Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Composting, Ninja Level by MCR Jane T

We all know the benefits of composting. Forty percent of the waste that makes its way to the EWMC is compostable and a significant amount of that is grass clippings and leaves. Keeping these at home and composting them along with your kitchen waste not only reduces waste, it provides a source of highly nutritious humus for the garden.

Composting takes time and patience. Depending on the environment it can take months or even years to produce a good batch of this hearty mulch.

That's why sheet mulching is a fabulous option. Creating a garden by sheet mulching, sometimes referred to as lasagne gardening, is a simple way to manage yard waste while creating a fabulous new bed for flowers and vegetables.

My front yard, before sheet mulching
Start by defining the area you wish to turn into a garden and cut a trench to separate it from the rest of the lawn. Place 2-3 layers of cardboard over the region where the new bed will be and water it well. I like to wrap the edges with newspaper so the grass is completely enclosed and won't sneak out the perimeter and grow into the border you've created. You can fill the trench with whatever you like; I use a combination of broken bricks and wood chips.

Now the layering begins. Start with an inch of nitrogen-rich materials such as grass clippings, manure, coffee grounds and kitchen waste. Throw some bone meal on top of this, then add a 2-3 inch layer of carbon-rich waste such as leaves or straw. The more diverse your materials, the better. I use whatever I can get my hands on, which has me cruising the back alleys in my neighborhood looking for bags of yard waste. I've even posted ads for straw bales and horse manure. Shredded documents from the office? Why not?

Finished bed, later that day
A few more layers, alternating between greens and browns, and the garden bed begins to take shape. A final layer of compost finishes the project. After that it's simply a matter of keeping it well watered and waiting for the medley to become a rich bed of organic soil. Do this in the summer or fall and you'll be planting in it the following spring.

Check out this update from 9 months after creating my bed.

As opposed to dirt, soil created this way has vitality. It's full of nutrients and micro organisms, it's well balanced and rich. Your flowers and veggies will grow tall and happy in their new home.

One year later

Jane T completed the MCR course in 2013 and has been active ever since. She's participated in trade shows, helped out with the grasscycling campaign, and blogs at

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