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Permaculture forum: Compost vs. Sheet Mulch

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Views: 813, Replies: 22 » Jump to the end

Charter ATP Member
hazelnut
Mar 31, 2012 8:39 AM CST
I am re-reading Bill Mollison's discussion of composting in his Introduction to Permaculture.

In short, it is a whole lot of work for maximum loss of nutrients. Use sheet mulching instead to preserve the nutrients in the composted material.


http://www.barkingfrogspermaculture.org/PDC_ALL.pdf

PDF pages 86-87, Pamphlet IX Permaculture Techniques, p. 3.

Quote:

"Now let me tell you about composting
as against mulch. Every time you
compost, you decrease the nutrients,
sometimes to one 20th of the original.
Usually, though, you get about a 12th
of the nutrient out of compost that
you get out of mulch. So what have
you done by composting? You have
worked hard to decrease the nutrients
badly. Most of them go into the air.
Composting consumes them. We want
to get right out of composting. We
want to get back into sheet mulching.
In composting, you are taking a lot of
material, putting it into a small place,
and letting the whole of the decomposition
activity happen under hot conditions
which can be appropriate for
some things. When you mulch, you are
spreading those materials and letting
the process occur much more slowly
on the surface of the soil. Any leach
loss goes into the soil, and the general
level of activity spreads across the
whole of it. By the time the mulch has
reduced to compost, most of the action
has finished. If you want to get
maximum value out of what you have,
sheet mulch it. If you want to increase
your nutrient base, do it
efficiently."
End Quote
[Last edited by hazelnut - Mar 31, 2012 8:51 AM (+)]
Give a thumbs up | Quote | Post #235128 (1)
Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Region: Texas Master Gardener: Texas Permaculture Raises cows Beekeeper
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages Avid Green Pages Reviewer
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dave
Mar 31, 2012 11:21 AM CST

All Things Plants Admin

I have a compost pile that we use to throw stuff when we have nowhere else to put it (weeds, litter from the chicken coop, etc) but I much, much prefer sheet mulching.
Name: Mary Stella
Anchorage, AK (Zone 5a)
Peonies Ponds Garden Ideas: Level 1
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Oberon46
Mar 31, 2012 12:25 PM CST
Well I guess I can stop agonizing over composting and start trying to introduce mulch in my garden between the existing plants which are mostly flowers and bushes. I have started a lot of vegies though and figure I would convert some of the lawn for them. Good place to start sheet mulching. I think I read somewhere that you could plant right through the sheet mulch. Yes?
"What a person needs in gardening is a caste iron back with a hinge in it" Charles Dudley Warner

Charter ATP Member
hazelnut
Mar 31, 2012 12:48 PM CST
I think sheet mulching is the same as lasagna gardening. You can use coffee grounds, shredded paper, table scraps, or whatever you have (even dog-chewed beef bones), some wet cardboard to hold it in place, and whatever you want to make the top layer presentable, and not blow away in the wind. Right now I am stripping 75 year old wall paper off my house. The plaster walls were pasted with some kind of cheese cloth fabric and the paper was pasted over that. Its all organic material so its going under my cardboard in the bed Im making now. Sheet mulching is much like composting in place, but you don't have to turn a pile -- and lose all the heat and nutrients to do it. It is infact "slow composting".

http://garden2table.blogspot.com/2007/04/how-to-sheet-mulch....

Its important to use plain brown card board, not something with a slick finish. Some people have tested things like cereal boxes and they have a high content of mineral oil that you probably don't want in your soil. Printing is o.k. on cardboard-- it is likely soybean based ink.


