and other non-menu kinds on the rest of the property."

Yes, this is what I do.:-) I also use many circles of welded wire fence around individual roses, which they love, or groups of blueberry bushes, etc. Welded wire lasts a long time and is tough and effective.


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

oh, back to sheet mulching.

walking around the neighborhood today i noticed two people who are sheet mulching their front lawns away. both of them failed to put enough heavy matter on top of their first cardboard layer. the november storms and high winds washed away and blew away most everything. couple sheets of cardboard got lift and blew over.

both of front lawns now look like they are just covered in garbage and yard debris. lots of exposed original grass.


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

I covered a new bed with a foot+ of arborist's chips two years ago. I make holes in the chips, add good soil and plant in the hole, just large plants. Yesterday, I wanted to put in a plant so I dug out the hole and it was totally dry 6 inches down! This despite the many inches of rain we have had in the last couple of weeks.


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Thu, Nov 19, 09 at 21:30

This is common here. Earth under some conifers may be dry most of the time. Hemlocks, for instance have thin bark plus wood beneath with little decay resistance - it is to their advantage, perhaps essential that their foliage deflect rain away from their root crowns.

I wonder if honey fungus might be more prevalent in gardens and other watered places than in nature as it is said to be vulnerable to drying of the soil.


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

mdvaden- Do you want to share a link to your website?

eeldip- I was pondering your comment about the NA eating carcinogenic and toxic native plants. Of course us 21st century enlightened and knowledgeable folks NEVER eat anything carcinogenic or toxic by mistake (or on purpose)... bacon triple cheeseburger with fries, anyone?


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

mmmmm... throw an egg on top of that... and some spam. and trade out the buns for two grilled cheese sammies.


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Fri, Nov 20, 09 at 21:24

My heart just exploded reading that.


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

here i am eating said burger:

Here is a link that might be useful: redonkadonk OMG burger from lunch box.


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

Wow, eeldip, you practice what you preach.

I'm trying to start some of my new seeds now. A couple of legumes, I tried to nick with a knife and soaked them in H2O2 (Hydrogen peroxide) until all of them swelled up. Now I'm waiting for them to sprout, in small bead ziplocks with wet paper towels. I also have some small seeds in a couple more ziplocks. I need to do cold stratification on some seeds but don't know if I need to have them in soil or if I could put them in ziplocks for the cold treatment. I like to actually be able to see the seeds sprout. I used this method this year on tomatoes and cucumbers and got great germination.


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

First, wanted to mention that I love that scene in Botann's photo. Really nice.

Also, Grrrnthumb wrote ...

"Mario, since you said that you just generously mulched instead of these methods, I'm wondering if you understand that these are a prescription to save from having to till new growing beds for initial first-time use?"

Pretty sure the answer is yes. In short, if soil needs to be turned over, it need to be turned over. So I don't mulch as a reason to avoid cultivation, but to topdress and condition soil that is in reasonable good condition.

For my own home garden, I actually double dig by hand first time through. The mulch afterward on top.

Work-wise, I encounter numerous yards that have plenty of surface compaction from years of mowing and foot traffic, and those are the kinds of yards where I find that just laying mulch alone or sheet mulching does little to remedy the compaction layer quick enough. It seems best corrected with hand tools or equipment.

Usually, if homeowners don't have standing water or mushy beds and lawns, its unlikely they have much of a surface compaction problem.


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Also ...

Oh ... forgot to mention ...

Always liked Obi Wan Kenobi from star wars, and have changed my user name in a couple of forums lately.


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Sun, Dec 6, 09 at 23:04

When we tried to take a soil core, the corer bent! We had 8-10" of wood chips
spread over the whole site as we began our work. A month later, we moved aside part of the mulch and
dug out a shovelful of rich, loamy soil. Had I not seen it for myself, I'm not sure I would have believed
these stunning results. The addition of the wood chips allowed the site to retain soil moisture and reduced
the constant impact from foot traffic, thus enabling the soil to regain its structure

Here is a link that might be useful: The Myth of Soil Amendments Part II


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

I agree with bboy. I used to do double digging, which is back-breaking labor, and I had to use a pick because my ground was full of rocks. (But here in the PNW I have NO rocks, therefore it is a mole and vole playground.) I would amend, but in short order the sun would bake all the organic matter out of the soil. But I started to notice where I had piled up a thick mulch the soil underneath would be rich, soft, and black.

