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Cover crops for sheet mulch after lawn elimination...

 
Posts: 69
Location: Montana
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What to plant over sheet mulch? That odd question deserves a few details...

I'm in a temporary location, for another 1-4 years. The landlord says I can do anything with the yard. It's currently grass and weeds yielding no value and costing time & energy it doesn't deserve. I'd like to contribute to a little less lawn and a little more productive ground in the world. However, I won't take this on all at once.

I'm about to plant a whole bunch of wicking beds for growing food, and some of these are quite large. Buying compost by the bag is prohibitive in this quantity. Instead I'll buy bulk at $20/yd delivered with a $100 minimum. I don't need 5 yards but I'm paying for it so I'll take delivery. Extra compost? Ha! I'll use the extra, with a bit of furniture store cardboard, to sheet mulch a chunk of the lawn right out of the sunniest part. This moves toward my eventual lawn free desires, and adds productive space. Win!

As sheet mulch will eliminate the grass (and the dandelions and mullein that hint at a compaction problem)... I need to plant something immediately. It's tempting to go wild and plant the whole space in squash, cucumbers, melons, tomatoes, pumpkins, etc... but since this is side yard on a corner lot in a somewhat suburban neighborhood... and since I'd like to retain the landlord's open minded attitude... I feel the need to plant at least A. something that covers the ground more than just annually, and B. some perennial bushes that make it look like intentional landscaping even if they are food.


Whatever I do could easily expand and I'd happily consume all the lawn, but not until I prove to myself I can make it look decent and keep the landlord and neighbors happy. (No major neighbor or HOA issues now, just want to keep it that way, and perhaps give them free food from the side yard to promote the relationship.) I can grow things, but I'm not so sure of my skills in beautiful landscape design... and with 5 yards of compost ordered to arrive Friday night it's time for a simple planting plan and seed order now.

This is zone 5b (-15 to -10F) though we got below -20 briefly this year. I'm near and slightly east of Missoula MT. I'm sure I'll try some raspberries and currants. I'll save blueberries for the wicking beds where I can control ph. I may also buy a few of whatever fruit trees go on closeout at the home stores soon. But I definitely need to figure out what perennial or self-reseeding annuals should be there for a ground cover or cover crop so I'm not leaving bare soil after sheet mulching.

What would you plant? All suggestions welcome! Success = less lawn, more food, and happy neighbors. Smashing success = neighbors copying the pattern.

 
gardener
Posts: 950
Location: Galicia, Spain zone 9a
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Ashley - exciting project. I'm a cardboard fan myself for mulching. We are trying to reclaim some very tired pasture for food growing so I will watch with interest. May I suggest you move some dandelion and mullein plplants before  covering? They are both so useful. Good luck!
 
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Location: Longbranch, WA
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I have always wanted to try the red amaranth. https://seedcorner.com/amaranthus-red-spike-amaranthus-cruentus-seeds/
 
Posts: 9
Location: Southern NH, zone 5a(ish)
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I like white clover as a cover crop, especially as a lawn replacement.  It's low growing and attractive, fixes nitrogen, and can serve as a living mulch if you want to plant something right into it.  :)
 
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