Lasagna Gardening

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Lasagna gardening. Have you heard of it?

I hadn’t…until last spring when the practice came into my awareness. I tucked the idea away, until now. As colder temperatures bring an end to my gardens, it’s time to prep them for a long winter’s sleep.

Therefore, it’s the perfect time to try this new-to-me gardening technique.

I won’t be able to tell you the final results, until next spring. However, here’s what I learned about lasagna gardening.

Lasagna Gardening title meme

What is Lasagna Gardening?

This technique has less to do with growing veggies or flowers, and more to do with creating an optimal place for plants to thrive.

Also called layered gardening or sheet gardening, lasagna gardening is the process of layering organic materials to decompose in a gardening spot.

This no till, no dig technique is easy to do and requires almost no maintenance. Once the layers are in place, nature takes over. It’s a wonderful way to compost in your actual garden space, rather than creating and using a separate composting bin or pile.

Why Use Lasagna Gardening?

Creating layers of materials provides the ideal environment for beneficial organisms to do what they are designed to do. The layers lock in soil enriching nutrients and keep weeds away, naturally, without the use of chemicals.

Like using a compost pile, lasagna gardening recycles biodegradable materials such as newspaper and cardboard. And it’s a great way to make use of organic waste such as dried leaves, twigs, plant and grass trimmings and food scraps.

And finally, this form of gardening reduces the amount of trash that goes into landfills, making it eco-friendly.

Lasagna gardening does take time to work. The layers need to break down and become rich soil. Fall is the perfect time to try this technique so that by spring the area is ready to plant.

Lasagna Gardening leaves
Lasagna Gardening – raking up leaves to use

Prepping for Lasagna Gardening

Before creating your layers, pick a  garden spot.

I have a raised garden bed that I use for veggies. The 4X8 size is perfect for this type of gardening. Pick an area that is similar in size. You don’t have to remove the grass first, dig it up or till it. Make sure the spot you pick receives at least six hours of sunlight a day. The layers need to “cook”.

You’ll need material for green nitrogen layers and brown carbon layers. Below are ideas for both:

Green Nitrogen Layer

  • coffee grounds
  • tea bags
  • compostable kitchen scraps
  • grass clippings
  • weeds
  • garden clippings and prunings
  • manure

Brown Carbon Layer

  • black and white newspapers
  • cardboard
  • sawdust
  • dry leaves
  • wood chips
  • sticks and twigs
  • straw

Water Source

You’ll water thoroughly between each layer. Have a water hose nearby.

Lasagna Gardening first layer
Lasagna Gardening – first layer…brown carbon

Creating the Lasagna Garden

Having already chosen my raised bed to try this technique, I first prepped the area. Tomato plants flourished still in the space. I picked the last of the tomatoes…all green…and pulled up the plants. I roughly chopped these up, to use as a layer in the garden.

First Layer: Brown Carbon

The first layer is a carbon one. Lay down newspaper, cardboard or wood chips. Because I used several inches of mulch this year in my raised bed, I removed any weeds poking through and smoothed out the mulch as my first layer.

Water layer thoroughly.

Second Layer: Brown Carbon

A second carbon layer goes on top of the first one. Use whatever you have on hand…twigs and small branches, cardboard or paper. I added a single layer of cardboard, making sure packing tape was removed. And I tossed some twigs and small branches in there too.

Water this layer thoroughly.

Lasagna Gardening second layer
Second layer – cardboard

Third Layer: Green Nitrogen

Next add a green nitrogen layer. This includes kitchen scraps, compost, manure, grass and plant clippings or weeds. Don’t use plants or weeds with seed heads attached or you are planting those in an area you may not want them in.

I used the chopped up tomato plants I had just pulled up mixed with kitchen scraps and plant clippings. I collect veggie and fruit scraps daily as I prepare meals. When the large plastic bowl is full, it gets dumped into my compost bin. Today I shoveled out the scraps in the compost bin and moved them to the raised bed.

Water layer thoroughly.

Lasagna Gardening third and fourth layers
Third layer – green nitrogen

Fourth Layer: Brown Carbon

For this layer, use dry leaves or straw if possible. With fall, it’s the ideal time to rake up leaves as they fall from the trees and add them to the lasagna garden.

Create a nice, deep layer of dry leaves or straw, approximately eight to ten inches. I raked up leaves from my Redbud trees, while Greg used a leaf blower to move them my way. On top of the leaves I placed two sheets of very thin cardboard saved from earlier in the year, just for this purpose.

Water this layer as well, very thoroughly. The moisture is important as it helps break down the materials.

Lasagna Gardening leaves
Fourth layer – leaves or straw

Final Layer: Tarp

If desired, cover the layers with a tarp, weighted down on the corners. This speeds up the decomposing process, while helping the bed hold moisture and create heat. You can also use a weed barrier, like this one.

If you don’t have a tarp, consider adding a layer of mulch over the leaves, to help contain them and trap moisture in the layers.

And that’s it! Allow the layers to “cook” all winter, until it’s time to plant next spring. If winter months are very dry, deeply water layers occasionally.

Final layer
Lasagna Gardening – final layer…a tarp

Lasagna Gardening Tips

Fall is the best time to try this technique. A few tips to make the process super easy.

Collect cardboard, newspapers and paper all year, for your garden spot. Similarly, create an outdoor space to stack twigs and small branches.

Start a compost bin, if you don’t have one already. Even if scraps break down, add compost as a layer. Make it a habit to save all veggie and fruit scraps and add meal leftovers rather than tossing them out of the fridge and into the trash.

Save plant cuttings and prunings from flower beds and grass clippings too if you catch those in a bag while mowing.

If you don’t have trees in your yard, ask a neighbor if you can rake her leaves and bag them in large leaf bags. Or visit a park with trees and collect leaves there. Purchase bales of straw at your local garden center.

And ask family members and friends to save kitchen scraps for you, if you don’t have enough.

I enjoyed trying this technique today! Last spring I emptied out a compost bin, moving the rich soil to the raised bed. Next spring, the rich soil will already be there, just in time for planting season.

Have you tried lasagna gardening?

Praying Mantis
My little helper today

Other Helpful Gardening Posts:

Ecological Garden Hacks

Plant in Fall for Spring Color

Fall Checklist for the Garden

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