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Sheet Mulching

Soil Quality

Sheet mulching is a great way to prepare your soil in the Fall for planting in the Spring.  It is a good way to get rid of lawn or weedy area and sheet mulching will smother annual weed seeds

Material Needed:

  • Compost
  • Cardboard, Newspaper (at least 8 sheets thick) or rolled recycled weed block paper.
  • Water
  • Mulch

  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 of the stem below the crown of the plant.

  2. Apply ½” of Garden Compost, Vermi Green Compost or Diestel Compost (your choice) You will also need to wet each layer as you go.

  3. Apply a layer of cardboard, 8 sheets of newspaper (black & white only) or recycled building paper and overlap all edges at least 4″. Again, you need to wet this layer as well.

  4. Apply another ½” of compost. (Your choice) and wet it.

  5. Apply 3″ of mulch. A woody mulch is best to use like Wood chips, Arbor Mulch or Fir Bark. Leaves will work but they need to be piled higher.

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 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, taper the mulch back up to within 4″-6″ of the plant. Take care to keep the mulch away from the base off all plants.

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 on going 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 I have found to get rid of bindweed is to remove by hand, plant the area in 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 once your plants get established the bindweed weakens and eventually goes away.