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Sheet mulching: adding topsoil  RSS feed

 
Adam Alfredsson
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Dear permies,

I'm just starting to experiment with my own gardening projects, but I'm lacking prior experience and would like to ventilate my ideas so that my garden doesn't end up in disaster!

I'd like to make raised beds using sheet-mulching. I have plenty of newspaper, horse manure and hay to my disposal. However, I don't have any compost. Can I use normal topsoil instead? My idea is to dig up soil from the paths between the beds and add on top of the newspaper/manure/hay, and then directly sow the seeds. My concern is that weeds may infest the whole bed and make a mess. The paths will then be filled with rotten wood, branches, manure and hay in hugelkultur fashion, to supply the surrounding beds with longterm nutrition.

I'd like to ask for feedback and advice if there is a better way to do it!

Thank you very much!
/Adam
 
Tyler Ludens
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Yes, that's pretty much how I made my garden, except I dug soil from the beds themselves and replaced it with various organic materials including logs, and then put the sifted soil on top. Yes, there may be a lot of weeds the first year, which you can pull from around the young vegetables and mulch over them later when the vegetables are large enough. Many common weeds are edible, so try to learn to identify any that are, and then you can call it "harvesting" instead of "weeding" when you pull them out.
 
Marco Banks
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A couple of thoughts:


If you've got plenty of newspaper, manure and spoiled hay, you have everything you need for compost in 21 days. Shred it, mix it up, wet it down and turn it every three days . . . and you'll have compost. Any other organic material you have laying around (egg shells, coffee grounds and filters, leaves, spoiled children) can go into the pile as well.

Second, yes, a bit of regular top soil added to the mix is very good. You need a bit of soil to inoculate the layers of your sheet mulch with bacteria and micro-organisms. Just sprinkle a bit of soil as you build the mulch will jump start the microbial activity.

Finally, any weeds that do sprout will be easily pulled if your mulch is a couple of inches thick. A heavy mulch layer will very quickly soften the soil below, making weeds easy to pull. The weeds then become another layer on your mulch.

I'm learning to leave those weeds in for a few weeks until they are just about ready to go to seed. THEN I pull them (or cut them off at the surface of the soil). This does a couple of things. It creates additional bio-mass for your mulch layer. It provides a bit of shade for young seedlings. It allows the roots of the weeds to pump exudates into the soil, feeding the microbial community. And because many weeds have a strong tap root, they are dynamic accumulators, bringing important nutrients to the surface from deep down in the soil. It takes a bit of getting used to, but leaving a weed growing in a veggie bed is often a good thing, as long as it's not so close to another plant where it's competing or will cause disruption when you pull it.
 
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