Knock the weeds down flat. It is not necessary to cut or remove them. A thin scattering of
a high-nitrogen manure, such as chicken manure, is helpful at this stage but not essential.
Cover the area with a layer of cardboard, newspaper or other organic sheet material.
The purpose of this layer is to kill the weeds by excluding light. There must be no gaps
and plenty of overlap between the pieces, say 20cm, to prevent vigorous weeds zig-zagging
up between them. Big sheets of card-board are best because you will get fewer joins, and
an old carpet is ideal as long as it is made entirely out of natural fibres because everything
you use must be able to rot down.
Newspaper is only thick enough if you use the whole thing, opened out; do not try to eco-
nomise by using just a few sheets.
Next comes a layer to weigh the sheets down and provide some nutrients. Manure is ideal
(most of our cities are ringed by riding stables which have plenty of it to get rid of), though
seaweed will do, or partly rotted compost, provided it is free of weed roots and seeds. The
manure does not need to be very well rotted; three months old is sufficient. This layer
should be 5 to 10cm thick.
Now it is time to plant. Potatoes do especially well on this system. Next best are plants
which are grown at wide spacings, such as marrows, sweet corn or the cabbage family.
Transplants often do better than seeds, as seedlings which have only just germinated can
get buried when birds come and scratch the mulch in search of grubs and insects.
Take a sharp tool, such as an old screwdriver or knife, and stab it through the mulch into
the ground. This makes a hole in the sheet layer for the plant's roots to get to the soil be-
low. Scrape away the manure from around the little hole, replace it with a couple of double