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Sheet Composting for Your Vegetable Garden


Date Posted: April 11, 2016

Seeds of the Month Club by Mike the Gardener Sheet Composting for Your Vegetable Garden
photo credit: USDA.gov

By now you already know that composting is a great way to add nutrients back into your soil. Remember your vegetable plants are going to deplete your soil of its nutrients every year and if you are not adding nutrients back into your soil, eventually your plants will produce far less than what you are used to. Composting gives you the ability to tackle this issue.

Today, we are going to talk about sheet composting. Sheet composting is a specific composting technique, in which anyone can do, requires a little bit of effort and has wonderful effects on your soil.

If you are someone that lives on a property where having a compost pile is virtually impossible, then sheet composting may be the way for you to go.

What is Sheet Composting?

As the name, sheet composting, implies, sheet composting is the process of layering (think in sheets) organic material on top of your garden bed and then mixing or tilling that organic material into your garden soil.

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How does Sheet Composting Work?

First you cover your garden bed with a layer of leaves (or other organic material). Second, using a garden tiller or pitchfork, work that layer into your garden soil. As a side note the leaves (or any of your organic matter) will break down much faster if it is already shredded. While "pre" shredding is not mandatory for sheet or other types of composting, it will speed the process along. Finally, repeat the first two sheet composting steps using a different material. For example, if you used, leaves for your sheet composting the first time, use grass clippings for your second sheet composting layer.

A couple important composting tips you should know about Sheet Composting

Two caveats you should know about when it comes to sheet composting so you are informed.

Sheet composting Tip #1

First, according the University of Illinois Agriculture Department, "The danger of sheet composting as a compost-making method is that carbon containing residues will call upon the nitrogen reserves of the soil for their decomposition.

Sheet Composting Tip #2

On the other hand, high-nitrogen materials may release their nitrogen too quickly in the wrong form. What may take a matter of weeks in a compost pile, given confined and thermophilic conditions, may take a full season in the soil."

Second, sheet composting should be conducted in the fall to ensure that there is enough time for the organic material to break down prior to the spring planting season.

So, How do you Sheet Compost and What do you need?

So how much material should you layer in your sheet composting? This number will vary depending which source you get it from, but what I am finding is the average sheet composting layering amount should be anywhere from two to four inches of material, then tilling it into your soil.

If you are going to conduct sheet composting in garden beds that have bulbs, such as flower beds, it is best that you do not use a power tiller. Mixing in your material for your sheet composting in these garden beds would best be done by hand, with a small trowel, garden weasel etc.

Happy gardening!


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Mike the gardener

About the Author

Mike Podlesny is the author of the book Vegetable Gardening for the Average Person as well as the creator of the Seeds of the Month Club where members receive non gmo, heirloom variety seeds every month. You can listen to Mike each week on the Vegetable Gardening Podcast where he interviews gardening industry experts. Don`t forget to link up with Mike on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook.


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