Sheet-Metal Mulch
& My Amazing Friend,
Steve Lonsky

Dateline: 31 May 2014

(click picture to see a larger view)

Today I visited my friend Steve Lonsky. I typically see him a couple times a year at different church functions and we always have a lot to talk about. But it has been a long time since I visited his place, so today was kind of special. Steve is one of the most resourceful, creative, hard working, down-to-earth, self reliant people I know. 

And Steve is an avid sheet-metal-mulch gardener. Fact is, I think Steve invented the whole concept of using old sheet metal as a garden mulch. 

I have used sheet metal as a mulch in my garden because I learned about it from Steve. I know one other person who also uses sheet metal mulch and they got the idea from Steve. Do a Google search of "sheet metal mulch" and you will find This Essay and This Essay, both of which mention Steve's idea and were written by me. I haven't found anything else on the internet about sheet metal mulch.

The picture of Steve's garden above is just one of many gardens he has. That garden is pretty much the size of my one and only garden. I am humbled by the amount of garden Steve plants and cares for. He is a very serious gardener, and he works a full time job as a welder. 

The whole area of that garden in the picture was covered with sheet metal all last year. The metal mulch killed out the annual and perennial weeds, including bindweed, which we refer to as "The Weed From Hell." If you have an infestation of bindweed in your garden, you know how it is.

The soil under sheet metal mulch that has been in place for a year is soft, and moist, and nice to work with.

In the spring, Steve removes some sheeting, repositions the sheets so there are rows of soil between them, and plants his garden. There is a fence of sheet metal all around the garden to keep rabbits and woodchucks out.

Steve has other sections of land covered with sheet metal this year, and will plant garden in those areas next year.

All the corrugated sheet metal Steve uses is recycled. Some of it came from roofs, some was once siding. I noticed some flat metal trailer roofing too. Steve says he uses Vise-Grip clamps to pinch the edge of the metal and make temporary handles for pulling the sheets from place to place.

He told me he recently bought a metal roof up the road. He paid the owner $50 for it and used an angle grinder to quickly cut away the nail heads to free the sheets. 

How long will sheet metal mulching last? Decades. Steve has some old roofing he has been using as mulch for twenty years, and it looks like it'll last at least another twenty.

Steve plants a LOT of potatoes every year. He knows that potatoes are one of the most important crops on a self-reliant  homestead. He removes the sheet metal mulch that was over the soil, then uses that old David Bradley walk-behind tractor in the picture above to make potato furrows. Notice the custom-made stainless steel furrow points behind the tractor. Nice.

After he plants his potatoes he mulches them. One big potato patch I saw was mulched with straw chaff he got for the hauling from a local farm. But Steve also makes his own mulch…

A custom mulching mower

That old lawn mower (which I would bet Steve picked up for free or practically free somewhere) is modified with an open front and will mow down grass and weeds without bogging down. Steve gave me a demonstration in an overgrown section of his yard…

The grass and weeds he was mowing through in that picture were as high as my waist (3 ft.). The mower chopped through it pretty easily. Steve says he lets the grass in his vineyard grow for three weeks before mowing it. Then, after it dries in the sun, he rakes it up and uses it as mulch in the garden. I need one of those things!

Steve Lonsky is a great inspiration to me. He showed me how to butcher my first chicken (before I ever thought of inventing a Whizbang chicken plucker). He inspired me to start growing grapes and sweet potatoes. I learned how to ferment apple cider vinegar from Steve. I also learned about syphon-tube rain barrels from him (they are featured in My Garden Idea Book). Steve made my stainless steel maple syrup evaporator pan back in 1999. This year he and his family made ten gallons of maple syrup. Last year they squeezed more than 200 gallons of apple cider (I had a delightful cold cup of last year's cider while I was visiting). Steve built his own house and hand-dug his own well (and it's deep too). Years ago he made himself a foot-powered (treadle) table saw. I could go on. You get the idea. The man is amazing.

Click Here to see a picture of Steve in his sheet metal mulched garden with an enormous homegrown Blue Hubbard squash.

See what I mean…. Amazing.


Sunnybrook Farm said...

When I find sheet metal I will have a use for it for sure as I have a morning glory infestation.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure I have sheet metal lust. :)

RonC said...

Love the mulching mower idea. That is going on the essential equipment list for the summer. Thanks for taking the time to pass this idea along.