Super Easy Magic Mulch Recipe
How to Turn Dirt into Gold
Lay down after a rain or the next morning after 1 hour of watering:
Cardboard 2-3 layers, overlapped
Compost: 3-4 inches
Tree Mulch: 8-12 inches
For every 100 square feet you are covering you will need 1 –2 cubic
yards of compost and 3 to 4 cubic yards of mulch.
You can sheet mulch anytime, but the best time to do it is in the Fall,
or before your biggest rainy season. You want your sheet mulch to get
nice and wet so the worms will comes up and do the rest of the work for
Spplemental Information ~ Materials
and where to get them
The cardboard is going to smother out all the bad weeds and provide a
foundation for your sheet mulch. Get the largest pieces possible. I try
looking behind furniture stores, bike shops and driving around in the
more industrial parts of town to scavenge cardboard.. Remove all the staples
and tape. Layer your cardboard being sure the overlap the edges. This
is important if you are trying to get rid of grass or other noxious weeds!
Two layers will work, but for particularly tenacious or noxious weeds,
use 3 layers.
Compost: In the Bay Area the best source for cheap compost
by volume is the Davis Street Transfer Station. That’s right, the
dump. They charge $16 - $20 per cubic yard. A cu. yd. Is a lot of compost.
A regular pick-up truck with normal suspension can probably only handle
a half yard at a time. They will dump it into your truck with a back hoe.
Be sure to bring a tarp with you. At one point, when I was just starting
to make my dirt I rented a dump truck and went and got 6 yards of compost
at one time. The truck rental made it a bit pricy…so if you need
a lot of compost, you can always purchase it at American Soil. They deliver
for around $70, which is cheaper than renting a dump truck. If you live
in Berkeley, you can get free compost the last Friday of the month in
the Marina. If you live other places that take green waste, you might
call your local garbage company and ask how you can get your hands on
Tree Mulch: I have a tree company deliver. They have
to pay to dispose of their waste otherwise, so they are often happy to
give it away for free. Their stuff is already chipped and usually comes
steamy and already composting from their trucks. Some places insist you
take a full truckload, which can be between 10 and 20 cubic yards of material.
The place I go gives me 5 or 6 yards at a time. Check your yellow pages
for arborists and tree doctors. Some garden experts maintain that using
wood chips for mulch uses up the nitrogen in the soil as it breaks down.
I have never had much of a problem with this, but I try to get mulch that
is a mixture of wood and leaves. You can also add a nitrogen rich fertilizer
when you turn the soil after the first year.
Other materials, just for fun:
Manure partly composted from a local stable.
Straw (in Berkeley you can buy a bale for $6 at the race
track weekday mornings).Build It:
When is it ready?
The sheet mulch needs at least one full rainy season to do it’s
magic. This is when the worms come out of nowhere and eat through the
cardboard to get to that delicious compost. If you are starting in the
Fall you can plant fava beans into your mulch. Just tuck the beans under
about an inch of the mulch.
If you are starting any other time of year you can try planting zucchinni
or potatoes in your sheet mulch.
For zucchini you’ll scoop out a hole about the size of a soccer
ball and fill it with rich potting soil. Plant your starts into this and
re-cover with a bit of mulch. Water thoroughly and often.. For potatoes
do the same, using a bit less dirt around each piece of seed potato. Be
careful with potatoes though. If you plant them now you will have volunteers
in those spots for years to come.
If you are patient or if your soil is really bad, you can do a 2 year
program. Sheet mulch in the Fall. In the spring, rather than turning your
mulch, plant zukes and potatoes. At the end of that growing season water
deeply or wait for the first rain., use a fork to lightly mix the layers,
but don’t turn under or completely cultivate. Add another inch or
two of compost and another 3-4 inches of tree mulch. Plant Fava beans.
The following spring cultivate your soil as you normally would. You will
have created 6-8 inches of gorgeous top soil. Be sur to get under the
lowest layer of what you added and mix the native soil in.