Sheet Mulching

Sheet Mulching is a highly effective, non-toxic way to prepare soil for replanting. This method preserves the natural soil food web and nutrient cycling process. Instead of removing existing turf or weeds, tilling the soil, and then replanting, sheet mulching builds the soil on top of what’s already there.

Imagine a forest floor covered with leaves, rotting logs, and decomposing plants. This organic material is teeming with fungal, microbial and insect life. The fungi, bacterial and microorganisms break down organic material slowly, making nutrients available to plants. Sheet mulching uses layers of compost, cardboard and mulch to mimic this natural process.

Step 1: Preparation & The Compost Layer

To prepare the site, knock down tall weeds and woody plants. Add organic compost at the rate of about 50 lbs/100 square feet.

This will "jump start" microbial activity under the cardboard.

Step 2: The Weed Barrier

The next step in mulching is to put down Cardboard which acts as an organic weed barrier. Underneath this weed barrier, grasses and weeds die and quickly become food for earthworms. The weed barrier is needed only for establishment of the mulch, and decomposes over time.

Step 3: The Compost Layer

This layer is on top of the weed barrier - it must be weed seed free.

A 3 inch layer of well-conditioned compost is ideal.

Step 4: The Top Layer

Spread mulch 3 – 5 inches deep over the compost. The mulch layer will slowly decompose into the lower layers, and should be replaced periodically.

Mulch has the added benefit of giving the landscape a “finished” look.

Step 5: Planting

The newly mulched area is now ready for planting. Holes are punched through the cardboard, and the plants are planted directly into the soil below.

Low water-use and low maintenance plants are ideal.

Benefits of Sheet Mulching

Less Impact on the Environment: Sheet mulching composts most of the existing organic material on site. This reduces the carbon footprint of the project. Additionally, by preserving and improving the soil food web, one can expect improved plant health, disease control, and watering reductions, which leads to long-term benefits to the environment by decreasing fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, and water.

Reduce Costs: Sheet mulching combines soil improvement, weed removal, and long-term mulching in one fell swoop, saving resources, time and money making it one of the most cost effective ways to quickly condition an area for replanting.  The reduced need for fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, and water significantly reduces the maintenance costs over the lifetime of the project.

A Variety of Planting Options: Sheet mulching prepares the soil for virtually any type of landscape instillation or design, making it a logical first step for almost every landscape instillation project. Cagwin and Dorward has successfully used sheet mulching for projects ranging from the instillation of turf and planting beds, too Bay Friendly certified projects.