Make a New Garden Bed With Sheet Mulching

Updated on October 22, 2019
Nolimits Nana profile image

Nicolette Goff is a watercolourist, writer, and dedicated gardener. Her books, articles and paintings reveal her love of nature.

What Is Sheet Mulching?

Sheet mulching is a fast, labor-saving technique for building new planting beds and suppressing weeds.

Is there a section of your lawn that you'd like to turn into a bed for ornamentals? Or perhaps it's time for the new herb garden you have always wanted. Creating a new planting area with sheet mulching may just be the answer.

Instead of picturing what you need to remove from a certain spot of field or lawn to build a garden bed, think about what you can pile on top of it that will smother the weeds or grass. The best cover is something organic, that will eventually form part of the soil while suppressing the unwanted plant cover.

The covered greenery will die and decay over the course of some months, helping to build rich, loose soil that's ready to plant. The process closely mimics nature’s own soil-building process.

The best time to create a new bed with this method is in late summer or fall. If you start in the fall, it will be ready to plant by the next spring.

The First Step

The start of a new bed, framed with 2X8 inch wood sides.
The start of a new bed, framed with 2X8 inch wood sides.

Killing the Grass

  1. The first step is to mark the perimeter and place an edging around the bed. Build with wood, blocks, or bricks, about 12 inches high. Make sure its secure and strong enough to hold your new garden.
  2. You do not need to remove the existing sod or weed cover. Just cut down any taller growth, or mow the grass, and leave it there. Any vegetation you cover up as you build your new planting area will soon decompose and add vital minerals and texture to the soil's nutritive value.
  3. You may need to add a thin layer of soil amendments depending on your soil type - gypsum or lime and rock dust.
  4. Now, cover the bed area with a layer of cardboard or layers of newspaper. This layer will prevent any weeds or plants from growing up. Do not use the shiny or colored pages as they won't decompose as well.
  5. Make sure you don't leave any gaps, as weeds or grass from below could grow right through.
  6. Use a garden hose to soak each layer before you place on the next one. The water will speed up the decomposition. These layers of paper add some necessary carbon to the soil in your new bed as it decomposes.


Make the bed narrow enough so that you don't need to walk in it to weed or plant. Walking on your planting beds will compact the soil, so air and water can't penetrate. This will cause root stress.

An alternative is to put down flat stepping stones or rounds of wood so you have something to walk on, and make the bed around them. Put them on top of the paper layer, and make sure they're big enough to stick up through the mulch you are going to add.

Build Up the Soil

  1. Begin with a high-nitrogen layer about 8 to 10 inches deep. It will pack down, so don't skimp on it. Get a little creative with this first layer of mulch. Use whatever organic materials are available to you. Thinking that the mulch has to be done in a very specific way might be a barrier to your trying out making a sheet mulched bed, so use what you have or what you can easily get.
  2. Grass clippings, non-animal food scraps, unfinished compost, leaves, and yard waste are all great materials. If you can get your hands on comfrey and dandelion leaves, add a layer of them, as they are both excellent bioaccumulators that concentrate nutrients from the soil in their leaves. They will release these nutrients back into your soil as they decompose.
  3. On top of this first deep layer, put on another layer composed of finished compost (complete with worms), decayed leaves, seaweed or rotted manure. This layer should be 3 to 5 inches deep.
  4. Finish with six inches of straw, wood chips, or sawdust. Do not bury the sawdust or wood chips. This top layer will prevent the mulch from blowing away and prevent weeds from growing.
  5. If you use wood chips, they should be small enough to decompose in a year or two. Another great topping, if you can get it, is animal bedding, especially from horse barns. This will break down quickly, and add both texture and nutrients to your soil.

Layering the New Sheet Mulched Bed


Planting Your New Bed

  1. Water the new bed regularly if the weather is dry. Some moisture is necessary for the layers to transform into compost. Overwinter a new sheet-mulched bed and it will be ready to plant in the spring.
  2. If you want to plant immediately, perennials or shrubs can be planted directly in the mulch, with some good topsoil added around them. Make soil pockets for annual starts or small seeds.


This video shows in detail how to sheet mulch. The product they are using, EcoCover, is made in New Zealand, from recycled paper from landfills, and is a much more eco-friendly product and cost-effective.than plastic mulch covers in large commercial gardens.

For our small garden beds, any newsprint paper or cardboard (corrugated is best, from discarded boxes) works just fine, and fits with the 3Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2008 Nicolette Goff


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • RGraf profile image

      Rebecca Graf 

      11 years ago from Wisconsin

      Good hub! I'll have to try that when the snow melts.

    • Froggy213 profile image

      Greg Boudonck 

      11 years ago from Returned to an Isla Del Sol - Puerto Rico Will Rise Strong

      thanks--ill try, finding the parent can be difficult--it's everywhere!!

    • profile image

      NoLimits Nana 

      11 years ago

      Sounds like what we call quack grass here in BC, and I agree, it's a real pest. You could try using a torch to burn the grass once you've found the 'parent' plant, and have pulled up the runners. I don't like to use chemicals if I can avoid it, so try that.

    • Froggy213 profile image

      Greg Boudonck 

      11 years ago from Returned to an Isla Del Sol - Puerto Rico Will Rise Strong

      Great hub--here in my part of the country we have a type of grass that grows in a similar way as strawberries. You just cannot kill it with the newspaper,it crawls out.

      I'm not sure of the type of grass, any suggestions?


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)