For many gardeners, growing a bounty of fresh fruit and vegetables for their family and friends to enjoy is a labor of love – but nevertheless still a labor. And when other activities and responsibilities start to mount up, it can be easy to let the garden suffer.
Wouldn’t it be great if there were a way to make gardening easier, with less work and perhaps an even greater bounty? If this sounds like fiction or wishful thinking to you, you may not have heard of lasagna gardening. But to do it right and reap the rewards come spring, you need to start on it during the fall.
When we talk about lasagna gardening (also known as sheet mulching or sheet composting), we are not talking about planting tomatoes, eggplant and zucchini – ingredients of lasagna (although you may certainly plant these and other vegetables in your lasagna garden). We are talking about a style of composting that can result in beautiful black soil, without tilling, very few weeds, and less need for fertilizer.
How to Start
Starting a lasagna garden is very easy. In fact, it doesn’t even require the use of a shovel or the removal of existing weeds. Start with some simple brown corrugated cardboard or some newspaper (use three layers if you decide to go with newspaper) and lay them down right on top of the area that you’ve selected for your garden – right over the top of grass and weeds!
Keep this layer moist so that it provides a nice cover that earthworms will be attracted to; that will allow them shelter to loosen up the earth below.
Just like the kind of lasagna that you eat, a lasagna garden consists of multiple layers. In the case of a garden, the layers consist of alternating between brown and green compost. Brown compost can be made up of items such as cardboard, shredded newspaper and dead leaves. Green compost may be items such as fruit and vegetable scraps, trimmings from the garden, etc.
As a general rule, you should make your brown layers about double the thickness of your green layers. Doing this by sight is fine, though, – there is no need to break out the tape measure. Keep building your layers until they reach about two-feet tall. This may sound like a lot, but remember that this is going to shrink down considerably over the next few weeks.
When to Start
You can start the process of building your lasagna garden any time of year, but fall is the most ideal time. This is for a number of reasons:
- There is an abundance of dead leaves and other “brown” compost material available during the fall.
- Autumn rain and winter snow will help to keep your garden materials moist, allowing rich workable soil to develop.
- Your garden will be ready for planting by spring.
Planting in your lasagna garden is easy and quite similar to planting in a traditional garden. Just dig down with your spade or shovel as you normally would. If you used cardboard for your first layer, you may have to cut through it, but you should find nice workable soil underneath. If you used newspaper as your first layers, you’ll likely dig right through it without even noticing.
Plant whatever you like. Just be sure to follow the normal guidelines for each fruit and vegetable that you introduce to your garden.
It is also a good idea to add mulch to this garden once it is complete. This may be in the form of chopped leaves, straw, bark mulch, etc.
From that point on, you’ll care for your lasagna garden much like you would any other garden by watering, weeding, rotating crops and finally enjoying bountiful harvests at the end of the season.
Lasagna gardening has many advantages over traditional gardening, including:
- Less weeds. Because of the newspaper or cardboard layer at the bottom, fewer weeds will be able to make their way to the surface.
- Improved water retention. The layers of compost will be better at retaining water than plain garden soil. This is a great way to give new plants a strong and healthy start in your garden.
- Nutrient-rich soil. Again, because of the layers of compost, your garden’s soil will be rich in nutrients. This means that there will be less need for fertilization.
- Easy-to-work soil. Lasagna gardening results in soil that is soft and workable. This eliminates the need for tilling.
If you love gardening but are looking for a way to reduce your workload next season, then lasagna gardening may be just the answer you’ve been looking for. Why not give it a try this fall and see how much less work your garden can be next year?
What advice would you add for lasagna gardening? Share your tips in the section below: