Esthetics & Design: Sheet Mulching

Sheet Mulching

Hand-out for a workshop on sheet mulching. emphasis on esthetic qualities of the shape of beds/pathways/stepping stones and the different textures of the finishing top layer.

An often encountered criticism of permaculture design in public space is that it looks “messy”. And frankly: it often does. Going overboard on pragmatism can lead to a neglect of the sense of beauty – which is perhaps more important to acceptance and behavioral change then the usefulness of design.

Mulching has the potential to draw a collection of disparate elements together. Much like a neutral backdrop in a museum. It should not just cover and protect the soil but also be pleasing and restful to the eye, bringing feature plants to the foreground.

How does that work? One tool is to provide a contract of scale. By creating a top layer of very fine detail you emphasise the shapes and colours of the plants, their leaves, flowers and fruits. Another instrument is a homogenous colour and texture to contrast with the plants in colours and shapes.

Use a chipper or shredder to cut the mulch material into a fine and homogenous material. Using different source materials, like straw, tree bark, hemp fibers or coco shells, you can create a pallet of different colours and textures. Lay out different materials in gently undulating swirls and patches.

Part of a series of workshops on Esthetics & Design in Permaculture