Cardboard Layering and Deep Compost Mulch for Rocky Mountain West Specialty Crops

Project Overview

Project Type: Local Ed & Demo (formerly RGR)
Funds awarded in 2023: $99,233.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2025
Host Institution Award ID: G302-23-W9988
Grant Recipient: Central Wyoming College
Region: Western
State: Wyoming
Principal Investigator:
Ethan Page
Central Wyoming College
Jonah Sloven
Sweet Hollow Farm


  • Vegetables: artichokes, beans, beets, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, cucurbits, eggplant, garlic, greens (leafy), greens (lettuces), onions, peas (culinary), peppers, radishes (culinary), tomatoes, turnips, Indian corn, tomatillos, kale
  • Additional Plants: ornamentals


  • Crop Production: crop rotation, drought tolerance, irrigation, no-till, nutrient cycling, nutrient management, water management
  • Education and Training: demonstration, networking, technical assistance, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: apprentice/intern training, budgets/cost and returns, labor/employment
  • Pest Management: prevention
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: organic matter, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: employment opportunities, local and regional food systems, public participation

    Proposal abstract:

    The cardboard layering and deep compost mulch (CLDCM) system is an innovative method of weed suppression that positively impacts both the environment and farmers quality of life.  This innovative method has been used successfully by home gardeners and smaller commercial growers for years, and involves placing cardboard on top of the soil, then adding 6-to-8 inches of compost, which effectively starves weeds and weed seeds of sunlight to the point that they cannot persist.   With this SARE Research to Grassroots grant funding, the Central Wyoming College (CWC) Alpine Science Institute Farm in Lander, Wyoming and Sweet Hollow Farm in Victor, Idaho will replicate results of the research Richard Baruc (SARE funded project, FNE10-677): Soil and Plant Properties in Cardboard Mulch Prepared No-Till beds in the InterMountain West’s semi-arid high-altitude climate. The partnership will also build upon Sweet Hollow’s SARE funded Farmer-Rancher research project (FW22-393 : Cardboard Layering Deep Compost Mulch for Weed Suppression, Soil Health, and Profitability) by teaching other farmers and educators how to effectively implement the CLDCM method.  This research-based method will be taught through a series of skill-building workshops in conjunction with other partner organizations throughout Wyoming and Idaho.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. For each project year, install CLDCM on 16 20’ x 100’ vegetable blocks (32 project total). 
      1. Ten on Sweet Hollow Farm.
      2. Six blocks on the CWC Alpine Science Institute Farm (four in the education garden, site of the Crop Production Practicum for the Beginning Farmer Training Program, and assist two Incubator Farmers to install one each). 
    2. Specialty crop producers will learn the technical skills required to install and manage CLDCM, and increase their knowledge of no-till soil practices.
      1. CWC will annually train 55 beginning farmers, Incubator Farmers and local market gardeners in the technique (110 project total).
      2. Sweet Hollow will annually train 25 workshare employees and general public through University of Idaho Extension (50 project total).
    3. Track results of CLDCM implementation to assess impacts in terms of labor savings, crop yield, and soil health, which foster environmental and financial sustainability of farm businesses. Share with specialty crop producers to increase their knowledge of the efficiencies and benefits provided by CLDCM.
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.