“Lasagna gardening? But lasagna doesn’t grow in the garden!” So what is lasagna gardening, and how do you do it to get the best from your garden?
Lasagna gardening is a method that suits organic gardens very well, because it gives the garden a natural feeling and rich, loose soil that is perfect for growing without heavy fertilizers. It also works very well for people who do not have a lot of time to spend on their garden. Basically, it is a no-till, no-dig garden that builds beds in layers – hence the name.
When you are preparing a lasagna gardening bed, you do not dig it. Instead, you add layers of organic material that will slowly decompose to form the perfect growing environment. You do not even have to remove weeds because you will kill them by stopping the light reaching them, and they will break down into compost.
To form the first layer in your lasagna garden bed, cover the whole bed with brown (unbleached) carton cardboard or three layers of newspaper. Be careful to cover all existing growth completely, so that weeds cannot poke through and survive. You may need to weigh it down with stones or earth. Then water this layer to dampen it. This will attract worms, who will make your soil even more fertile.
On top of the cardboard or newspaper, you can put all of the same types of matter that you would put on a compost heap, i.e. leaves, prunings and grass clippings, fruit and vegetable peelings, coffee grounds, shredded paper, sawdust etc. Just like in a lasagna, you should aim to alternate layers of dry or ‘brown’ material such as dead leaves, shredded paper and sawdust (the ‘pasta’) with layers of moist or ‘green’ material such as food peelings and grass clippings (the ‘sauce’). It is better not to use weeds unless you are sure that there are no seeds.
Build the layers to two feet high. To have enough material to do this, you will probably need to concentrate on a small area of garden at one time. You really do need this much, because it will break down to very little over the next few weeks.
If your intention is to plant in your new bed right away, you will need to add layers of soil or compost and finish with one of those layers on the top, to plant in. This will mean that your plants have something to establish themselves in.
But most people build their lasagna beds in the fall or early winter when there are plenty of fallen leaves and waste material from the garden to use. Then you can simply use the brown and green layers without additional soil or compost, and leave it for several months. Winter rain and frost will help everything to be ready for spring planting.
Lasagna gardening is a great way to establish new garden beds. You are saved all of the heavy work of digging into uncultivated land. There are hardly any weeds because the cardboard or newspaper that you used as a first layer will have killed them off. The soil that is produced is soft and easy to work as well as being naturally rich in nutrients. All in all, lasagna gardening is perfect for any type of garden.