Sheet Mulching a Year Later

We sheet mulched the front yard over a year ago, and I thought it is about time for an update.

I haven’t done anything to it for a year. Added some plants, pulled just a few weeds. It still looks alright, although I do need to add some more mulch. Probably the lowest maintenance thing I’ve ever done.

I came across a bunch of post criticizing sheet mulching from the Garden Professor blog. (Here’s the links: one, two, three. and this one if you are really into a good read about mulches. And the Garden Professor blog is the best garden blog I’ve come across.) The post certainly made me think. I’ve been over-recommending sheet mulching a bit. I still think it is a viable technique, but only under certain situations.

Basically, sheet mulching doesn’t really improve the soil because you create a barrier for air and water on the top. (And I’ve noticed this in mine. I think the weeds gone wild are doing a better job of improving soil than my sheet mulch. It’s pretty sterile under there.) If it is ignored and ill-maintained, it can cause far more problems than benefits.

So when is it okay to use sheet mulching?

1)Temporary weed control such as when you have no idea what you are doing and don’t plan on doing something for a year or so. This was my situation and it worked great. I also don’t have any plans to plant plants that need good soil there (I’m thinking a stock tank pond, a few raised beds, open space), so I’m not too concerned about improving the soil.

2)Pathways (but not anywhere you don’t go frequently).

4)Vegetable gardens (but stick with newspaper not cardboard).

Around trees and shrubs, you’d be better off with a deep layer of course organic mulch like leaves and shredded bark. Unless you have some trees, shrubs, perennials that actually don’t like large amounts of organic matter, like many desert natives.

The interesting thing about the gardening world is recommendations can hardly ever be applies to all situations. The answer is more often than not “it depends.” You really have to know your site, plants and what you are trying to accomplish instead of just accepting whatever comes your way.

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