When we hear or see the word “lasagna,” of course the first thing that comes to our mind is that deliciously layered saucy and cheesy pasta from Italy. The last thing that we may think of is a garden. However, there is a gardening method called “lasagna gardening” that is used by many gardeners in the United States and all over the world.
It may sound strange and be hard to imagine what lasagna gardening is. However, if you enjoy gardening, this method may actually be a great recommendation to start using in your personal garden. This article will explain what lasagna gardening is, why it’s beneficial, and what great pointers can take your lasagna garden to the next level.
What Is a Lasagna Garden?
A lasagna garden is an organic gardening method in which organic matter is added in layers on top of the ground to form a new garden bed in a specific pattern of “greens” and “browns.” These layers are built up until they are two feet tall and will break down over time, resulting in fluffy soil that is rich in nutrients for plants to thrive in.
Because this layering technique resembles the way that edible lasagna is made, this form of gardening was coined “lasagna gardening.” It is also known as sheet composting.
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Benefits of Lasagna Gardening
Lasagna gardening provides many benefits to both the environment and the gardener.
The lasagna technique involves beginning your layers on the topsoil of the earth, so there is no digging required to build your garden! The soil remains untouched, allowing it time to repair and replenish itself if it has already been worked over for previous plants. The very first layer is made of either newspapers or corrugated cardboard and sits right on top of whatever area you have chosen as your plant bed, making it much easier on you to start your garden.
Because lasagna gardening involves placing organic matter in layers on top of topsoil and letting it break down, nutrients from the compost will seep into the soil itself, making it healthier. This will result in nutrient-dense, loose, and fluffy soil. Healthy soil is easier to work with and helps plants to thrive.
Better Water Retention
By layering all the organic matter, you are making compost, which holds water better than regular soil. This means that there will be less chance of the soil drying out or plants withering from a lack of moisture.
Because so many layers of organic matter are stacked on top of each other, they become heavy as they break down onto the earth. Since the first layer consists of newspapers or cardboard, the weeds are suppressed from above, giving them no chance to grow.
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Lasagna gardening makes use of household scraps and the trimmings of plants outside that are typically seen as a nuisance. It also makes use of materials that are commonly thrown away, such as paper. Because these materials are used in the garden, you can help reduce the amount of non-recycled trash that is thrown away and use it to form compost that is rich in nutrients and helps to restore a healthy environment.
Because lasagna gardening has so many good points, farmers and home gardeners alike are using this method. There are a few supplies that you need to start your own.
Starting a lasagna garden is very simple and cheap, requiring only a few items to build it:
- Newspaper or cardboard
- Compost (Store bought or homemade greens and browns), manure or soil
Before you get all of your other supplies, you’ll want to make sure that you have a good compost pile. A lasagna garden consists of strategically placing layers of “greens” and “browns” on top of the soil. The greens and browns are made up of different materials from your compost pile, and it is important to know what category your materials fit in to have a successful lasagna garden.
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Browns for the compost pile are materials that are rich in carbon or carbohydrates. Their main job is to be food sources for the organisms that dwell in the soil. These organisms work with microbes to break down the materials of the compost pile.
Many items fall under this category, such as:
- Pine needles
- Fall leaves
- Peat moss
- Corn stalks
- Twigs or chipped bark
- Paper (coffee filters, paper napkins and plates, newspaper, writing paper)
- Corrugated cardboard
- Dryer Lint
- Cotton Fabric
Greens for the compost pile are materials that are rich in protein and nitrogen. They typically help the microorganisms in the pile multiply and grow quickly, heating the pile up.
Most of the items in this category consist of food, such as:
- Tea bags and coffee grounds
- Grass clippings
- Fruit and vegetable scraps
- Annual weeds that haven’t set seed
- Annual and perennial plant trimmings
- Animal manure (from cows, sheep, horses, rabbits, chickens, etc.: do NOT use the manure of cats and dogs)
Now that you have gathered all the supplies you need, you are finally ready to build and use your lasagna garden!
How to Build
There are a series of steps and ratios to follow to build a good lasagna garden. You want to build your garden until it is at least 16 in. deep.
Layer 1: Lay down a thick layer or cardboard and/or newspaper on top of the soil and weeds of the garden area of your choice. If you use just newspaper, it needs to be at least three sheets thick. This layer will provide a solid base for the rest of the layers, protect against weeds, and kick-start the decomposition process. Pour water over this layer.
Layer 2: Lay down water-absorbent compost or soil. Water this layer.
Layer 3: Lay your “brown” compost materials, such as straw, twigs, peat and paper, down on top of the second layer. Water this layer.
Layer 4: Add your “green” compost materials, such as grass clippings, manure, eggshells and fruit and vegetable scraps, on top of the third layer. You generally want the green layers to be about half as deep as your brown layers, so measure accordingly. Water this layer.
Layer 5: Add more “brown” compost materials. Water this layer.
Layer 6: Add more “green” compost materials. Water this layer.
Layer 7: Finish with a good layer of water-absorbent compost or soil. Pour water over this layer. If you have not yet reached 16 in. deep, then repeat layers five to seven until you do.
When to Build
While lasagna gardens can be made any time of the year, fall is generally the best season to build them. This is because it is much easier to get items for your brown compost pile. You can also let the garden sit and decompose all winter, which will have it flattened and ready to plant in with little to no effort in the spring. The rain in the fall and snow in the winter will make it much easier for your lasagna garden to stay moist.
If you start your garden in the spring, you want to be sure to make as many green and brown layers as you can. You also want to add more layers of peat moss, finished compost or soil to the bed, as well as intersperse them in between your green and brown layers. You would then finish off the entire lasagna garden bed with 3 to 4 in. of finished compost or topsoil. This makes the garden available for planting right away, and it will settle down over the season as the layers decompose.
How to Plant
Because lasagna gardens decompose over time, you can plant in them just like you would any other garden bed. If you used newspaper, a shovel would easily go right through it to allow you to make room for your seeds. If you used cardboard, you may have to poke holes where you want to place your seeds.
How to Maintain
To maintain your lasagna garden, you simply add mulch to the top of the bed. This can be made from grass clippings, bark mulch, straw or chopped leaves. After that, you treat it just like any other garden: pull weeds, give it water and sunshine, and watch it thrive.
Tips, Tricks and More
There are a few pointers and tricks that you may overlook that can really make your garden thrive.
Put Water In between Each Layer
Adding water after each step presses the layers together and weighs them down. As they melt down, you can add more layers on top.
Give Your Garden 6+ Hours of Sun a Day
The most important part of having this garden is that it is exposed to sunlight. This will help speed up the decomposition process.
Don’t Obsess Over Layer Ratios
Ratios of brown to green are recommended to be three or four brown layers to every one green layer, or each brown layer to be twice the depth of each green layer. However, decomposition is a natural process. As a result, there is no need to eyeball each layer down to the last inch. As long as you add your first paper or cardboard layer, then alternate greens and browns and add water, nature will take care of the rest!
You Can Add More Layers
Your garden may seem extremely tall at first, but it will shrink and flatten as it decomposes. If this happens and you would like to replant in your garden, you can always add more layers to build it back up. This will also give the ground even more nutrients.
Lasagna gardening is an easy, environmentally friendly, and fun way to build any garden of your choice. If you enjoy raising plants, try this method today and see how it works for you.
Last update on 2021-04-15 at 13:15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API