›› Kayla Siefried
Winter is a fantastic time to create new garden beds using an in-situ composting technique called sheet mulching. Sheet mulching is a fantastic way to replenish depleted soils in a garden, turn grass easily into a garden bed, use free ‘waste’ materials to build organic matter, create soil that mimics natural soil layers, and suppress weeds!
Here’s a quick “How to sheet mulch” guide:
- Lay down 5-10 cm of nitrogen rich materials in the area you want to have a garden bed (e.g. fresh chicken or horse manure, green garden clippings)
- Cover that with thick overlapping cardboard, to act as a weed barrier. Water this layer (or just do the project before a good rain!)
- Lay down 5-10 cm of carbon rich materials on top of the cardboard. Dry brown leaves or straw are best for this layer.
- Repeat with another nitrogen rich layer, then another carbon rich layer, until you have no more materials left.
- Finish with a carbon rich layer.
For more info, check out the Compost Education Centre’s Mulching Factsheet at compost.bc.ca.
The materials will decompose and sink down to about half their height so don’t be shy to layer high! The late autumn or winter is the perfect time to do this, because the cooler temperatures, slow growth period, and abundant rains mean the materials will nicely decompose over the winter and you’ll have beautiful soil to plant in to come spring.
This autumn, I sheet mulched my tiny boulevard in anticipation of planting pollinator attracting plants come spring! It’s a small narrow boulevard, but I’m so excited to bring in more beauty to my street, attract beneficial pollinators, all while meeting my fellow Fernwood neighbours as I’m out gardening. If you are keen to sheet mulch your boulevard and start a garden, just be sure to read over the Boulevard Gardening Guidelines put out by the City of Victoria, available at victoria.ca.