Yes. You can plant right through the sheet mulch.
[Last edited by hazelnut - Mar 31, 2012 12:55 PM (+)]
Give a thumbs up (1) | Quote | Post #235227 (4)
Name: Mary Stella
Anchorage, AK (Zone 5a)
Peonies Ponds Garden Ideas: Level 1
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Oberon46
Mar 31, 2012 2:16 PM CST
Thanks. Just wish the snow would go away so I could get started.
"What a person needs in gardening is a caste iron back with a hinge in it" Charles Dudley Warner

Charter ATP Member
hazelnut
Mar 31, 2012 4:37 PM CST
Snow? Its so hot and sticky here. 85 F. But then snow itself is a kind of sheet mulch. The snow people don't have nearly the weeds (as in Invasives like Kudzu) that we do in the South, I don't think. Or do you?
Name: Mary Stella
Anchorage, AK (Zone 5a)
Peonies Ponds Garden Ideas: Level 1
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Oberon46
Mar 31, 2012 7:35 PM CST
No, I don't think that we have the volume and variety you do. But we do have some. Right now my garden has been invaded by horse tail. It arrived two years ago and is spreading throughout the entire yard. I am hoping that mulching and planting lots of stuff will choke and starve it out. It seems to thrive on open ground and depleted soil. Since I have not mulched or done much to amend my soil in years, it was just waiting to happen.
"What a person needs in gardening is a caste iron back with a hinge in it" Charles Dudley Warner
Name: Margaret
Near Kamloops, BC, Canada (Zone 3a)
Charter ATP Member Garden Procrastinator I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Tip Photographer Garden Ideas: Master Level Region: Canadian
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mcash70
Mar 31, 2012 7:58 PM CST
I still have white sheet mulch here, could do with a little less! Glare But I suppose it could be worse. Whistling

Charter ATP Member
hazelnut
Mar 31, 2012 8:22 PM CST
Oberon. Open ground and depleted soil is just asking for the weedy pioneers to move in it seems.

I haven't been around snow for a while, but I bet when it starts to melt, you could get out there are start spreading your sheet mulch over the area where you want your garden beds--it needs to be wet anyway. When the snow is gone you will be ahead of the game.
[Last edited by hazelnut - Mar 31, 2012 8:25 PM (+)]
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Name: Mary Stella
Anchorage, AK (Zone 5a)
Peonies Ponds Garden Ideas: Level 1
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Oberon46
Apr 4, 2012 10:18 AM CST
I can do that where the horsetail comes up out of a sort of ditch at the back of the garden, but it is less easily done where I know that I have planted things that are evergreen or that haven't come up yet like tulips and other spring flowers as well as perennials. Plus I planted a bunch of new stuff last fall that has yet to erupt. I was thinking of strewing mulch over the entire garden as best I can (afford $$) because the plants can easily grow up through this. But, yes, I will sheet mulch as much as possible the area that is the prime source of the invasion. I am also thinking to overplant with vegies, marigolds, garlic etc everywhere I can to get more variety to the soil and to provide less invitation to the invasion by occupying the soil with other things. Really hard to convert to permaculture on an existing garden. I have thought about digging up sections and treating that but it has taken years to get my garden to where it is and I don't have a lot of time to start over.
"What a person needs in gardening is a caste iron back with a hinge in it" Charles Dudley Warner
Name: Mary Stella
Anchorage, AK (Zone 5a)
Peonies Ponds Garden Ideas: Level 1
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Oberon46
Apr 23, 2012 1:55 PM CST
Can I use dog feces in (under) the mulching? My little puppy produces a fair amount for such a small dog. Snow is about 85% gone. Am gathering all the detritus in one spot pending the landscapers coming. I am eyeballing a way to build shallow swales to direct water drainage away from some areas that seem permanently wet and hardpanned. My papers, cardboard, kitchen detritus, cleanup from the gardens of brown stuff, and left over bags of last fall's cleanup will all get spread there on top. Well, cardboard on bottom, chips on very top. I will plant in containers this summer to let the stuff sort of settle in and start its process. And going to wood chip over some lawn (about 3-8' wide and about 20' long) that takes forever to get healthy (on west side of house in the shade and wet). It simply isn't worth the effort and water to try to make it grow. And if you walk on it at all it makes it even worse. I may have them expand the width of the rhubarb bed on one side to allow for more stuff to plant that likes that area. Bleeding heart is up against the wall of the house and gives me my flower fix. Have to come up with vegies that like that kind of environment like rhubarb. Or grow more rhubarb I guess.
"What a person needs in gardening is a caste iron back with a hinge in it" Charles Dudley Warner
Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Region: Texas Master Gardener: Texas Permaculture Raises cows Beekeeper
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages Avid Green Pages Reviewer
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dave
Apr 23, 2012 2:09 PM CST

All Things Plants Admin

I don't have a dog, but if I did I was definitely look into using bokashi composting to deal with the output. Just putting the manure down on the ground (even under layers) seems like a bad idea, but I can't articulate why. It just feels wrong in my mind.
Name: Mary Stella
Anchorage, AK (Zone 5a)
Peonies Ponds Garden Ideas: Level 1
Image
Oberon46
Apr 23, 2012 4:05 PM CST
There is a place up here that is entirely (except for electric) ecofriendly. Recirculate and use 5000 gallon of water and heat with sun, convection. It is really neat. And they use the human fecal material in the composting. They have composting toilets. I know in Japan they (well, in 1950 when we were stationed there) used fecal material in the rice fields. We would see them with two buckets, one on each end of a pole going out to the fields.

I can see that it might seem yukky, but it IS part of biology. What is bokashi composting?
"What a person needs in gardening is a caste iron back with a hinge in it" Charles Dudley Warner
Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Region: Texas Master Gardener: Texas Permaculture Raises cows Beekeeper
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages Avid Green Pages Reviewer
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dave
Apr 23, 2012 4:37 PM CST

All Things Plants Admin

Bokashi is an anaerobic composting method from Japan, actually.

You can read all about it here:

http://allthingsplants.com/articles/view/SongofJoy/274/Bokas...
Name: Mary Stella
Anchorage, AK (Zone 5a)
Peonies Ponds Garden Ideas: Level 1
Image
Oberon46
Apr 23, 2012 5:35 PM CST
Thanks. I will take a look. You might find this interesting also. Obviously they aren't into permaculture as it is mentioned here, but the concepts seems to compliment the ideas here.

https://sites.google.com/site/alaskanecoescapeedu/
"What a person needs in gardening is a caste iron back with a hinge in it" Charles Dudley Warner

Charter ATP Member
hazelnut
Apr 23, 2012 6:48 PM CST
Using manure - human or dog has been the subject of some controversy. Both can harbor pathogens that could infest soil. I think using it is a matter of personal choice. Right it is all biology. I would just make sure that any raw feces used in a garden was well composted and subjected to the heat of a well tended compost pile or bokashi as Dave suggested.

I put my dog poop in an out of the way corner of my yard -- a space not likely to be used as a food garden.

On the other hand I do use raw rabbit poop. It will go under the cardboard along with shredded paper, and yard prunings.
Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Region: Texas Master Gardener: Texas Permaculture Raises cows Beekeeper
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages Avid Green Pages Reviewer
Image
dave
Apr 23, 2012 7:22 PM CST

All Things Plants Admin

My understanding is that rabbit manure is safe to use directly into the garden without composting.

Charter ATP Member
hazelnut
Apr 23, 2012 8:01 PM CST
True. They are little furry compost makers.
Name: Mary Stella
Anchorage, AK (Zone 5a)
Peonies Ponds Garden Ideas: Level 1
Image
Oberon46
Apr 23, 2012 9:37 PM CST
Dave, your new picture makes me think of "The Shining". I will table the feces topic for the time being and put it on my totally junk pile in a hole I am trying to fill in.
"What a person needs in gardening is a caste iron back with a hinge in it" Charles Dudley Warner
Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Region: Texas Master Gardener: Texas Permaculture Raises cows Beekeeper
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages Avid Green Pages Reviewer
Image
dave
Apr 24, 2012 6:23 AM CST

All Things Plants Admin

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