My first garden was a blind experiment. The biggest success, by far, was my lasagna garden. When I first heard the term “lasagna garden” I was clueless. I assumed it meant you grew what you needed to make lasagna. I know. Go ahead and laugh. It’s ok. But, for those of you who don’t know what a lasagna garden is, I will tell you. Those of you who do know, feel free to giggle at our ignorance as I explain. A lasagna garden is named that because it is composed of layers. It is a no dig, no till, organic garden site composed by layering organic materials on top of each other and allowing it to sit and cook down to produce dark, rich, fluffy soil. It has also been called sheet composting because what you are essentially doing is making a large flat compost pile. So, without further ado, here are your lasagna garden instructions.
You start by choosing the site for your garden and mapping it out. Decide how big you want it and where you want it. Your first layer is composed of cardboard or three layers of newspaper. I collect 3’x3′ sheets of thin cardboard from my local feed store. There is one on every pallet between the pallet and the feed that is delivered on top of it. They give these to me for free. When I can’t get enough of those, I have also used the brown paper feed bag’s. Cover your entire area with this and wet it down so it stays in place. This is the base for your lasagna garden. There is no need to pull weeds or till. Simply put the cardboard material on top and wet it down. This layer will act to suffocate the weeds and anything growing beneath. It will also act as a dark moist environment that will attract the earthworms needed to aerate your garden.
Fall is an optimal time to start a lasagna garden because of all of the fallen leaves and free yard waste that can go into it. The materials will break down during fall and winter and be ready to plant in the spring. Anything you would put into a compost pile you can put into a lasagna garden.
If you aren’t familiar with what goes into a compost pile, here is a short list.
Fruit and Vegetable Scraps
Tea leaves and tea bags
Weeds (if they haven’t gone to seed)
Shredded newspaper or junk mail
Spent blooms, trimmings from the garden
Some things you should not compost are
Dog or cat feces
Sawdust (unless you know the wood it came from and are sure it is disease free)
Heavily diseased plants
Thick glossy paper
You will want to alternate your layers from greens to browns. You want your brown layers to be about twice as deep as your green layers but you don’t have to be exact. Your greens are your fresh fruit and vegetables, etc. Your browns are your leaves, grass clippings, paper and such. Layer, layer, layer. Optimally, you will want to build your layers up to the height of 2-4 ft. You will be surprised at how much this settles in a short period of time. It is not necessary, but I find it helpful to cover the entire garden with porous tarps. This lets moisture from snow and fall rains in but helps keep the leaves and such from blowing away. It also deters animals from digging in it to get to the edible items. After you get it built up and covered… Let it cook!
When it is time to plant, just dig into it like you would any other garden spot. If you used newspaper or thin cardboard, your shovel will likely go right through. If your cardboard is thick, you may need to cut through it to get to the soil beneath. After planting, mulch with straw or wood mulch. Treat it like you would any other garden. Weed, water and plant. You will find you won’t need to weed or water as much. Most of the weeds have been smothered and your layers are holding moisture much better than regular garden soil. You will find your soil is crumbly and easy to work with and you will have little need for added fertilizer. Twice the harvest with half the work.
Does it get any better than that?