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Lasagna Gardening (it's not what you might think)

Updated on April 27, 2013

Since ancient time people have known that land can become worn out from too much farming. The ancient Hebrews would let the land lie fallow every seventh year, during which time it undoubtedly collected new topsoil that had been depleted from six years of growing crops.

The Dust Bowl of the 1930's was partly caused by ploughing the land. Small, loose particles of dirt blew from the Middle West all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.

Much of Australia is desert, and irrigation can be expensive. Farmers there invented a technique designed to conserve water, and a native Californian working in Australia brought the technique to his home state, where it has taken hold.

Lasagna gardening does not involve planting lasagna seeds to harvest a pasta dish. The name comes from layers that are used to build up the soil rather than disrupting it. Besides helping to conserve water, the technique builds up organic matter and produces a soft soil where roots can grow.

I have found the technique to be particularly valuable in the area where I live, which has a hard, clay soil.

To build up your soil the first thing you will need is newspapers. Save only actual newspaper with its rough texture. Do not include glossy Sunday supplements or advertisements which will add unwanted chemicals to your soil. Colored photographs on newsprint are okay. A 6 month’s supply of newspapers will cover about 600 square feet of ground.

The next thing you will need is hay. I like alfalfa hay, although, truthfully, the thing I like about it most is the sweet scent and my second favorite thing about it is the spring green color, so I can't claim that there is any scientific basis for my selection. Feel free to experiment with different kinds. Hay is available at feed and grain stores, which can be found in neighborhoods with lots of horses. Two bales should cover a 600 foot garden. Buy bales that have been sliced like bread.

Lastly you will need compost. If you are just getting started it is not considered cheating to buy compost or gardening soil at the local home improvement store.

Begin by finding a sunny location far from any trees. Trees hog all the sunlight, soil, and water. Most vegetable plants need plenty of sun to convert into the energy that goes into growing and making food.

When you have found a good spot, begin by covering it with newspapers, at least 2 inches in thickness. The newspapers are there to hold in water, so pile them high. (Don't try this step on a windy day).

Next, separate your hay slices and place them like paving stones over your newspaper layer.

Spread your compost or garden soil evenly over your hay, taking care to disturb the hay as little as possible. If the hay and compost get mixed together, just shovel on some more compost to make a nice, thick top layer, at least 2 inches thick.

Now your lasagna soil is ready for sewing seeds. Sow them in the compost layer at the depth specified on the package.

Your new soil will gradually settle, get worn down by the elements, and become depleted from your crop. I recommend renewing all your layers each spring. Happy growing.


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    • roguehydro profile image

      roguehydro 4 years ago from Connecticut

      and a great way to get rid of old newspapers :)

    • caseymel profile image

      caseymel 4 years ago from Indiana

      I have read about that in one of the composting books I took out of the library. What a great way to get nutrients back into the soil for the plants.