Sheet Mulching with Junk Mail

Junk Mulch

Thank you, Junk Mail Providers, for making this world a better place. Because of you, my garden will grow less grass and more food.

By cutting down trees and mass-mailing people of whom the overwhelming majority, according to the laws of conversion regarding direct mail, will ignore your attempts and discard your mail, you do drum up business. One to 2 percent of them will respond. But I will use the paper to sheet mulch my garden.

I learned about the No-dig Garden from Mitra Ardron’s blog. At the time I was drowning in grass. That was last summer. Last fall, Mitra inspired me to sheet mulch it. I tore down our vegetable plants, spread a year’s worth of compost all over them, let the chickens loose in there for a few months, laid newspaper and straw on top of that. Had to clip the chickens’ wings to keep them from jumping the fence after they’d been kicked out. No other mishaps.

Now that spring is rolling around, a few greens are rearing up through, so today I did some sheet mulch patchwork to keep the weeds from getting their foot through the door.

Here we go with the straw.

Spreading Straw in Garden

If you’ve never heard of it, the point of this type of sheet mulching is twofold: kill weeds, build soil; emphasis on a minimum of labor. The paper smothers the weeds. The straw keeps the paper from blowing away and holds in moisture. The smothered weeds turn to compost with their roots still in the ground; why bother pulling them out? As the straw and paper decompose, they too become compost. Fewer weeds, better soil.

Mitra says to use cardboard. The people at the farm store say cardboard isn’t a good idea because it’s pretty impermeable; water can’t get down to the soil unless you water it, and water it, a lot. So you end up with a garden sitting on the ground, rather than a garden reaching down into the ground.

But Mitra was talking about something more intense than what I’m doing here, or what most people who shop at urban farm stores need to do. Mitra’s talking about building soil in crazy places: exploited soils, barren soils, soils overrun with impossible weeds, soils that aren’t soil but rock. In those cases, cardboard, with some deep compost on it, and some mulch (straw or something) on top of that, is a good plan. Not necessary if you’ve got good soil to start with.

I used cardboard for my paths, that said.

Sheet Mulch in Garden

You can kill a lot of grass this way.

I mean you can channel the vitality of robust, hardy grass into stuff you can put in your mouth, swallow and digest. Such as artichokes. I’m excited about these. My seed trays weren’t deep enough for artichokes, so these are growing in homemade paper rolls and toilet paper tubes.*

Artichoke Starts in Toilet Paper Tubes


* It’s a neat idea, but I don’t think I’d do the paper rolls again. Not wide enough for them I think. And they mold.


In a week or so I’ll start the tomatoes. End of April, we’ll plant them. In the sheet mulch. It’ll be fun.