Lasagna gardening is an effective – yet breathtakingly simple – method of improving the soil in your garden in preparation for planting. If you think of the basic method of preparing a lasagna dish for the oven, preparing a lasagna garden is basically the same thing.
While the book ‘Lasagna Gardening: A New Layering System for Bountiful Gardens: No Digging, No Tilling, No Weeding, No Kidding!’ * authored by Patricia Lanza explains the procedure in full, I explain the basics below.
The process consists of using layers of organic materials separated by cardboard or newspaper – both easily decomposable. It is ideal for use with raised beds, and is a very easy way to prepare high quality soil for growing and at the same time greatly reduce the hassle caused by weeds.
If you have ever had to remove lawn in preparation for planting a flower or vegetable garden, you are probably aware one of the most effective ways to do is to simply cover it with black plastic, or with cardboard. This has the effect of starving it of sunlight – and in the case of plastic in particular – cooking the grass beneath.
In a month or two your lawn will be dead beyond all hopes of resuscitation, and the area for your new garden will be ready. Since the grass is dead, there is no need to pull it up. It will eventually rot and turn into nutrients for your future growing season.
Now while you may not want to leave plastic as the base of your flowerbed, if you use cardboard to kill the lawn you can proceed immediately to building up your soil. First, create the borders of your raised bed. Once this is done start layering – like with lasagna – to build it up.
A good first choice might be some composted manure, say three or four inches deep. Since this can smell a bit iffy, it works well as a base level that will be covered by less odorous materials later on. Now put on some cardboard – or newspaper is good too.
So what is next? What do you have? You can use lawn clippings, peat moss, compost – anything really? Whatever you have, simply throw them on top. Layer upon layer until your bed is high enough for your satisfaction.
You will notice this is really not a whole lot of work in comparison to other techniques. It is a no dig gardening method. While you do still have to shovel the layers into place you are not digging, and flipping and turning – which is the real back breaking work in preparing a garden.
When you are close to done, you should put another layer of cardboard near the top. This will have the effect of suppressing weed growth in your new garden. There is certain to be viable seeds in all that organic material you dumped in your flower bed, but not many of them will be able to push their way up through the top layer of cardboard to find the sun.
People may wonder if this method of building soil is 100% as effective as traditional dig and flip methods. I would say that as long your raised bed is high enough it is. A good 18 inches or so of soil built with nutrient rich organic materials will become – over time – the ideal growing material for your garden.
By working above the surrounding surface level you have eliminated the need to dig. Moreover, over time the ecology of your garden – earthworms, bacteria, etc… – will mix up the contents as it decomposes; replicating the effect of manual turning of the soil.
While lasagna gardening may seem a rather unusual concept, it works well. The payoff for the time spent upfront making your soil with this no-dig gardening technique, is years of rich harvests in the future!
If you enjoyed this article you may also want to read about square foot gardening, it is good match for these techniques.
*Please note the link above directs to amazon as I have found they offer great deals on the best lasagna gardening book.