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What is Lasagna Gardening?

Updated on February 4, 2013
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.

What is Lasagna Gardening?

What in the world is lasagna gardening? The first time I heard the phrase I imagined that it was a garden with all of the delicious herbs used in lasagna plus some onions and tomatoes thrown in for good measure.

I could not have been further from the truth about this unique gardening technique.

Imagine never having to till again. Image (c)Marye Audet 2008
Imagine never having to till again. Image (c)Marye Audet 2008

Building a Lasadna Garden

Lasagna gardening is very much like square foot gardening. The difference is that the beds can be totally your choice as to size. If you like square foot gardening you can still use that technique with the lasagna garden. The name comes from the building up of layers in the bed. This method is also called sheet composting.

The heavy layers of mulch and the fact that you plant the crops very close together cut way down on the amount of weeding that you will have to do. This is a big plus for the busy gardener. After all, who wouldn't like to enjoy a cold iced tea on the porch while admiring his garden rather than weed it?

The heavy mulch breaks down quickly because of the way that it is layered and creates a rich soil that nourished your plants. Mulch is made up of leaves, clippings, sawdust, manure, hay, straw, newspaper and kitchen scraps (except for things you would not put in a compost, like meat or dairy). The first layer is generally something thick, like newspapers or cardboard, that will keep grass and weeds from poking up through the layers. Next a layer of peat moss is put down, about three inches thick. This will provide good water absorption.

At this point a thick layer of compost is spread over the peat moss. The compost should be well rotted and rich to provide for the nutritional needs of your plants. Now, another layer of three inch thick peat moss is added. Add one more layer of compost and continue building your lasagna until it is about two feet high. You can alternate the organic matter between compost and things like leaves or grass clippings if you like. When your lasagna has reached it's full height then you will make a thin layer of bone meal and wood ash if you have these available.

There are now two ways to proceed.

  1. You can go ahead and plant your garden.
  2. You can put black plastic over it and allow it to break down for a few weeks. This takes patience but it is the best way as the heat of the decaying matter kills weed seeds and garden pests that may be present in the lasagna.

Planting and Maintaining the Beds

Once the beds are created you are finished with digging and tilling forever. Take just a moment and consider the new found freedom!

  • To transplant seedlings you will just push back the layers of mulch, put the plant in and then gently press the mulch back around it.
  • Seeds are just as easy. Sprinkle the seeds over the top and cover with compost. Pat down lightly and water gently.

Lasagna gardening is a great way to grow potatoes because you do not need to dig trenches. In this case you don't want to use nitrogen rich organic matter like grass clippings. Lay down several sheets of wet newspaper and then lay seed potatoes right on top. Cover them with a layer of compost. Continue to add compost as the plants grow, making sure to keep the potatoes covered at all times.

Everything else that you plant will be pretty much done the same as always.

When the frost kills off the last of your garden turn the plants over on the top. Cover them with peat moss and allow the garden to break down over the winter. You can cover the tops with black plastic if you like but this is not necessary. In the spring you will only have to wait until the soil has thawed enough to plant the seeds.

Gardening with this method is easy, fast, and very productive. Because the soil is so rich you do not need chemical fertilizers. Because there is no need of tillers it is very eco friendly. It just doesn't get better than that.

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