How to Sheet Mulch: A Comprehensive Guide

If the world of sustainable gardening intrigues you, then the art of sheet mulching might hold the key to unlocking your garden’s true potential. If you’re just getting started with sheet mulching, you probably have a ton of questions about how to get started and what you should expect. In this guide, we’re here to address these challenges head-on. Whether you’re a seasoned expert looking to revisit this topic or just dipping your toes into an exciting new thing, our goal is to provide you with a clear set of instructions and guidelines that will help you succeed.

What Is Sheet Mulching?

Sheet mulching is a sustainable gardening technique that aims to prepare your soil in the Fall for planting in the Spring as well as get rid of problematic weeds. It involves layering organic materials, like compost, cardboard, and mulch directly onto the soil, creating a natural, weed-suppressing barrier. As the organic materials break down, they enrich the soil improving soil quality while fostering a healthier ecosystem for plant growth. Watch Sheet Mulch Your Way to a Regenerative Garden.

How to Sheet Mulch Step by Step

Before getting started with sheet mulching, you will need to prepare the following materials:

Sheet mulch - Lyngso

Step 1: Knock down the weeds by mowing, pulling a 2×4 over them, or stomping. No need to pull the roots out, it is actually better to leave the roots in place. If you have perennial weeds like dock or French Broom, cut off the stem below the crown of the plant.

Step 2: Apply ½” of Organic Green Waste Garden Compost, or Diestel Compost (your choice) You will also need to dampen each layer as you go.

Step 3: Apply a layer of cardboard (without any tape or plastic), 8 sheets of newspaper (black & white only), or 1 layer recycled building paper and overlap all edges at least 4″. Again, you need to wet this layer so the paper or cardboard becomes pliable.

Step 4: Apply another ½” of compost (your choice) on top of the cardboard or paper. Make sure this second layer of compost covers the layer of paper/cardboard. Make sure this layer of compost is damp as well.

Step 5: Apply atleast 3″ of mulch on top. A woody mulch is best to use like Wood Chips, Premium Arbor Mulch or Fir Bark. Leaves will work, but they need to be piled much higher.

Steps to Follow When Spring Comes

When spring comes, you should find the cardboard, newspaper, or builders paper decomposed and probably completely gone. The native soil underneath should be open and easy to plant in. You will find as you go through summer that the areas where you have sheet mulched will retain moisture better and need less supplemental irrigation.

Plant in the sheet mulched area by pulling aside the mulch, make the planting hole, plant, and putting the mulch back up to within 4″-6″ of the plant. Take care to keep the mulch away from the base off all plants.

Is Sheet Mulching Effective Against All Weeds?

There are a few weeds that are not affected by sheet mulching. They are bindweed, oxalis, ivy, and blackberry. Ivy and blackberry can be hand pulled; this is an ongoing process over a couple of years. Oxalis will be weakened by the sheet mulching but still come up, over time if you keep a mulch on the soil the oxalis will die. Bindweed is a real challenge, the most effective way to get rid of bindweed is to remove it by hand and plant the area with perennials, as the young plants grow in they will out-compete the bindweed. The roots of bindweed are numerous and go down more than 3′ deep, the good news is that once your plants get established, the bindweed weakens and eventually goes away. Ivy needs to be suffocated out the same way.

Final Thoughts

Sheet mulching offers a simple yet powerful way to nurture your soil, reduce waste, and foster a vibrant, sustainable garden. For more information on Sheet Mulching, watch Lyngso’s class Sheet Mulch Your Way to a Regenerative Garden. With a wide range of tools and materials to choose from, Lyngso has everything you need to get started with your sheet mulching project. Visit our Display Garden and landscaping yard in San Carlos for inspiration and guidance, and contact us today to learn about delivery options for your SF Bay area home.