No, this isn’t the recipe for lasagnas, in this article we will explain you the no-dig and no-till organic method of gardening which is called the Lasagna gardening. The name itself came from the process of soil preparation because you put layers of different materials like similar to layers in lasagna dish. Lasagna gardening is also known as layered gardening, sheet composting, sheet mulching or no-dig gardening. Rather than bringing in yards of soil, you build up the soil you have by adding layer upon layer of organic matter, alternating carbon and nitrogen rich layers.
In a few weeks or so it all breaks down, thanks to the action of beneficial microbes, insects and earthworms and you get the soil that makes the perfect planting mix to grow your garden.
Ingredients for lasagna gardening
The yard and food waste you use to make a lasagna garden are broken into two groups called the browns and greens. In our article Composting leads to the healthful garden we explain in detail what you need for good compost and here we will just explain the basics. Browns are: leaves, shredded newspaper, peat, and pine needles. Greens are: vegetable scraps, garden trimmings, and grass clippings. Food waste can’t be any meat product nor have oils in it. However, if vegetable scraps were not cooked in oil, like leftover steamed vegetables or raw pieces like apple cores, they can be used. The following materials are all perfect for lasagna gardens:
- Grass clippings
- Fruit and vegetable peels and scraps
- Coffee grounds
- Tea leaves and tea bags
- Weeds (if they haven’t gone to seed)
- Egg shells
- Shredded newspaper or junk mail
- Pine needles
- Dead flowers
- Trimmings fom the garden
- Peat moss
How to make layers for lasagna gardening
Just like the lasagna dish you cook, your lasagna garden has to be layered in some order. The first layer of your lasagna garden is either brown corrugated cardboard or three layers of newspaper. The space underneath the cardboard and newspaper will attract earthworms to your lasagna garden because it is dark and moist. Earthworms help make the waste into soil and they will also help keep this new soil loose. You need to lay the cardboard or newspapers directly on top of the grass or weeds where you want your garden because the grass or weeds will break down fairly quickly because they will be smothered by the newspaper or cardboard, as well as by the materials you are going to layer on top of them. Wet this layer down to keep everything in place because water also helps waste break down. Then put a layer of browns (leaves, shredded paper) on top of the cardboard or newspaper and after that put a layer of greens (vegetable scraps, grass clippings) on top of the brown layer. Stack layers until your lasagna garden is about two feet high.
In general, you want your brown layers to be about twice as deep as your green layers. There is no need to get this exact and measure it, just layer browns and greens as explained and a lasagna garden will be a result. What you want at the end of your layering process is a two-foot tall layered bed. After you’ve achieved this height, you can wait until the compost heap shrinks in size and this will probably happen much quicker than you expect. Once the compost heap has shrunk to a nice layer of fertile earth, you are able to start planting.
When to start with your lasagna garden
You can make a lasagna garden any time of year but fall is thought to be the best time to make one. You are able to get a lot of browns all at once, for instance fall leaves, and general yard waste from around your yard. Your lasagna garden has all winter to break down and fall rains and winter snow will keep your lasagna garden moist, which will help the waste break down faster. By spring your lasagna garden will be ready to plant. If you want to make a lasagna garden in spring or summer, you may need to add peat moss or top soil. This must be made if you want to plant your garden right away. If you make the bed in spring, layer as many greens and browns as you can, with layers of peat or topsoil mixed in. Then put three or four inches of topsoil on the top layer and you are ready to plant. Don’t worry, the bed will settle over the season as the layers underneath decompose.
Planting and maintaining you lasagna garden
Time of planting in lasagna gardening is the same as conventional gardening and here there is no differences. When it’s time to plant, just dig down into the bed as you would with any other garden. If you used newspaper as your bottom layer, the shovel will most likely go right through, exposing nice, loose soil underneath and if you used cardboard, you may have to cut a hole in it at each spot where you want to plant something.
Maintaining your lasagna garden is simple as adding mulch to the top of the bed in the form of straw, grass clippings, bark mulch, or chopped leaves. Once it’s established, you will care for a lasagna garden just as you would any other garden, just weed and water when necessary.
Advantages of lasagna gardening
There are many advantages to lasagna gardening. The most important one is that it provides a no-dig, weed-free garden bed which requires far less work to begin and maintain. You will also need far less fertilizers because of the nutrient rich soil generated by the organic materials used. There is no such thing as a work-free garden, but the lasagna method sure makes gardening easier while benefiting our soil and water resources. In fact, like many things in life, the hardest thing about lasagna gardening is just getting started. Lasagna gardening is perfect for those with limited garden space and much more cost effective over building traditional raised beds but if you want a neat and tidy garden you can make lasagna garden in raised garden beds also.