Double digging disrupts the natural layers of soil bacteria and earthworms, as well.


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

I've laid thick mulch too, and seen similar results. But also know that double digging would have improved even better, espcially with the topdress after.

On that .pdf, I don't agree with the sand inclusion of 50% that it mentions, as that's pretty much a soil-waster. Sand is a filler. It would be like putting wood chips in bread. Takes space - that's about it. If done wrong, sand seals soil because the particles are hugely bigger than clay.

The bending of tools in hard soil is one I'd just have to see myself. I grew up with soil that was brick-like, but when covered with bark for a week, and moistened, allowed a sharpt shovel to cut like butter. So I'd need to know more specifics about the quote above. Moisture content, soil, time of year, and whether the tool was even sharpened.

Double digging is actually not back breaking. Half the work, if no rocks, can be removed by sharpening the shovel on a grinder or with an angle grinder. Literally. If anyone thinks its back breaking, maybe they can come over sometime and I'll show them how to hold the shovel. There is actually several ways to dig. Several times per year, I show people working with me, how to rotate the handle and thrust it a certain way to take effort and leaning out of tossing. They look at me funny at first when I bring it up, but then they find out afterward what I mean.

The soil horizons thing is pretty much an exception than the rule in an urban area like the Washington county suburbs here. If someone has property that's been sitting untouched for decades, that's one thing. But the horizon thing is not a big deal in half the yards here. You dig in an inch, and you see a clay type soil. Go 6 inches deep, pretty much the same. 6 inches deeper, still not much different. And with like 10,000 organisms per spoonful of soil, even if there are horizons, if the soil is turned, there will be so many billions of microorganisms near the surface, that increased population will happen in pretty short order.


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Tue, Dec 8, 09 at 18:28

The point of double digging is to bring the subsoil up and mix it with the topsoil. This is never a good idea. Even when there is a uniform-looking soil from near the surface to down quite deep, there will still be more air and biological activity close to the surface - unless you come along and double-dig, disrupt everything.


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

I may not agree with Bboy on the easiest way to start a new growing bed, but I do know that mulches are very powerful at removing soil compaction problems, whether they be just woodchips or part of a sheet-mulching method. In addition, it's debatable whether soil compaction is more of a perceived problem in residential garden beds (as witness the worldwide movement toward permaculture and no-til/no-dig gardening).
"Work-wise, I encounter numerous yards that have plenty of surface compaction from years of mowing and foot traffic, and those are the kinds of yards where I find that just laying mulch alone or sheet mulching does little to remedy the compaction layer quick enough."
Mario this is incorrect. There is plenty evidence to the contrary everywhere you look, including testimonials here, myself included. I think it's not really fair to make such broad pronouncements regarding methods you obviously don't have enough experience with. I still don't think you understand sheet mulching. There is no waiting for soil compaction to go away... it's planted, done, fixed in one day. Today. I've seen it succeed in old dirt and gravel driveways that were very heavily compacted by cars.
If it's done right you get a healthy vibrant growing bed with no digging. Your digging-method may be easier than how most of us dig, but it is certainly not easy. Digging is not fun to most people; why do it if it's not necessary?


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Tue, Dec 8, 09 at 21:30

If you want to plant the same day you can spread topsoil over the compacted ground and plant in that. As long as it is not a hole that will flood in winter, you can even plant in soil spread over asphalt.


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

  • Posted by botann z8 SEof Seattle (My Page) on
    Wed, Dec 9, 09 at 4:55

I enjoy spading and find it to be a stress reliever. The only shovel work I don't enjoy is ditch digging, especially when a pick is involved. Contouring with a shovel is a real joy to me. Rock work is fun too!
Different strokes for different folks.


