Easy Gardening With Lasagna Gardens
I read several gardening books this summer and kept coming across something called lasagna gardening. My first thought was to grow the vegetables needed to make lasagna, but I quickly discovered I was wrong. The more I read the more I wished I had done that. We have raised beds for our garden and it took a lot of compost, manure, peat moss, etc to fill it and it was expensive to say the least. Lasagna gardening would have been much cheaper and easier.
What I love about lasagna gardening is that it doesn't require a lot of digging, can be put anywhere that gets enough sun, can be filled with materials from around your yard or house and is easy to add to over the years. I really like that you use materials that might otherwise get throw in a landfill to create something to benefit your whole family and the environment.
When creating a lasagna garden it is all about the layers, just like in a real edible lasagna. The first step is to break up the soil underneath where your garden will be. You don't have to dig deep and you can leave the dirt in place, but loosening the soil underneath the garden bed will allow all the beneficial insects and microbes in the soil underground to easily reach your garden. This will help the layers of your garden break down and create very fertile soil - just what every gardener wants.
Most lasagna gardens need something around it to hold everything in place. A fence staked around where you will layer or possibly wooden garden beds. If you have a very large area and don't mind a messy look, you can make do without this step. Just like in a compost pile you want to have a good mixture of green ingredients and brown ingredients. Green ingredients will include things like kitchen scraps (no meat or protein!), fresh grass clippings, moist dirt, compost, peat moss, coffee grounds, manure, etc. Brown ingredients include dry material such as chopped dry leaves, straw, newspaper, sawdust, etc.
Once you have your material you can start layering. You should start with newspaper to prevent weeds from growing. A layer a few pages thick should do the trick. On the bottom you should keep it intact. If you use newspaper for other layers, shredded will work fine and allow more air and water to move around. You should alternate green and brown ingredients and work your way up to 18-24 inches thick. You definitely need a "dirt" layer every few layers out of peat moss, compost, manure, etc. as this will help speed up the breaking down process.
A lasagna garden will break down much like a compost pile, but you get the added benefit of being able to plant vegetables in it. From what I can tell there is mixed opinion of whether you can plant in these beds right away or whether you should let them cook for 6 months or a year first. If you fix up a lasagna garden in the fall and cover it in black plastic to let it cook like a compost pile all winter, it should be ready in the spring. My feeling on this depends on the ingredients you used in making the lasagna garden. If you use fresh manure of any kind then you should let it cook for 6 months minimum. If you use only aged manure or no manure, and made sure to add plenty of dirt like layers then planting immediately should work well.
Keep in mind that the layers will condense as time passes and the materials break down. One of the benefits of lasagna gardening is that you can keep adding layers for as long as you have the garden. I think adding a few layers each fall will help keep the soil in very good condition for planting in the spring. I know that next time I create a garden bed I will be using the lasagna gardening method, how about you?