tips + how-tos

sheet mulching & bamboo free for all

With our hugelkultur bed wrapped up, it was time to sheet mulch. We decided that we wanted a larger garden than the hugelkultur bed provided, so in the surrounding area, we dug and loosened up the soil… kind of like ‘double digging.‘ We try to do this at least a few weeks before we plant the bed, so we were definitely feeling the heat to knock this out on a quickness.

Sheet mulching can be kind of complex with many layers or simple with just a couple. We use as much cardboard as we can find and whatever anyone will give us (literally begging until the end).

Our sheet mulching began with a layer of cardboard over the entire bed- making sure to overlap the pieces so that the whole area was completely covered. This layer is important because cardboard helps kill weeds, holds in moisture, and eventually decomposes thus adding organic material back into the soil.


Laying the layers down on a windy day can be the worst! We kept a bucket of compost to toss a little on the newspaper to just to keep it weighed down as we went (Water works too).


After the cardboard is down, we spread a layer of compost about 2-3 inches deep .  Thick mulch builds great soil, so don’t be timid, use all you can spare.

Starting to get somewhere….


Two sheet mulch layers down and two to go.  Pull out the morning paper; you’re gonna need it! Lots of it…

sheet mulching_1

We spread newspaper over top of the compost layer. Don’t use the glossy paper just the newsprint. The inks are typically soy-based and non-toxic in the newsprint making them garden safe.

With the newspaper down, we spread about 2-3 inches of compost to top it off. Once we watered everything down, we were ready to lay out and define where all these goodies veggies were going to grow.


We laid out the garden so that we had easy access to all of the more frequently harvested groups of plants. To maximize the square footage (without walking through and compacting the garden soil), we put in paths using layers of cardboard around the perimeter of the garden with spurs into the middle.


There is only one critical thing left to call this garden “ready”…. a fence of course (gotta keep the “thieves” out)! I don’t know why, but the fence was my favorite part.

We wanted to make something that was cheap, easy, and somewhat temporary. We decided to build a basic garden fence using bamboo as the posts. With a borrowed SUV, we were off to Ryan’s uncle’s house, who manages a small bamboo forest. In the span of one morning, we were able to cut down all the bamboo that our ride would allow and brought it all back to the garden.

After sorting the bamboo by size and selecting the thickest and sturdiest pieces, we dug holes equally spaced for each fence post, about 8-12″ deep.


Once the bamboo posts were in place with soil packed in tight around them, the tops were sawed off with a small handsaw (you work with what ya got). Be careful, bamboo splits easy.


Then we attached the fencing. We used a basic steel welded wire fencing and secured to each bamboo post with aluminum ties (used for aluminum fences). We used garden staples to secure the fencing to the ground in the areas that we were a worried about any little guys crawling under.

It didn’t take long before we started to move into our new garden. Our first additions were bamboo trellises, cut to size with pieces tied together with twine. We used them for both cucumbers and pole beans to grow up.


2013 was a turbulent year. For us, coming out to the garden every day to find what was “ready for the pickin” was one of the highlights…a great way to count your blessings. We can’t wait to show you guys all that we were able to harvest the first year with our Knoxville bed.

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  • Reply
    Cindy C
    March 9, 2014 at 11:41 pm

    Wow, you guys have put a lot of work into this. I am thinking you need some CHICKENS 🙂

    • Reply
      this natural dream
      April 2, 2014 at 2:10 pm

      We couldn’t agree more, chickens will be greeted with open arms!


  • Reply
    March 15, 2014 at 2:33 am

    I can tell you guys have really been busy. I never thought of using cardboard and newspapers in this manner. GREAT IDEA!!!!!!! Now that I have seen what you guys have been able to do with your space, I cannot wait to start working in my backyard. Thanks for the motivation.

    • Reply
      this natural dream
      April 2, 2014 at 2:19 pm

      Right now we are benefiting more from our sheet mulching than the hugelkultur, definitely worth the extra step. So happy to inspire! Please feel free to share your backyard ventures with us.


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