The concept of lasagna gardening has nothing to do with what you will be having for dinner. Lasagna gardening is a no-till, no-dig method of building garden beds which improves the quality of soil over time. It involves adding layers of organic materials such as dry leaves, wood chips, and straw.
These ingredients decompose quickly and create a healthy organic soil that contains all the nutrients for plants to grow. It’s an easy, relaxed method of gardening that allows nature to do as much of the work as possible.
The first step is to form garden beds by using landscape materials such as stones and timber that will hold the organic material in place. Then place a layer of corrugated cardboard or newspaper inside and start alternating layers of green and brown materials. Green materials such as grass clippings, garden trimming, and vegetable scraps supply nitrogen while brown materials like pine needles, peat, and shredded newspaper provide carbon. Once the ingredients have decomposed, it is time to plant and water your seeds. Continue adding a few more layers every fall so that soil becomes nutrient-rich over time.
Benefits of DIY Lasagna Gardening
Compared to traditional gardening methods which involve a lot of hard work, lasagna gardening is a less labor-intensive way of taking care of your garden. The main benefits are improved soil quality and water retention, a wide choice of organic materials to use, higher yields, and a variety of plants that thrive in a lasagna garden. This is also a great way to recycle household waste and help the environment.
Improved Soil Quality and Water Retention
Lasagna gardening creates a suitable environment for beneficial fungi and microorganisms which support plant growth. Microorganisms help improve soil structure, enhance soil aggregate stability, decompose organic material, and regulate phosphorous, nitrogen, and carbon levels. Nutrient-rich soil simply teems with microorganisms, algae, fungi, and protozoa that allow plants to defend themselves against disease-causing agents and obtain nutrients that are important for growth.
Lasagna gardening also improves water retention because the layers of organic material hold water more effectively than soil. This means that you will waste less water. Furthermore, as a result of exposure to compacting forces, wind, and heat, soil absorbs less irrigation and waterfall. Weeds increase evaporation and soil loses water. In comparison, lasagna composting reduces weeds and evaporation and improves water retention. Studies show that compared to bare soil, a single layer of straw helps reduce evaporation by around 35 percent. Organic materials have also been shown to improve retention more efficiently than inorganic ones.
Some gardeners worry that cardboard shield mulching affects oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in soil. Research from the Washington State University, however, shows that the use of paper as mulch not only doesn’t affect soil quality but promotes faster growth and produces higher yields in gardens.
A Wide Choice of Organic Materials
There are plenty of organic materials that you can use for your lasagna garden, including:
- Peat moss
- Aged animal manure
- Garden trimmings
- Tea bags and leaves
- Coffee grounds
- Vegetable and fruit scraps
- Chopped leaves
- Bark mulch
- Coconut coir
- Alfalfa pellets
- Blood or soybean meal
- Cottonseed meal
Adding a variety of biodegradable materials helps improve soil quality. The more varied the ingredients are, the richer the finished compost will be, packed with macronutrients such as potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen. Additionally, compost contains trace minerals and micronutrients like calcium, magnesium, carbon, sulphur, and zinc. With a great variety of micro- and macronutrients that are often missing from commercial-grade fertilizers, biodegradable materials help regulate moisture, improve soil texture and structure, balance soil pH, and encourage microbial growth. Added advantages of lasagna composting are that it is uncomplicated and easy and you can do it on a small or large scale depending on how much space you have. It is also a great way to increase your garden space with minimum effort, materials, and equipment.
Recycling Household Waste
Lasagna composting is a great way to recycle household waste which makes it beneficial to the environment. It diverts kitchen scraps and yard waste from the landfill and turns biodegradable materials into layers of nutritious, rich soil. This method is eco-friendly in that it not only reduces the amount of waste you send to a recycler or the landfill but involves no or minimal amounts of artificial fertilizers.
Little Maintenance Required
Another advantage of lasagna-style gardening is that you don’t need to bust your back with a lot of maintenance. You don’t need to till or dig to create a new productive growing space. Plus, you don’t need to buy soil because biodegradable materials produce soil that is full of nutrients. The fact that a lasagna garden does not require tilling means that beneficial microorganisms are preserved in soil. When you stir up soil, you destroy helpful fungi and bacteria that live in it.
A Variety of Plants to Grow
A lasagna garden works best for vegetables such as onions, potatoes, leafy greens, tomatoes, and root vegetables. Potatoes, for example, thrive on small hills and in loose soil which makes the lasagna garden an ideal environment for potatoes. Onions are also well suited because they thrive in a nutrient-rich soil. You can also plant leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, and lettuce as they like quick-draining soil that keeps their roots from getting soggy. Root veggies also flourish in a lasagna garden with well-aerated soil, including parsnips, radishes, beets, and carrots.
Lasagna gardening offers environmental and economic benefits and saves a lot of time and effort. It is a great method of growing plants in urban settings. Lasagna composting builds healthy populations of plant species and microorganisms and improves soil texture and health. Such sustainable, biodiverse ecosystems require fewer applications of commercial fertilizers and pesticides and are more resistant to environmental stress.