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Sheet Mulching Progress - Looking for some perspective

 
Jp Learn
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Howdy,
I'm hoping to get some input on the progress of some sheet mulching I put down. If anyone can provide some experienced perspective, I'd be much obliged.

Here's the info on what I did basically in the fall and winter of 2012. Tested my soil and it came back with the results here:


Sourced horse manure from a local stable that had been composted for various lengths of time. First time, it was nuggety and newly fresh. Subsequent batches of manure I dug from where I was told was the oldest part of the pile. There were lots of worms, steam coming off of it and such.

I put down the sheet mulch in 3 sections, but each time I did a section I finished the layering completely for that area. The first section was done November 12, 2012. Two weeks later I did another section. Then I did a final area around December 8th.

I thoroughly wet each of the layers as I put it down and the last time I did it, I soaked the cardboard and straw in a basin overnight. My layers were

TOP
2-4" mulched leaves
1" manure
4-6" straw
1" manure
layer of cardboard
1" manure
chop & drop greens
BOTTOM

Sometimes, when I had picked up spent vegetable juice pulp I added about 10-20 lbs of it between the middle layer of manure and the layer of straw.

So, when digging into the sheet mulching today, February 27, I took some video and have some concerns about the progress on its composting.


I'm wondering the following:
1) Should I just be more patient and give it more time to compost before spring?
2) If there should be more progress in composting at this point, if I've done it properly?
3) If I can dig holes thru the layers of sheetmulch, adding compost to plant seedlings into it for now?
4) If the composted manure may have contained wood shavings in the bedding that I didn't account for and if it's going to take a couple of years to break down, perhaps?
5) If adding something like Bio-toneĀ® Starter Plus 4-3-3 (Endo & Ecto Mycorrhizae) would help get things moving along once I get some plants in there or other some ideas?

Hoping I didn't flub this! Any advice is greatly appreciated.

Thanks so much!
 
Matt Saager
Posts: 48
Location: Oregon - Willamette Valley
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From your description and looking at the video, your sheet mulch looks great.
Looks like you did everything "the right way".
In short... just be patient, it's should work great.

1) Should I just be more patient and give it more time to compost before spring?
- yes be patient, it will continue to break down
- go ahead and plant in it this year, maybe use a couple handfuls of compost if you're starting seeds
- continue to mulch over the top throughout the summer
- by fall/winter it should be looking great, and by next spring it should be dark rich soil
2) If there should be more progress in composting at this point, if I've done it properly?
- I don't see anything more you could have done
3) If I can dig holes thru the layers of sheetmulch, adding compost to plant seedlings into it for now?
- for new sheet mulch, I generally just use a spade to scrape a small hole in the mulch, add some compost and plant my seedlings
4) If the composted manure may have contained wood shavings in the bedding that I didn't account for and if it's going to take a couple of years to break down, perhaps?
- the manure looked fine... yes there was some shavings, it will break down
5) If adding something like Bio-toneĀ® Starter Plus 4-3-3 (Endo & Ecto Mycorrhizae) would help get things moving along once I get some plants in there or other some ideas?
- don't bother adding anything more, you have a great sheet mulch

To give you some perspective.... my sheet mulch bed last year was:
(top)
1" - 2" compost
2" - 4" grass hay
4" - 6" leaves
1" - 2" poultry bedding, grass hay + chicken manure
1/4" newspapers
(bottom)

Those were the ingredients I had on hand, so that's what I used.
It took a bit longer, but it worked great.
This year, the bed is looking spectacular.
 
Jp Learn
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Thanks very much for the input and for sharing your experience, Matt. I appreciate you taking the time for the thoughtful reply.
 
Miles Flansburg
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JP, Looks great to me, when you open up the pile do you feel any heat?
 
Jp Learn
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Wyomiles Hogan wrote:JP, Looks great to me, when you open up the pile do you feel any heat?


I'd have to check again but nothing much too significant, I don't think.
 
Miles Flansburg
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Ya I think you will just have to wait for nature to do it's thing.
 
Jp Learn
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Hmm - Matt (or someone else) - with the bed setup that way, I know you said if I want to plant into it, I just need to throw in a couple shovelfuls of dirt - but I'm wondering is that really gonna be enough and are things like tomatoes, tomatillos, ground cherries, etc going to develop health root structures and thrive by growing from the added compost into layers of

mulched leaves
manure
straw
manure
layer of cardboard
manure
chop & drop greens

?

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