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Sheet Mulching the Front Yard

05.13.10

Bye Bye Lawn

This is unpopular. If you like doing things that few will support, this is for you. It goes against all social norms, highlights you in your neighborhood as a radical, and will most certainly invite some to object, criticize, and politely complain. I’m sheet mulching my front lawn.

The basic premise is simple in our case. One only needs so much lawn space to romp on [yes, even with kids], the rest is extraneous waste of land, water, and energy. Worse, the opportunity cost of what COULD be grown in that space is high. Would we rather have lawn or berry bushes? Berry bushes. Would we rather have lawn or a more in our root cellar in the winter? Fuller root cellar it is. Would I rather have a monoculture of high-maintenance non-native plant, or a diverse array of low-input plants & trees that will yield food and at the same time provide for local birds, bees, and bunnies. Hm, let me think.  Over the winter I read a lot of books about the culture surrounding lawn, and it truly is a social norm that has very little logical justification behind it. It’s okay, you can hate me too.

How I’m sheet mulching my lawn:

Layer of recycled non-waxed cardboard, free of tape, etc. Layer of mulch I scavenged from our neighbouring back alleys in the spring [one man's waste...]. Layer of soil [I have an excess as I'm digging paths in the yard to manage water flow]. Another layer of mulch. Done.

I’m going to try to make use of the space this year with beans for drying, squashes and cover crops. By next year I should have a good deep soil to plant whatever tickles my fancy.

I dare ya.

3 Responses

  1. Colette says:

    Go for it! The culture of grass in North America must be the definition of insanity. I have seen people pumping the last of the water in a viable lake to keep a golf course green; or how about trying to keep grass green in semi-arid or arid zone? Yes, insanity. Now plant something that will not only thrive in whatever growing conditions you have, AND also provide food for human consumption–gaining a gram of sanity.

  2. Judy Z. says:

    I think your sheet mulching is great. How thick did you have to go with the mulching. Did you do anything to the lawn (ie: dig up the sod or did you just put directly on top? Have your neighbors really complained or are you just feeling conspicuous? I think your front yard garden looks great in the video. I agee 100% that fruits and berries are better then lawn and Spruce trees. How thick were your mulch soil and mulch layers? May be I will not only be cruising the back alleys for discarded furniture but will be looking for organic matter too. Only problem is you don’t know what kind of chemicals have been used.

    January and I’m starting to think about the gardening also. I watched Jamie Oliver on one episode talking about how expensive it was for them to buy pea tips for his restaurants. Did you know you can eat the tops of pea plants? I’ve been considering sprouting peas in a sunny window and trying them out for taste. I have three shoe boxes full of seeds (I guess I got a bit carried away with my purchases in previous years) and I know there are peas in there. My seed are now carefully sorted in alphabetical order so I can check before purchasing. I know I stil won’t be able to resist if I find seeds at 10 cents a package, though. I got some great big Jim peppers from my 10 cent seed packets one year.

  3. Colette – Oh, I will!
    Judy – I’m just feeling conspicuous. Pea shoots are absolutely tasty – they adorned many a salad last year as we had a good pea crop. Can’t wait to start seeding! For more information on sheet mulching: Food not Lawns. I mowed the grass short, layed cardboard down, then covered with some excess soil [heavy, held it down], then a good 6″-8″ mulch. I think I then topped with soil to make it look nicer, and said screw it, and topped it with mulch again. And it got a load of leaves on it in the fall, along with the garden debris from nearby. Clearly not militarily executed.

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