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Sheet Mulching

Discussion in 'Composting & Soil Building' started by ninnymary, May 13, 2019.

  1. May 13, 2019
    ninnymary

    ninnymary Garden Master

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    I plan to sheet mulch my daughter's small front yard. I've already planted hydrangeas against the foundation and only have about 3-4 feet to sheet mulch and plant between the hydrangeas and the sidewalk.

    I've never done it and am a little sceptical about it. I understand that you can put cardboard on top of grass and weeds, add some compost, water it down, and then cover with mulch.

    You can either cut holes in the cardboard and plant your plants or plant first and then do the above.

    Wouldn't stuff still grow around your plant? The grass would still get some light and water since it's impossible to put the cardboard right up to the plant and make it so tight sunlight can't get in.

    How has it worked for you who have done it?

    Do you do it like I've described or is there another way?

    Are you ever able to eliminate all grass around your plant?


    Thanks for all the help!
    Mary
     
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  2. May 13, 2019
    so lucky

    so lucky Garden Master

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    Mary, I do that in my garden every year. It works best if you have the weeds cleared out around the existing plantings. It does still need a bit of attention, right at the base of the plants, as odd and end grass or weeds can grow there because seeds can take root right there next to the plant, but, really, it saves a lot of work and looks neat.
     
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  3. May 13, 2019
    Beekissed

    Beekissed Garden Master

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    I just use hay as the sheet, then plant right into it, tucking the hay around the base of the plant so that no grass can grow. It's pretty effective, especially if you keep some hay on hand to plop down on any thin spots.
     
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  4. May 14, 2019
    Rhodie Ranch

    Rhodie Ranch Garden Master

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    Last summer, I put huge sheets of cardboard around my raised bed. Not one weed, except where the cardboard wasn't.
     
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  5. May 14, 2019
    ducks4you

    ducks4you Garden Master

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    @ninnymary , I took two plastic bathmats that I was gonna throw out and put them around my hydrangea on the SE corner of the house. It had been a weedfest around them before. Jump forward 5 years and I have virtually no weeds that grow up in this hydrangea. Plastic, cardboard, ANYTHING to rob the weeds of sunlight will work for you.
     
  6. May 14, 2019
    flowerbug

    flowerbug Garden Addicted

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    the fewer holes through will always mean less weeds come up in that space in the future.

    i don't understand putting compost on top of the cardboard. i'd put it under. mulch on top of the cardboard.

    remember if it doesn't work completely you can always repeat it as needed. after a few rounds not much sprouts from below, but you will always have weed seeds blown or water flowed in and some of those can sprout. for us that is usually along the edges where the mulch may get more dirt from neighboring surfaces. the mulch has to be thick enough to keep the sunlight from being able to germinate the seeds that do fall in.

    whatever does sprout is usually easier to remove than weeds from the subsoil.

    i have an area that i've put cardboard down twice now and then it was covered with chunks of bark. i looked at it the other day. a few weeds in there, but nothing major and i've not weeded it yet this spring. i will get around to it eventually and may put another layer down just because it is working pretty well and doesn't take that long to do in comparison to how long it takes me to weed the neighboring garden... if i had more chunks of bark i'd be tempted to do the rest of it.
     
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  7. May 14, 2019
    Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Garden Master

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    I plan to sheet mulch my daughter's small front yard. I've already planted hydrangeas against the foundation and only have about 3-4 feet to sheet mulch and plant between the hydrangeas and the sidewalk.

    What are you planting between the hydrangeas and sidewalk? What are you using for mulch?

    I understand that you can put cardboard on top of grass and weeds, add some compost, water it down, and then cover with mulch.

    Do not put compost on top of the cardboard or whatever you use as a wed blocker. That creates a place roots can thrive above the weed blocker. If you feel you need compost put it under the cardboard.

    When we first moved to the country in Arkansas my wife brought in a landscape architect to design landscaping, the house had none. Her husband had a company that installed the design. The way they prepared the landscaping beds around the house was to put in edging to define the area and give me an edge to weed-eat against. Then they laid landscaping cloth over the grass. They planted the shrubbery and bulbs first since they needed to dig holes and fill them back in. For some other stuff you could cut holes and stick the plants in. I've used cardboard myself in other places but don't recall cutting holes in it. It might be easier to put it around plants. Anyway, they covered that landscaping cloth with a thick layer of wood chips.

