Toby Hemenway wrote that "the sheet-mulched bed won’t reach maximum fertility for a year or two."
I understand that starting the process of ecological succession and seeing into fruition requires time and patience, but my particular lifestyle doesn't pair well with that: I like to wander from place to place, so on average I only have about a year to start and grow gardens at temporary homes.
Is there any way I could go about speeding up the sheet mulching process so that I can reap its benefits in the small timespan that I stay with it?
If I were staying for shorter durations, I would just compost, but I feel like a year-ish is a middle ground, and so I hope to reach a slightly more permanent solution that I can take with me wherever I go (while leaving behind growing ecosystems).
Any advice on how to be able to have a fruitful garden in a short amount of time?
I do not believe sheet mulching will work for what you have described. At least you won't see the greatest benefits from it. Were it I, I would look into hot compost methods that can produce material in 30 or so days. That would be a means of getting good compost quickly and be able to benefit from it in the short time spans you have described.
Not all those who wander are lost - J. R. R. Tolkien
I bury organic material in pits or trenches, and plant in a few inches of soil over the top. By the time the roots get down to the material it has been largely decayed by bacteria, worms, etc. If on the surface it would tend to sit there longer. So I would do both if you have enough material - bury some and use some as surface mulch.
I think your triple layer idea, or something similar is good,
I do something similar to you and end up gardening in a new place each year. I still mulch!!! I am not sure how much extra fertility I get from it, but it keeps the weeds way down and the soil moist, so mY labour goes down, and I get more/ better produce. I have used hay, straw, wood chips and, best of all, mushroom compost from a free pile outside a factory (still hot, mix of manure and straw = no weeds and extra fertility and pre inoculated with fungi).
This year, my best zucchini by far were from an area where I put a bag of topsoil down before covering with woodchips... someone has asked if I am worried that squash plant will eat the house, the other plants are tiny wimpy things just working in their first squash now.
Pee on it. That will do the trick. Make sure you do that before you plant. If you're preparing the bed now for next year, perfect. Save all your pee and every day pour it over a new section.
Also definitely do the trench composting thing with all your food scraps. I also partially bury my mulch under topsoil, compost, aged manure, biochar, or whatever else you have available. By burying it you speed up the decomposition process. Important thing is to have a large amount of nitrogen (such as pee) to break it down. Then mulch again on top to get the weed control aspect.
Right over the top of everything, or under the last layer of mulch. If you get rain, it will all end up throughout the layers anyhow. If you don't want the top layer of mulch to break down so much, put it under that.
I wonder if the perfect is the enemy of the good, here.
Building a well mulched garden bed with some basic soil amendments will provide everything you need to grow a garden. That same bed will be better the year after, and the year after that, etc, but that doesn't mean it won't work well year 1.
Geoff explains a bit about that towards the end of this video
"The highest function of ecology is the understanding of consequences."
"Cultivate gratitude; hand out seed packets"
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