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

bboy wrote ...

"The point of double digging is to bring the subsoil up and mix it with the topsoil. This is never a good idea. Even when there is a uniform-looking soil from near the surface to down quite deep, there will still be more air and biological activity close to the surface - unless you come along and double-dig, disrupt everything.

No - got that backwards compared to my style.

I double dig to get some composted material down into the soil, and imcrease the porosity of heavy soil. That way I don't ahve to guess whether there is sub-surface compaction either. We live in a previous farming area turned into city. Some properties have buried tillage pans that still remain to some extent.

So there are a myriad or reasons for double digging or not double digging. I'm not obligated to it, but keep it as an option. But no, the reason is not to bring the top to the surface, but to improve the bottom and the top.

grrrnthumb is incorrect ...

I don't follow a one size fits all style.

There may be evidence for what mulch can do, which I've written about already in my advice pages - you probably have not found it yet.

But I've been at hundreds of properties here where there was mulch, and compaction was NOT alleviated. So it can go either way. And the rate of improvement varies too.

So don't introduce only one side of evidence. There is proof that anything is possible in landscaping. Otherwise you remind me of people who say don't transplant is summer. Yet ... one time, I moved a 20' tall weeping giant sequoia across the entire Portland metro area east to west, BAREROOT in late June during 85 DEGREE weather. Why? Because it was that day, or the tree was into the compost heap. Not only did the tree make it, it was successfully taken and moved by another arborist 2 years later.

That's the high road of approaching landscaping without a one-shoe fits all philosophy.


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

I find it kind of ironic that in a post supposedly attempting to promote sustainability, the OP promotes double-digging, which has a well-earned reputation of being a non-sustainable gardening practice.

You can't have it both ways and pick and choose which 'sustainable' practice you wish to tout yet advocate non-sustainble practices equally. No till gardening has a very large and successful following and sheet mulching/lasagna gardening is a large part of it.

btw, double digging, or tilling of any kind is just as likely to result in the eventual soil compaction you are trying to correct as one is impacting the natural settling of the soil, disturbing the natural cohesion of soil particles and working/walking on the soil.

If you really want a rapid, sustainable method of loosening heavy, compacted soil, plant a cover crop with a penetrating root system. Perhaps not so appropriate for ornamental beds with permanent plantings but it can certainly be done prior to any planting and it is a recommended method for any fallow area, like a veggie garden in winter.


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Thu, Dec 10, 09 at 12:44

Arguments about horticultural methodology often come down to differing ideas about how much departure from natural models and systems can be made. Traditionalists tend to have bought into manipulation of circumstances that may run quite counter to how plants and planting environments actually work. Innovation in this area is often merely discovery and recognition of these facts, rather than coming up with more ways to mess with things.

Undisturbed soil systems consist of litter falling on top of the ground, where it is processed on and near the surface by soil organisms. These are concentrated near the surface, because that is where the air is. Finer soil particles move down into deeper soil layers over time, making the upper layers more favorable for soil life by increasing the amount of air the topmost layer can contain.

Laying on of different material in solid, unnatural cake- or lasagna-like layers, or flipping the topsoil over and mixing it with the subsoil are examples of departures from/disruptions of the established, functioning natural condition.

Kinds of trees vary widely in how much exposure to air their roots will tolerate without visible ill effect. One study using a representative sampling of several different popular species of dormant bare-rooted deciduous shade trees found widely- and evenly dispersed range of responses, from littleleaf linden apparently being able to sit out of the ground for months without impairment to American sweetgum being bothered by the minimum interval of exposure tested. An ash species fell in about the middle.


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

"...been at hundreds of properties here where there was mulch, and compaction was NOT alleviated."
Mario, c'mon, this is getting a little unbelievable. They were already mulched, so they're beds, not lawn. How did they get compacted so badly? Rouge rabbits trampling them down? ;) Hundreds??
I don't think you're understanding compaction either. Average basic residential surface compaction, to the point where it is no longer light & fluffy... is not "Compaction". Even heavy-traffic turf compaction is far, far different from the agricultural compaction that can contribute to reduced yields. By definition, compaction is itself not a problem, only what it is percieved to lead to. There is a an assumption that it is the same as in commercial agriculture, or that the needs of turf are the same for growing beds.
That is at the very core of why the world-wide movement for no-till gardening is taking off, not because they're lazy, but because they found that fluffy, turned growing beds do not increase fertility for residential gardeners.


