My largest bed is almost completely sheet mulched now. This bed is a big hexagonal plot in the very middle of my back yard, maybe 25′ x 25′ roughly centered on one of the pear trees. The kitchen window looks directly out at this which means I am looking at it all the time (we have no automatic dish washer, so I spend a fair amount of time at the sink staring out…) In the initial weekend I got maybe half of this bed sheet mulched, but then ran out of the lovely 3-year old black, rotted horse manure. Since then, I’ve sourced another supply: the Rochester Mounted Police stables, about 50 yards from where I work. Each day they’ve been kind enough to put out a big yard bag full of fresh horse manure. The bag goes into the trunk of my Honda Civic and when I get home I spend 5 or 10 minutes carting it out to the back, pouring it onto the grass, raking it, covering it with cardboard and a layer of straw. That’s it- the worms and other microorganisms do the rest.
I’ve read that it is possible to plant directly into the sheet mulch by digging a little pocket in the hay, poking a hole in the cardboard weed barrier and filling the pocket with some soil, then planting into this soil pocket. So I’ve started doing that. So far I’ve got strawberries and melons and brocolli in and they seem to be doing fine. I’ve had to water once, and they seem to be holding moisture pretty well. I’ll continue to post about the results from this method.
I’m very curious to see what the different results will be for the area using the composted manure versus the “hot” manure. I’m planting into the former areas first, but I may try some experiments with the newer, fresh manure areas soon, just to see what happens. I’ve been told that fresh manure is too high in nitrogen and will “burn” plants if you put it directly on the soil. So I’d expect if the roots of pocketed plants got down to below the cardboard, that would be the end. It’s worth the experiment. By next year, I’d expect this to be well broken down and not a problem and high in nitrogen content.