Oh, wise wise Shrek.. He understood the importance of layers!
And who would have imagined that lasagna would ever be associated with gardening?
Or that these “non-traditional” concepts of gardening have been around since the beginning of time?
I remember my dear grandmother hauling her newspapers outside, and laying them in her flower beds. I, as a young- probably mouthy, tag-along, plagued her with questions. Her reply to me was “If I don’t have to weed, why would I?” I thought that newspaper gardens were silly…. until now.
I love fresh vegetables. I love being in charge of my food. I love seeing things grow. I don’t love weeding..or tilling…or hoeing… much.
Enter a brilliant idea: block the weeds and build your soil on top. What? Really? … Yep!
My first inspiration came from one of my favorite blogs: Old World Garden Farms . Here is a family who represent what I long to be… creativity, productivity and thriftiness…oh! and they don’t like to hang out weeding the garden all day either!
Their 4 part series covers the basics of Raised Row Gardening – and their 10’x15′ plot provides enough food for their family and doesn’t take more than 10-15 minutes of maintenance per day. I like that!
Lasagna Gardening is a no-till, easy to maintain way to garden. What? Less work? I like it!
Need more motivation than easy? How about this:
- uses organic waste materials immediately
- builds up the soil level
- sequesters carbon
- preserves the strata of microorganisms
- improves soil fertility
- holds water, slows evaporation and run-off
- blocks out weeds
- keeps root systems cool
Let’s face it – it’s a simple concept that mimics nature. It’s not rocket science. Yet it does need a bit of planning – and I’ll attest that while it may be easier in spring, it requires a bit of work to get started. However, thanks to the abundance of organic material just falling from the trees….and the horses, it is a low cost way to get things literally cooking in anticipation for those first beautiful days of spring.
Don’t have space? This works GREAT in containers! And you can join my Facebook group Container Gardening for Healthier Eating and there is no need to buy expensive bags of potting soil… make your own!
So in the spirit of “Let’s Just Try It”, I’d like to provide an on-going journal of this adventure: you can learn from my efforts and mistakes.. and hopefully find yourself providing your family with delicious fresh food from your own garden!
Here’s what I have learned so far: ( or you can jump to a helpful site Lasagna Gardening for a tried and tested step by step)
1. Pick a sunny location
Got weeds? No problem! So did we!
2. Now, go and sweet talk your local Home Depot warehouse manager… or the local supplier of hot water tanks.. OR if you are like me and replacing your furniture.. your own huge personal collection of cardboard from IKEA
3. Lay those lovely chunks of weed blocking goodness down – make sure you remove all those plastic covered labels and tape – which will take forever and ever to compost… and overlap your edges by at least 5 inches. This will keep those sneaky weeds from creeping through. Wet this down as you add your first layer of “green” material. It will help get the “cooking” process going.
4. Now the fun layering begins. Grab your gloves, and a handy wheel barrow and throw down layers of “green” then “brown” organic material. There is actually quite a bit of information on the web about Lasagna Gardening or sheet composting – and a few different takes on how it can be done. But to put it very simply you need to types of layers – Green – nitrogen rich and Brown-carbon rich. Put the two together with a bit of moisture and voila! A working compost. A ration of 2 carbon to 1 nitrogen works great. Check Dummies.com for a great breakdown of what works well.
For us, it will be mostly comprised of
Horse manure (green and very “hot” with nitrogen)
Straw (brown) – Try to find straw that is free of seeds – if this isn’t possible, let your chickens (or borrow some from a friend) pick through and feed on the seeds before you proceed with the next layer
Kitchen compost and/or herbicide free grass clippings – (green) We’ve been peeling buckets of apples and freezing them in anticipation of putting the layers down.
Tree leaves – we are using mostly maple leaves, thanks to my lovely suburban neighborhood which has streets lined with them. – It might cost you a little to bribe your teenage girls to rake and bag them to take to the garden, but it was great seeing the look on the neighbor’s face when she caught us raking her front yard for her.
We are about halfway through the layering process so far on a 20’x20′ bed. We will layer these until we have about 2 feet of material, which will decompose and become a good thick layer of rich ground for us to plant into. Because it is on a slightly sloped grade, we will most likely put down black plastic to heat things up, and keep all our hard work from washing down the hill.
Next, we wait.. and plan – and begin to prepare those cold frames and mini seed pots made from recycled tp rolls for the beautiful rich soil that will be waiting come spring.
About our garden:
As of Autumn 2013, we have not yet found our piece of paradise to begin our little mini farm… so we have teamed up with our good friends who have a little slice of heaven out in the country.
It doesn’t take much to motivate me to leave suburbia and drive a few extra minutes to take in this view!
We are actually going to run a side by side experiment using three types of gardening: lasagna layering, standard tilling and raised beds – and see which one is truly the best producer of deliciousness.
Follow this blog for updates – as well as more of the adventures and misadventures that my daughter Elizabeth and I get up to.