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

Bboy, I'm not a big fan of Lasagna gardening myself, I prefer to use finished compost as part of sheet mulching, but I'm curious about you calling it "unnatural". I assume that in that context it means you think it inferior to cedar-chip mulch, which I think you may have referred to before as more natural?
I'm not understanding why adding one thick 12" artificial layer of material is much different than doing it in 3 or 4 layers that will all be meshed together in about a year anyway? Even if we did find that one was "natural", then is that better somehow?


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Thu, Dec 10, 09 at 21:24

I'm talking about alternating layers, where something like soil or paper might be on top of other things like leaves that should not be underneath those. Litter under soil in particular is upside down.

>I'm not understanding why adding one thick 12" artificial layer of material is much different than doing it in 3 or 4 layers that will all be meshed together in about a year anyway?<

So then why bother making multiple layers?


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

Alternating layers is the lasagna garding method, but I don't know if soil above litter is really a common version of that method. I think they usually do alternating layers of carbon & nitrogen, usually with a newspaper weed barrier on the bottom that melts away when it is no longer needed.

My point about a lack of difference between methods was not that they are fully equal, but that both are equally "unnatural", and you can't really say that one is better because of such a vague reason.
I guess one reason they use multiple layers is that those materials are what they already have on-site, and it becomes a circular, sustainable re-use practice. Another reason is that it results in higher organics/nitrogen than wood chips, which does benefit most growing beds.


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

The arborist's chips I have gotten always came full of shredded leaves and/or needles which begin to break down immediately. There's plenty of nitrogen/organics.

As for mulched beds that have not loosened up, what were they mulched with? Bark? Bark is naturally imbued with a waxy substance to protect the tree from moisture. It's suberized. It never really breaks down, and incorporates into the soil because of the suberization. Eventually, it breaks down into waxy, little fibers that form a crust on top of the soil.


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

gardengal wrote ...

"I find it kind of ironic that in a post supposedly attempting to promote sustainability, the OP promotes double-digging, which has a well-earned reputation of being a non-sustainable gardening practice.

You can't have it both ways and pick and choose which 'sustainable' practice you wish to tout yet advocate non-sustainble practices equally. No till gardening has a very large and successful following and sheet mulching/lasagna gardening is a large part of it.

What you wrote is myth-busted.

We can promote whatever works at the time - any of seveal methods.

In compacted urban soil, I've double dug wiht proven results. Other properties I was at, got up to 40 truckloads of chips and compost, with no digging at all.

Just depends on the soil and the property. Sorry, but I can't allow myself to get restricted to your philosophy.

Even like the sheet mulching. I promote two sides to it. If someone is in an area where recycling is not available, then laying the layers for sheet mulching are a good option. Just as I've written in my advice pages, and just as I post on garden forums.

So if you "find" something ironic, you did not really "find" yet.


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Different methods can all be promoted when needed

hellerlake wrote ...

"The arborist's chips I have gotten always came full of shredded leaves and/or needles which begin to break down immediately. There's plenty of nitrogen/organics.

As for mulched beds that have not loosened up, what were they mulched with? Bark? Bark is naturally imbued with a waxy substance to protect the tree from moisture. It's suberized. It never really breaks down, and incorporates into the soil because of the suberization. Eventually, it breaks down into waxy, little fibers that form a crust on top of the soil. "

An arborist friend once had a 25' tall birch tree-spade moved to his front yard. To start, the hole was half where the lawn was, and half in shrub bed that was never rototilled - same soil to start - but had a barkdust layer maintained for at least 10 years. The half circle in the lawn when dug, was pretty much unchanged. But old bark had decomposed enough to improve the bed soil. Down to 12" depth it was darkened some, and crumbled.