    That worked well the first year. I had to weed-eat and pull grass that tried to grow into the bed. Between the foundation and the sidewalk you should not have that issue. But the wood chips used for mulch rotted and formed a great compost. Grass was my problem, not broad-leafed weeds. Grass seeds would blow in or get thrown in when cutting the grass and sprout in that compost. Once a year I had to pull up that landscaping cloth and remove what was left of the wood chips and compost, put the cloth back down, and bring in new wood chips. I'd use the old wood chips/compost in my garden as mulch over newspaper. By the end of that season the old wood chips were pretty much turned into compost. I added a lot of organic material to my garden that way. If I did not change the wood chips early enough though, that grass would send roots through the landscaping cloth. It was labor intensive and hard on my fingers to try to get those grass roots out.

    I went through this partly to explain why I think putting compost on top of the cardboard is a bad idea. Also to discourage using landscaping cloth instead of cardboard. It works fine in the short term but to me it's too much maintenance long term. I don't know how long cardboard will last in your climate but I'd think it would be fairly easy to replace as needed. Maybe after you smother out the grass you won't need to replace it, just use mulch. But definitely smother out the grass first.

    Wouldn't stuff still grow around your plant? The grass would still get some light and water since it's impossible to put the cardboard right up to the plant and make it so tight sunlight can't get in.

    Not as much as you'd expect. Some of that depends on what you plant and how thickly you can mulch around it, but the mulch helps you a lot. If you can, remove the turf right where you plant to make pulling anything that comes up easier to pull. And depending on what you plant, it may self-mulch, provide so much shade that grass and stuff won't grow right under it.

    How has it worked for you who have done it?

    I've used cardboard in the garden, mainly in walkways and between rows and covered by mulch to keep the cardboard from blowing away. Not exactly the way you plan to use it but I think cardboard would work great for you.

    Are you ever able to eliminate all grass around your plant?

    In my opinion nothing is going to be maintenance free. That's a nice dream but I don't think that is reality. I think a good mulching system is about the best way you can go. And yes, it does almost eliminate the grass. I understand why you are skeptical but I'd certainly go for it.

    Since you are talking grass and a landscaping area I'll mention there are products on the market that target grass and not other plants. You have to read what they can or cannot be used on carefully. I used one on a big iris bed. That saved me days of working in there pulling and digging grass that was hard on my hands and was usually needed to be done at a very busy time of the year. I consider those products to be very nasty and would not use them around anything edible. I'd definitely do the cardboard and mulch first, chemicals are a last resort.
     
  8. May 14, 2019
    ninnymary

    ninnymary Garden Master

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    Ridge, the area gets some morning light but then the rest is filtered shade. There is a huge street tree in front of the house which fortunately the city keeps well pruned. So I plan to put in about 5 or so part shade perenials. We haven't decided on what yet but something that will grow 2-3 ft. high. We will use wood chips as mulch and refresh every year or two as needed.

    I just want to get her a low maintenance yard as much as possible. Since the front yard won't have any grass she won't be getting a gardener. Your looking at her gardener right now. I can go every quarter or so to check up on things but don't want to spend my entire weekend doing gardening.

    I've used landscaping cloth in the past and hate that stuff! Won't every use it again.

    Mary
     
  9. May 14, 2019
    thistlebloom

    thistlebloom Garden Master

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    In your situation I would not sheet mulch over the grass.

    I have made lasagne beds over lawn with cardboard and then layers of soil, compost, and horse manure, because that's what I have a lot of, and it worked well. But it was layered high, probably 12" - 18" above the cardboard.
    I don't think that height is what you're going to want in that small space. It does cook down and mine ended up being only about 4" above the surrounding ground.
    Another drawback I see is that cardboard getting exposed after a short while and looking a little ghetto for a nice front yard planting. It takes awhile to decompose, and it's one thing in a vegetable bed, but I can't see it in a landscape situation.

    Also - do. not. use. weed. blocker. fabric!! You will hate it in a few years. That stuff is great under a pathway, and that was it's original intent. I guarantee nobody who try's to sell you on it has never done yard maintenance where it's been installed.

    I recommend you eliminate the grass before you landscape that area.
    Since it's not that big you may want to see about renting a sod cutter,
    idk, I've never personally operated one so it may be too big a machine for a small area. At any rate, removing the grass first will give you the lowest maintenance in the future.
     
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  10. May 14, 2019
    ninnymary

    ninnymary Garden Master

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    Thistle, cardboard won't be exposed. It will have a thick layer of wood chips on top. If an area starts getting exposed for some reason, I will cover it back up.

    Ugh, I really don't want to have to eliminate the grass. I would end up doing it by hand and that's going to be a pain in the ....

    Mary
     
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