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is it realistic for sheet mulching to decompose in one season?

 
steward
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I am just wondering, I am wanting to do sheet mulching for my backyard with compost, newspaper, wood chips, more compost. But I am not sure if it would be ready to plant next spring if I did it now and let it rest over the "winter" (I live in northern california).

Anyone know?
 
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I would check with your local master gardeners group. Someone in that group has likely done a similar mulch in your area.
 
Cassie Langstraat
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how do i find this said group? i just did a quick google search and didn't really find anything..
 
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http://ucanr.edu/sites/scmg/

That's master gardeners for Sonoma County. Can't remember of you're Napa or Sonoma.
 
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yes, actually i think that is the ideal.
build the bed now, let it weather for 3-6 months, and then plant it in spring.
i am usually a bit impatient and build it and plant it within a month. but when i do build them slowly usually that works out better, plus i usually find i have to re do a segment or fiddle with it some, which is so much easier before there are plants in there.

new sheet mulch can be tough on small seedlings, easier for mature plants to adapt to it, and takes a while to really gel.

you could also plant a winter crop of something, something you arent neccessarily growing for your own use but just to have some green manure to chop and drop once you are ready to plant in the spring.
in northern california we can do a lot of winter gardening, especially where you are at, brassicas, kale, peas, potatoes garlic and onions... and greens, arugula and lettuce all do ok in the winter.
 
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Moisture is key! Water it well as you're building it. You can soak the wood chips and newspaper before putting them down. A dry sheet mulch like you describe will not decompose much, but if it stays moist it will be great.
 
alex Keenan
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You could cheat and use things that decay faster like organic burlap coffee bags, mushroom compost (already decayed) , Leaf mold compost, etc.
You can also purchase oyster mushroom spore and get free bags of coffee grounds. Just open bag and add some spore and leave bag to form a nice fungus for use in spring.
 
Matu Collins
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Also, if I were you, I'd put the wood chips on top. They make a good mulch but not a great compost mix-in.
 
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It can happen.
Built as more of a compost heap than unmixed layers there would be a better environment for microbes and critters. If the sheet/heap is higher in green materials (a CN ratio of 20-1 to 25-1, the bacteria will take off. A cover of woodchips or hay would retain moisture as well as absorb less favorable odors from the higher N blend. A long season will help things out.

 
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Cassie,

Since your list states compost, newspapers, and wood chips, the wood chips will not compost in a year but will add biomass. Why are you doing a sheetmulch? What are you trying to accomplish?
 
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My five month old, fall prepared sheet mulch beds did a lot better then fresh spring prepared ones. But, I should add that they were not "composted" and did not look like black soil, just weathered wood chips, etc. They still grew great.
 
Cassie Langstraat
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leila hamaya wrote:yes, actually i think that is the ideal.
build the bed now, let it weather for 3-6 months, and then plant it in spring.
i am usually a bit impatient and build it and plant it within a month. but when i do build them slowly usually that works out better, plus i usually find i have to re do a segment or fiddle with it some, which is so much easier before there are plants in there.



Okay this is good to know, that you have done it and planted within a month and it still is sort of fine. I just wanted to make sure it would be ready to plant in by the spring!


in northern california we can do a lot of winter gardening, especially where you are at, brassicas, kale, peas, potatoes garlic and onions... and greens, arugula and lettuce all do ok in the winter.



Yeah the problem is, my soil in my backyard is really compacted and has tons of weird grasses and weeds so I sort of just want to be lazy and just sheet mulch it.
 
Cassie Langstraat
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alex Keenan wrote:You could cheat and use things that decay faster like organic burlap coffee bags, mushroom compost (already decayed) , Leaf mold compost, etc.
You can also purchase oyster mushroom spore and get free bags of coffee grounds. Just open bag and add some spore and leave bag to form a nice fungus for use in spring.



I am SO not familiar with fungi so I actually don't even know what spore it.. But for the coffee bags, where would I get those? I didn't know there was such thing as mushroom compost. Is that something readily available at the garden store? Where would I get free coffee grounds? Most people I know would not be parting with their coffee so easily.
 
Cassie Langstraat
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Matu Collins wrote:Also, if I were you, I'd put the wood chips on top. They make a good mulch but not a great compost mix-in.



Good to know. Yeah I think the person I got this sheet mulch recipe is a fungi guy so he put the wood chips in the middle so he could do fungi in there, I thiiiink. Not entirely sure.
 
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I have picked up about 2 1/2 tons of free coffee grounds this year. Most came from Starbucks but lots of places will give you giant bags of it.

I'm using lots of hedge clippings as mulch. They will cover the soil until spring. Just before planting, I'll rake it all up and most leaves will fall off. After a little shake, the pile is mostly little sticks. All of the rotted leaves and bark will be evenly broadcast and planted in. The sticks become pathway mulch, since foot traffic breaks them down. New mulch will be placed between the plants after the soil warms up. This is important in cold weather areas. Too much spring mulch can delay spring warm up.
 
Mountain Krauss
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Almost any place that makes coffee will be happy to give you their used coffee grounds. And most of the acidity goes into the liquid coffee, so the used grounds are only slightly acidic. And they add moisture to the soil, and we need all of that we can get.
 
Cassie Langstraat
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Okay so am I just adding coffee grounds in wherever? Or am I specifically putting them in a certain layer?
 
Dale Hodgins
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Dump coffee anywhere. I use the filters to suppress difficult weeds. The granular nature ensures that it reaches the soil with rain. Worms and other critters have hauled most of mine away.
 
Cassie Langstraat
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Okay! Thank you so much everyone! I am getting excited to do this!
 
Dale Hodgins
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The best basking spots for snakes and lizards in my garden are south facing patches of ground that are covered with coffee waste. It heats early in the day since it has little thermal mass. I lay a few snake shaped sticks on it. Birds are less likely to eat the snakes when there are decoys. The snakes often lay on the sticks and give the appearance of being part of it. Mulch is a great spot for predators to hide. My garden at the farm is within 100 ft. of a skunk cabbage bog. I have no slug problems. The surrounding forest is filled with slugs. I've been burying meat and bone scraps under the mulch in the hope of luring rodents to visit my snakes. No problems so far.
 
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