It was handy to have seen the side-by-side comparison where the soil history was known, to see the change on the bark side, versus the lawn compacted by mower tires and bag weight side.

Sometimes I've applied both. The last home in south Oregon, I put down about 8 truck loads of the chipped tree branches first, then laid barkdust on top for a more groomed look.

20 years ago, when we got about 30 big truckloads at my mother's 2nd acre in Beaverton, the wood chips with plenty of branch wood broke down pretty quick, which was nice.

Thought it may be worth adding ...

One golf course superintendent I worked under at Columbia Edgewater Country club in Portland, some year back, used to add fine barkdust to the sand for some of the new greens. It was because they decomposed - but decomposed slowly. The new greens were about 3% to 5% bark and the rest sand. His education was in agronomy. From what I've seen since then, the method makes sense.


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

My garden soil is very sandy. What it needs is organic matter, hence the loads of arborist's chips.


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

Myth-busted how? And by whom?

I'm sorry but your defense of these ill-thought out concepts is weak at best. And the evidence of that is the quick backtracking you undertake to assure us that you can "promote whatever works". Well, what is it to be......sustainable or non-sustainable practices? Sorry, but I can't allow myself to get restricted to your philosophy, especially when it makes no sense and gets fine-tuned as necessary to fit your situation.

So if you "find" something ironic, you did not really "find" yet. WTF is that supposed to mean?


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

To help folks avoid getting side-tracked with merely one form of soil improvement, like decompaction, here is one statement to keep in mind, from a recent university publication:

"MORE RESEARCH is needed to further substantiate the benefits of cover crops for soil compaction alleviation and to enable better recommendations for cover crop selection and management for this purpose.

There are several methods for improving soil. Almost all them will be described in articles or journals with words like "may" indicating the possibility of being insufficient.

So remain open to several options of soil care.


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

Think about how much energy is in a sheet of newspaper:
1-Chainsaw to cut the tree, 2-haul the tree to the trucks, 3-truck the trees to the mill, 4-make paper from trees, 5-haul the paper rolls to the newspaper printer, 6-load the giant rolls into the printing machine, 7-print the newspaper, 8-deliver the newspaper to the reader.

Once the newspaper gets to my home, I prefer to use it locally as compost and not keep moving it around the world.


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

This Winter, I did my first layer mulching/composting in the garden.
I wasn't thinking "green" at all (though this has been an interesting discussion).
My goal was to renew the garden plot without tilling the earth and disrupting the
structure built by the soil biota.

First, I called the Auburn Journal to find out if their inks were soy-based...which they are.
Then I lightly leveled the plot (where I'm growing my hot peppers) and laid down five layers
of newspaper. I wet the paper down, then evenly spread some Fir bark to hold the paper in
place and to obscure the surface. Throughout the Winter, I added oak leaves, alfalfa pellets,
and even some composted manure. I also poked holes in the newspaper with a pitch-fork.

The paper is almost completely broken down now, and I think I'll have even better results
if I begin the process earlier this Winter.


Josh


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

  • Posted by botann z8 SEof Seattle (My Page) on
    Sun, May 15, 11 at 19:56

A problem I see with lasagna gardening is the smooth interface between the different layers. It slows things down. By putting holes in the newspaper Josh, you really helped the decomposition along. Air, water, and worms can move more freely between the different layers now. Good idea!
Mike


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RE: Sheet mulching / Lasagna gardening is Anti-Green Living

I've been following this conversation with interest. Came across a blog post today on the subject.

The author, a landscape architect/gardener, explains why no dig methods may not work on heavily compacted soils and advocates double digging in those circumstances.

Thoughts?

K.

Here is a link that might be useful: To Dig or Not to Dig


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sheet mulching problem

Help! Used sheet mulching method to kill the lawn for a drought tolerant yard. But apparently the straw we used as mulch is sprouting seeds through the hummus & bark chips we put over it. Can anything be done to stop the endless HOURS of weeding we've been doing? Thanks for any help.


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