At this work day, we got a new compost pile started, and cleared an area to start building permanent compost bins out of the wire we have salvaged from the fence. We began lining our keyhole beds with stones to define them, and building mini terraces across the slope with the larger rocks and concrete chunks we have dug up. These will stop the sheet mulch beds from gradually migrating downhill. We discussed renting a pole chain saw and large chipper to turn unwanted tree limbs into mulch.
At this meeting we finally started work on the Lakewood farm site. We got about three hundred square feet sheet mulched with manure and wood chips. Volunteers had previously collected a stack of large cardboard boxes, manure was delivered for a small fee from a horse boarding farm, and chipped tree trimmings were delivered free by a tree care service. The wood chips had a high percentage of leaves in them, which was good.
We used a keyhole bed layout, and placed main paths on contour using an a-frame level.
We learned a couple of things.
- It takes a lot of water to soak layers of mulch. Cardboard in particular is resistant to getting wet. We should have had somebody using the hose the whole time. (Sheet mulches need to be watered because rain would take a long time to penetrate to the bottom layers. )
- We skimped a bit on the depth, so we will have to add another inch or two. But as a rough estimate, each hundred square feet of garden used a cubic yard of wood chips and a third a yard of aged manure.
- If aged horse manure is dry, the easiest way to load it into wheelbarrows is with a metal snow shovel.
- The ideal sheet mulching crew would contain at least four people; one to use a hose, one to run a wheelbarrow, one to fill wheelbarrows, (this is assuming two wheelbarrows ) and one to spread mulch. (Of course, if there was a fifth person, they could be staking out the design and laying cardboard. But cardboard laying takes hardly any time at all, and staking should ideally be done ahead of time.)
- It is amazing how much mulch (and how much work ) it takes to cover a small area. It would be easy to cover a tremendous area with big sheets of cardboard, and then find it impossible to cover with mulch.
One the whole, the meeting went well. We talked about cutting back some cottonwood and Siberian elm trees to get more sun, and generate lots of stuff that we could mulch; and about how to build our greenhouse. We still have to decide between a buried or an aboveground model.
Pervious to the meeting, all brush was cleared out of the fence line. So we now have a big pile of sticks that we have to do something with.