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Sheet mulching to start new beads

 
Tim Canton
Posts: 175
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Hello all,
Planning new veggie beds...
I have used sheet mulching several times in the past with super results.  I mainly have a question about my available organic matter.  I am trying to use only matter available on my land or from close by.  The things I have are    beginning to rot hay, horse manure mixed with saw dust and some mixed with straw , leaves,  about 3 yards of some commercial mulch left by the old owner and a huge pile of wood chips.  I also have an acre and a half of woods so sticks etc are available but would need to be collected.

I have never used horse manure before because I always had easy access to llama manure but now my neighbors have horses soooo.

Any suggestions on the combination?  amounts?    I am putting down cardboard over the grass first.    Also what about the wood chips?  They are fresh.    will i have issues with nitrogen def. if I use them?  even with the manure?    If i cant use the chips  I am gonna use them to line the paths anyway so that not a big deal.


Are black walnut chips in small amounts an issue in the mix?  I have a pile with some and a pile without.


Ok so throw out any ideas or thoughts you have .  Thanks as always









 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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go to the posts on black walnut and read what will grow in beds near them, and make your decision on the walnut chips..myself I doubt if i would use them for the beds but they would be ok in paths away from the food crops.

otherwise it sounds like you have some lovely materials to build your beds from
 
Tim Canton
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I pretty much figured i should stay away from the BW in the beds.     What do you think about the chips without the BW in the beds?   It seems like there is some mixed feelings on chips but does it mainly become if issue if they are tilled in?[sup][/sup]
 
Travis Philp
gardener
Posts: 965
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
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I agree with using the black walnut on the paths if anywhere, though I wonder if the leachate from them will significantly affect crops in beds adjacent to the paths...

As for the sheet mulch. I've tried a few different combo's with similar materials as you're listing. I've also found that the difference between using cardboard and not, is not significant in terms of weed growth in one compared to the other. I've made beds without cardboard on top of mature switch grass, and it was about 8-10 weeks before any grass came through, and it was a small bit here and there. Easily weeded. The other benefit to not using cardboard is that you don't have to go right down to the cardboard to cut through it in order to allow seedling roots to penetrate.

Here's my combination recommendation, (leaving the cardboard out):

-start with 1-2 inches manure

-add 6-8 inches of hay and/or leaves

-add another 1-2 inches of manure (mix half and half with soil if you want to stretch your supply

-top off with 1-2 inches of the commercial mulch or more hay
 
Tim Canton
Posts: 175
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Thanks Travis,

I was wondering about the leaching from paths too.....I have read the leaves lose toxicity in just a few months but the roots can put out toxins for several years after the tree is dead even.  So I wonder how long it wold be since the chips ar all from relatively small growth and have so much surface area to break down...

If anyone has any thoughts or experience with using black walnut chips in paths  that would be great.

Thanks
 
Joel Hollingsworth
pollinator
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Location: Oakland, CA
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Zones of soil with reduced concentrations of nitrogen can be a good thing, for two reasons:

In paths, or in the duff layer above the soil soil, weed sprouts can struggle to find enough nourishment, while desirable plants are given access to better soil. Garden plants often have larger seeds/bulbs/rhizomes, and so can invest in deeper roots than weed sprouts can afford.

Fungi are important to the soil ecosystem, and become much more abundant where nitrogen is scarce
 
Al Loria
Posts: 395
Location: New York
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Travis Philp wrote:

-start with 1-2 inches manure

-add 6-8 inches of hay and/or leaves

-add another 1-2 inches of manure (mix half and half with soil if you want to stretch your supply

-top off with 1-2 inches of the commercial mulch or more hay


Travis, pretty much the same way I did ours, except I used the cardboard.  This may be a dumb question, but what do you do add in subsequent years to your sheet mulched beds?

On mine I just added a layer of manure and leaves for the winter.  During the growing season I used fish emulsion and kelp.  This was the first year of these beds, and also the first for me trying sheet mulching.  I am concerned about nutrient depletion and wondering if you add anything during fallow times or even during the growing season.  Also, if you add layers yearly, what happens if the beds get too high?  Do you just move the soil to start a new bed?
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Location: Oakland, CA
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My beds get a little compost, lots of cuttings (ideally, greens under browns), and they keep most of the roots they produce, especially ones with rhizobium-containing nodules.

In the long run, an equilibrium is reached wherein organic matter oxidizes almost as quickly (year-on-year) as it is added. Hopefully, this equilibrium means three feet of soil with 5% or so humus content and excellent aeration/moisture retention; that volume of living things can burn a lot of calories in a year.
 
Travis Philp
gardener
Posts: 965
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
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Hey Al,

All I do is add 2-3 inches of hay, woodchips, or tree leaves. I also leave leftover crop residue in the bed, usually not bothering to pull it out of the ground. I only add manure or compost if the bed showed signs of infertility.

I've had beds treated like this for several years which never showed no signs of deficiency. Though I am thinking of adding a fall cover crop which'll die off when winter hits.
 
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