Last fall we began to cover half of the backyard with cardboard on the bottom and leaves on top. We used perhaps 80 bags of leaves.
Now that whole area has a soft waterbed feel to it, wherever I step. As I wrote not long ago, the grackles have stopped to feast on the food in the leaves, since moisture and organic matter produce a bumper crop of decomposers.
I had a couple of plants to start forming a screen, so I went to the western corner of the yard and began to dig, prying up some cardboard and pushing aside the leaves. The cardboard was still in one piece and the sod was blackened below. Earthworms were abundant in and below the cardboard, not one per shovel (the commonly cited proof of good soil) but dozens of them.
The sod was semi-decomposed after a warm winter, some snow, and rain. It was very easy to dig in the soil, and easy to place the new plants.
|Jessica Walliser uses cardboard for her mulch too,|
setting it up in the fall and punching through in the spring.
I once put all the sod from a dig into a compost pit I created in Midland for this purpose.. I was young and prone to use my construction sized wheelbarrow, donated. Large wheelbarrows tempt one into bigger projects.
Upside-down sod shrinks down as it decomposing. A large amount in a pit decomposes more quickly, with all the built-in nitrogen, soil animals, and various soil components pushed together in a mass. That sod compost pit became the parsley patch and produced well with black swallowtail butterflies enjoying their favorite food.
From that time on, the sod compost area remained bouncy like gelatin. That fascinated me. The original prairie soil that settlers found in the Great Plains, supercharged with centuries of deep prairie grass roots and buffalo dung, would create waves when people jumped off their wagons.
Mulch alone will normally feed the weed growth quickly, with the taller weeds like crabgrass shooting through the barrier, enhanced by having the punier growth shaded. For that reason I first began using layers of newspapers.
Larger areas are much easier to mulch with cardboard, and used boxes are everywhere for free. At first the cardboard plus mulch combination is odd, with that dry hollow underpinning sound. After some rains the mass settles down and continues its work of rotting the grass and empowering the soil creatures.
|Mountain mint loves beneficial insects -|