This year I’ve decided to do something different in my garden. You learn as you go and I’ve learned that weeding is way too time consuming. There may come a day where I enjoy doing it, when I’m 60 and retired. Not today.
I’m talking about lasagna gardening. Delicious sounding, I know. It’s also known as sheet composting or layer gardening. It’s a way to construct your garden, adding layers of organic materials that will compost down into beautiful, rich, fluffy soil. It’s great for the environment and easy to do.
One of the great advantages of lasagna gardening is you don’t have to dig or till. That means I don’t need to wrestle with the bucking tiller every year and spend hours flipping the garden beds. No need to remove grass or weeds to start either. The first layer of the lasagna is brown corrugated cardboard or three-six layers of newspaper. You’ll want to take off any tape, stickers or anything else weird from the cardboard first. To be honest, this was the longest step in this process. If the garden is new, just put the cardboard right on top of the grass. Mine is existing so I had to work around the perennials. Wet everything down really good. That will keep it in place and start the decomposing process. The earthworms love paper and will join the party quickly.
What goes in?
Anything you’d normally put into a compost pile can be used for lasagna gardening. There is a method to it all, it comes down to the layers. You’ll want to alternate between carbon (brown, drier material) and nitrogen (green, living matter) layers. Generally the brown layers should be twice as deep and the green layers. No need to fuss too much though, use what you have. Here’s some examples:
Plant clippings (no seeds)
Black and white newspaper
Don’t be shy on the layers. If you’re starting from scratch you’ll want to keep alternating layers until your pile in about two feet high, it won’t take long before it’ll shrink down. Add layers periodically to keep feeding the soil.
When to start?
I started my lasagna garden this spring. It probably would have been better to do it in the fall so it could decompose all winter long. Brown matter is also more abundant in the fall. But, I didn’t do that. Instead I added more soil, especially around my established plants. Since the matter hasn’t broken down yet, I had to give the plants something to work with. When planting time rolls around, I will need to cut a hole in the cardboard for each plant. If you’ve used newspaper or started your lasagna earlier, you should be able to dig right in.
Most of the work for this type of gardening is spent on prepping. You’ll need to gather all your materials ahead of time. If you’re like me and live in a city, just go through all your neighbors recycling containers the day before pick up to get all the cardboard you need. You can learn a lot about your neighbors that way too. Just be stealthy about it or it could get weird. I couldn’t be more excited that the hours spent on weeding and tilling are long over. Happy gardening!