Soil Secrets from The Urban Farm:
Sheet Mulching, AKA Lasagna Gardening
By Greg Peterson
I am often asked how I make such great soil at the Urban Farm, and why I literally don’t have to till the soil any more.
In the city, what happens to the leaves that fall on our yards? In many yards, they are raked up and sent along to the landfill along with all the nutrients that they carry. Then we come back later and add fertilizer to make our plants grow.
In the forest, what happens to the leaves that fall? There is no one to rake ’em up. The deer, birds and other animals dig and leave their deposits and over time the nutients bound up in the leaves are released and the soil is that much healthier. See my post on the 5 components of healthy soil.
So here is where the extended understandable explanation of permaculture comes in. The creators of permaculture looked at the forest soil building process and said we can design something that works just as well – and sheet mulching was born (also known in some circles as lasagna gardening). AND this is the solution to my healthy soil problem in my garden. AND my chickens pay a big part in providing the fertilizer for this process. AND, AND, AND.
Sheet mulching in a nutshell.
Collect all of your and your neighbors’ dried leaves, add some alfalfa hay (nitrogen rich) and fluff it in a layer about 6 inches thick. Add to the top of that a smattering of composted steer manure, chicken manure or something similar in the maure department. Then another layer of hay/leaves and then more manure, going as thick as you’d like. Usually my sheet mulch projects are 2 feet thick.
Then the next part (one of the most important) is to leave it alone and let nature takes its course. And after 6 months or so you will have a couple of inches of great mulch where all your living things can florish, including your plants.
It’s that simple…
Some ideas and caveats:
If you want to plant some plants right after you do the sheet mulching exercise, burrow out a small area and add several cups of good wood and plant your seeds or seedlings into that. As the pile shrinks your plants just move down with it.
Be careful of the manure that you use! If you are using cow or horse manure make sure it is composted to kill the weed seeds.
Make sure that you are aware of the type of hay that you are using. Here in Phoenix they sell a Bermuda hay, which is full of seeds. That would be just like planting a grass lawn in my garden.
My permaculture teacher Tim Murphy told us that we could sheet mulch right on top of concrete and grow great goodies.
Most of all be patient and you will end up with some great results!
Want to see an awesome video I created on how to sheet mulch, plus other soil tips and tricks? Sign up for your free Healthy Soil Hacked Video Series here.