Let's Just Try It

a compilation of inspiration and creative endeavors of a mom and daughter duo

Tag Archives: recycling bin

If Ogres Are Like Onions, My Garden Is Like Lasagna!

shrek garden

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:

Lasagna Gardening:

  • 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.


Flower Pin- just for the fun of it

My great-grandmother used to wear the most beautiful brooches. I remember as a little girl wondering over how pretty they were as I sat on her lap and smelled her perfume.

This flower could be used as an adornment on just about anything. I made one for Elizabeth’s birthday out of an old book – she’s a fantastic writer and is just about to finish her degree in English literature, so it seemed fitting – but any unique paper would look great. I have some beautiful scraps of pearlized and embossed paper that I will use one day and make a pin to wear. I’d love to make some out of old music sheets to put on my Christmas tree this year

Tools and Materials Needed:

For the pedals:

Tim Holtz Alterations BigZ Die

– Alternatively, hand cutting a similar shape would work great!

Die cutting machine

Craft Glue

Coloured Tulle (fine netting as used on wedding veils)

Small coloured feathers

standard sized brad

old-fashioned button

Step One: Cut from your favorite paper 5 large flowers, plus one extra

Step Two: Cut from the coloured tulle netting –  4 large flowers

Step Three: Paint the front and back of the paper flowers with craft glue. This will stiffen the pedals and allow shaping and curling later

Step Four: When the glue coated flowers are dry, trim the flowers as follows:

Flower #1, #2 and #3 – Leave as is

Flower #4 – Trim away one pedal

Flower #5 – Trim away two pedals

Step Five: On Flower #4 and #5, with a touch of glue (hot glue or craft glue), fold over the trimmed side to form a slightly curled 4 and 3 pedaled flower

Step Six: With the tulle netting, trim only one flower of one pedal, and glue as in step five.

Step Seven: Layer as follows: Flower #1 at bottom; Tulle net flower; Flower#2, Tulle net flower; Flower #3; Tulle net flower; Flower #4 (trimmed to 4 pedals); Tulle net flower (trimmed and glued to 4 pedals); Flower #5 (trimmed and glued to 3 pedals). Rotate each layer slightly to offset the pedals

Step Eight: Insert metal brad through the center of each  layer and flatten at the back. Trim brad ends if necessary

Step Nine: Glue feathers around the back of the bottom flower, bending where necessary (hot glue works well)

Step Ten: Glue extra flower over the back to cover the brad back and the feather stems and glue the button on top of the brad head.

Finishing: With the end of a pencil or paintbrush, curl the pedals slighty as desired to give a dimensional feel to your new creation

Book Page Wreath

I happen to be of the opinion that there are two types of books on this lovely planet.

There are good books. These are the intriguing stories, rich with plot, characterisation and overall mastery of the language. I treasure good books with space on my bookshelves, in my conversations and in my mind.

There are bad books with good re-purposes. These books aren’t inherently terrible necessarily, but they most certainly do not warrant a second or third reading. But even bad books, though not contributing to my preferred sense of literature, are still filled with useful features. Bill Bailey by Catherine Cookson was one of these very books. I read it once, promptly decided that it would be my only read through, and began to cook up a scheme to repurpose the pages in a beautiful way.

The pages had yellowed beautifully, and the printed words had held up well in my great grandmother’s attic. I couldn’t wait to find something to make with them!

Then I saw this tutorial for a faux curled rosewood wreath. It was the perfect mix of unconventionality and traditionalism. I made a few changes: used rolled up newspaper instead of a wreath form, loosened up my roses, and tied with a satin ribbon for a bit of shine.

The wreath is about a foot and a half in diameter, and took just under 300 roses to complete. I consider this a mostly win:

1: I spend no money on creating this as the book was a gift and the newspaper was from my recycling bin

2: The wreath successfully shows off the beautiful pages of the book

3: Next time I make something like this, I will take more care to spraypaint the entire newspaper white to hide any ink bleedthroughs

4: This turned out to be a bit more old fashioned than I prefer. I see it hanging above my typewriter every morning, and I like how appropriate it is for the vignette, but in all seriousness, this isn’t something I’d like to keep forever. It needs a bit more colour and oomph!

If you would like to make your own book page wreath, you can visit Under the Table and Dreaming for a complete tutorial.