If someone told me years ago that they had found a way to put an end to the sweat equity of traditional gardening, a way around digging, weeding, and rototilling, a way to produce more regardless of time constraints, physical limitations, or power-tool ineptness… well, I would have checked that person for a head injury. Yet I am here to tell you that there is such a thing as sweat free gardening. Did I also tell you that it can also be an excellent way to create amazing soil and compost and allow you to garden on a hard surface?
This method of creating beds really requires no digging or tilling. Also known as sheet-composting, it means building up layers of organic material that will break down over time, resulting in rich, loose soil. You can build a lasagna garden on top of the lawn, weeds, a hard surface or even in a paper bag.
Start by spreading a layer of newspaper (several sheets thick, the thicker the better) and corrugated cardboard over the selected area. From there build up layers of organic material; pretty much anything that you would put into the compost can be used. Some people will build these beds within a frame but you can build them as free standing raised beds.
Fall is the optimum time to start a lasagna garden, however you can adapt a lasagna bed to fit any season. Traditionally you build in the fall to allow the layers to settle and to start to break down. By simply alternating layers of ‘browns’ and ‘greens’, just like you would when building a good compost pile, you will build you bed. Brown layers should be twice a thick as the green layer. Add a thin layer of soil between the layers so you have some real dirt. If you want to get a particular soil balance you can adjust the layers and thickness of the carbon and nitrogen layers.
You want to aim for around two feet of material which will shrink down surprisingly quickly, usually in just a few weeks. You can go higher depending on what you would like to grow.
To build a lasagna bed in the spring, layer as many ‘browns’ and ‘greens’ as you can get your hands on and intersperse them with topsoil. The bed will settle over the season. Finish off with three or four inches of mulch to suppress any weeds and plant. The worms and microbes will mix it all together! If your budget is limited on the soil, place the soil where you will place your plants. We have built lasagna beds with strips of topsoil in between the mulch. Mulch is any material that prevents weeds. You may come across lasagna beds that are topped with cardboard and areas cut out for planting.
Good materials for a lasagna garden include:
Greens: Grass clippings, fruit & vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, tea bags, weeds (no seeds), manure, compost, seaweed, spent blooms and trimmings from the garden.
Browns: leaves, shredded newspaper, peat moss and straw.
To maintain the garden, add mulch in the form of straw, grass clippings, bark mulch or chopped leaves. Once ‘Built’ care for your lasagna garden as you would any other. Weed and water when necessary and stand back and wait for everything to grow!
If you want to go to the next level of raised beds considered hugelkultur beds to reduce the need for watering.
Want to use your garden to grow food and save money?
October 19th, 2017