Thursday, March 24, 2011

Sheet Mulching Update

Last fall in an effort to improve fertility and raise the soil levels in my raised beds, I used a sheet mulching or 'lasagne gardening' technique of building layers of greens and browns on top of the already existing soil. ( ) Now that things are starting to melt, I'm getting a little concerned that the layers won't be broken down enough by planting time in a few weeks. I kind of expected the boxes to have brown and crumbly soil by now, but what do I know! Here is a picture of how one of the boxes looked today:

I used a lot of leaves (chopped into smaller pieces with the lawn mower) inter-spaced with layers of vegetable kitchen waste, seaweed and other such 'greens'. According to two of the books I have been using as a reference, having the layers not yet decomposed is ok and in fact, you can push them aside, make a hole, fill it with compost, and put your plant right in. For direct seeding it says to just add an inch or so of compost or potting soil on top of the layers. They even suggest that although it is better for the lasagna bed to have at least 6 months of rest, it is ok to plant into the layers immediately after building them as long as you use enough compost (and lay back on the heavy 'greens' such as manure).

There may still be time for things to break down more before I'm ready to plant. If not, I'll go ahead and follow the recommendations and we'll see how it goes. To speed things up, I have covered the beds with a bio-degradable black mulch I found at Lee Valley Tools. It is made out of corn starch and is supposed to be ok for organic growing. Hopefully it will give the beds a 'kick-start'.

I will have to be diligent this year with my war on slugs as apparently they are very attracted to the mulch layers.

I'm really hoping this sheet mulching system works out because it would be an inexpensive way to build and improve the soil in the garden. It is simply costing me too much to buy new soil year after year. It seems that despite all the bags of soil I added last year, I still only managed to raise the level to the second plank. I would like to eventually get the level up to the top so that the plants have maximum sun exposure and aren't shaded out by the sides. 

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