Instructables
Picture of Simple Sheet Mulch Herb Garden
Nature doesn't break her back digging into the soil with hard tools or machines; she accumulates layered organic debris and let's animals, plants, and microbial organisms break it down (from the top down).

Nature has been gardening successfully for thousands of years. Work with her, and try mimicking some of her time tested techniques (like sheet mulching!)

1. There are many variations to this process, play around and see what works for you and your environment.
2. "Instant gardening"
3. No "back-breaking" work
4. Suppresses all weeds
 
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Step 1: Choose Your Site & Plan Your Herb Garden

Picture of Choose Your Site & Plan Your Herb Garden
Choose a site that is close to your house and beneficial for the herbs you will be growing (sunlight, wind, rain, slope).

We chose a site right outside our front door (off the porch) with good southern exposure.

Do your research and find out what you can and what you want to grow in your area.

Step 2: Sheet Mulch Material

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Gather your sheet mulch material. The most common materials are cardboard, wall-board, newspaper, old carpet, underfelt, and anything else that will eventually break down and provide nutrients for plants. Avoid synthetic and harmful materials.

Check to see if you have some around the house or garage (maybe your neighbors do); if not, check your local businesses, dumpsters, and recycling areas.

Put down your mulch layer. Cover the area completely by overlapping the sheets. You should not see lawn through the cardboard. This will suppress grass and weeds.

Water the area well to get biological processes going.

THIS IS A GREAT WAY TO RECYCLE!

Step 3: Adding Layers

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Begin to build up your layers of immature (fresh green) and mature (dry brown) organic materials. Essentially, you are are creating a compost pile that will become your instant garden bed. Be creative and work with what you have and what you can find.

This can be as simple as cardboard topped with one foot of straw. You can also create multiple layers with slashed vegetation, soil amendments, thin layers of manure, bulk layers of organic matter (hay), and compost (see Gaia's Garden, Toby Hemenway).

Some areas have municipal mulch & compost piles.

We used 3 inches of compost and manure.

WATER WELL TO GET BIOLOGICAL PROCESSES GOING!

Step 4: Lay It Out & Plant It

Picture of Lay It Out & Plant It
Add your final layer of mulch (ideally hay - but we used wood chips). This will protect the soil, plant roots, and microbial life from the elements. It will help retain moisture and keep the soil balanced. If done well, you will not need to water as frequently.

We bought our herb seedlings from our local farmer's market. We laid out the herbs and let them sit out for a few days to adjust to the site. This also allows for any final rearrangements.

To plant:

1. make a hole appropriately sized for what you will be planting
2. punch a hole through the cardboard
3. place good soil or compost into the hole
3. plant your seeds or seedling

WATER WELL TO GET BIOLOGICAL PROCESSES GOING!

Step 5: Observe, Maintain, and Let Your Herbs Grow

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Sheet mulch beds tend to reach their potential during the second season. However, that potential can be sustained for several years, and can be simply renewed by adding more mulching layers (from recycled materials).

We are in our first season and it is going very well (much better than expected).

scmtngirl4 years ago
Very clever! I'm currently using carpet to smother some young weeds, but I don't think you could leave it there permanently to become part of the ground unless it were wool or something. But I like your idea and might try this in a small part of my yard sometime - thanks!
 Nature and creatures do a lot of natural work. I used to watch the fire ants build and work hard to make a sandy place and the ground was broken into nice earth.  Since they worked so fast, and are so dangerous, I flooded the area to remove them.  We did end up with a flower bed that took the seeds and plants right away.