Sheet Mulching and Berry Bushes

A fun thing I’ve learned from husband is sheet mulching, which is a pretty fabulous way to actually reuse cardboard instead of throwing it back into the system, hoping it’ll get recycled. You do have to make sure you remove all tape, stickers, and other non-organic bits before you put it on the ground, but that’s not terribly difficult. (Mostly. Amazon is far too tape- and sticker-happy, we’ve discovered.)

I’m combining berry bushes and sheet mulching because planting the berries lent us an opportunity for our first foray into sheet mulching in our own yard. And, silly me, wearing women’s workout pants with no pockets, did not take many pictures of this process. Thankfully, we’ll be doing it again for the second half of our giant backyard vegetable plot, so pictures will come.

Sheet mulching is like making a delicious material sandwich, and it doesn’t require digging deep beds, although digging can be done, as in the case of our berry bushes. It replaces existing vegetation (i.e., worthless lawn grass) with a nurturing layer of growing goodness. What did we use?

  • Soil from the yard
  • Compost
  • Cardboard
  • Hay

Because we’re just starting out, we bought the compost and hay this time around. The method works as follows:

Planting the Bushes

Note: We used berry bush starts. You can use canes, seedlings, bare roots, or other forms, but your holes will vary in size.

  1. Dig a hole as deep as the plant’s roots go, and about 1.5-2 feet in diameter. This will likely be shallower than the pot, as you will need to gently break apart any root-bound plant, which results in less solid soil. This is a good thing.
  2. Place a thinly-layered mixture of compost and the original soil at the bottom of the hole. Place your newly un-root-bound berry plant into the hole.
  3. Fill the hole with a mixture of compost and the original soil, taking care not to let any top layers of grass face upright. (Apparently, berries, especially blueberries, do NOT like grass. The roots don’t get along. We’ll see just how much this is the case.)

Sheet Mulching Around the Bushes

  1. Layer 2-3 inches of compost around the plant. (If you’re not surrounding a plant, then just layer the compost on top of the grass. Duh.)
  2. Water the compost.
  3. Layer cardboard in a single-ish layer (overlapping is okay) on top of the compost. Soak thoroughly with water.
  4. Layer 3-4 inches of hay on top of the cardboard. Be careful it doesn’t blow away! Soak thoroughly with water.

That’s it. Labor intensive, perhaps, but easy-peasy. There are other methods that use more materials, but we’re starting off easy, I think. I’ll keep you posted on how ours turns out. Oh, and post pictures. That’s a thing.

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