Sheet Composting: My Introduction to Organic Gardening
I am a 75 year old retired Pastoral Counselor. My avocation for the past 33 years has been ‘organic gardening’. However, I was introduced to organic gardening at age 6. My dad planted black-eyed peas in the low ground of our farm in SE Missouri as a fall truck crop. Heavy rains flooded the 5 acres drowning the peas as they were blooming. My dad loaded the dead vines on a trailer and dumped them in the garden. He disked them into the soil. The garden the next spring was one of the most healthy and productive garden we ever had. This dumping and disking is ‘Sheet Composting’ at its best.
When I began organic gardening in El Paso, Texas in the 1980s, I would buy 6-8 locally grown alfalfa bails and collect 100 bags of leaves each January. I would also dump everything left in my compost pile over the 30’x50’ garden. This would take several tillings to incorporate all the organic material into the soil. The drawback to this sheet composting was that if I planted before the decomposition finished, the garden plants might turn yellow as the nitrogen was still being used in decomposition. However organic liquid fertilizers helped until the composed nitrogen was restored to the soil.
In Rockport, Texas where I live now, I will plant Cereal Rye Grass or Persian Glover in the middles of my 30’x54’ garden to be cut for mulch around plants or to be put in the compost bins. I then will till the rest of the ‘green manure’ under to feed the plants when I pull the dirt up onto the hilled rows. This is another form of sheet composting which limits the weeds.
Sheet composting is nature’s way of building the fertility of the soil out in the woods and grass lands. It teaches patience and hope.