What is a Lasagna Garden & How Do You Start One?
Have you ever heard of lasagna gardening? If you haven’t, you are truly missing out on an absolutely fantastic method of gardening that all but guarantees to give you rich, fluffy, and fertile soil that your plants will thrive in (and we all know the importance of having healthy soil). As you might have guessed, lasagna gardening actually has nothing to do with what you are growing in your garden, but rather how you prepare your garden to grow things in! So, what is lasagna gardening?
What Is a Lasagna Garden?
Lasagna gardening, also known as sheet composting, is an easy method of creating rich and healthy soil so that your garden fruits and vegetables can grow strong and healthy. This lasagna gardening method is a no-till way of adding organic materials to your garden in layers that will break down over time, resulting in the best soil ever. This is a great way to enrich your soil as it not only results in healthy, nutrient-rich garden beds, but also helps cut down on overall waste disposal since all of your grass cuttings, fallen leaves, kitchen scraps, unwanted newspapers, and any other materials you would usually add to your compost bin can be used to the benefit of your garden instead of being piled up in heaps at the dump.
Tools For Lasagna Gardening
Now that we’ve got you all excited, here are a few things you’ll want to make sure you have on hand:
- Garden hose
- Gardening Gloves
- Grass cuttings
- Fallen leaves/pine needles
- Kitchen scraps
- Coffee grounds/tea bags
- Animal manure (from herbivores only)
Steps In Starting a Lasagna Garden
Now that you have all the supplies that you are going to need, let’s get to the good part: building your lasagna garden! Here are the steps you are going to want to follow:
1. Designate Some Space for Your Garden
Many of you likely already have garden beds or some sort of space designated for gardening. This is where you will be creating your lasagna! If you do not already have a space set aside for gardening, now is the time! It is recommended to build up some sort of border so that your no-till compost stays in one place as it decomposes. This will also help keep your garden beds from eroding, and depending on how tall you build your beds, can also aid in keeping out unwanted visitors. Wherever you choose to start your garden, there is no need to till up the ground that is already there. The organic materials you will be layering will smother any existing grass, weeds, or other plants as it breaks down.
2. Start Building the Layers of Your Lasagna Garden
It’s time to get layering! Your lasagna garden will consist of two alternating layers of brown materials and green materials. The brown materials, which provide carbon to your garden, are things such as your dead fallen leaves or pine needles, newspapers, straw or hay, woody plant material such as twigs or bark, sawdust, shredded cardboard, and the like. Green materials, which introduce nitrogen to the mix, include some of your more fresh compostable items such as kitchen scraps, fresh grass clippings, coffee grounds, eggshells, manure from herbivores such as cow, sheep, or chicken manure. As you layer up your green and brown materials, keep in mind that the browns should be approximately double what your greens are. Pile on your layers until you have a two-foot-tall pile of organic material.
Quick Tip: Never compost dog or cat manure! Parasites can live in their feces, so using it in your compost could spread those parasites on to you! Also never compost meat scraps or dairy, as these are animal products and are not safe to compost for a variety of health reasons. Animal products will also begin to rot and smell as they decompose, creating an unenjoyable environment in your backyard and will also attract unwanted animals. It is also recommended to avoid throwing weeds or garden trimmings in your compost as composting weeds will just encourage the spread of more weeds, and composting trimmings from your garden plants could cause the spread of pests that you may not know were on your garden plants.
Another Quick Tip: Papery/fibrous brown materials such as cardboard or newspaper are perfect to use as your bottom layer and will help smother anything growing beneath your lasagna garden. Dampen this base layer with your garden hose before you begin with the rest of your layering. This will help the cardboard break down quicker and also provides a dark and moist environment that will attract earthworms and other bugs to help break down your compost pile and loosen up the soil beneath.
3. Watch the Magic Happen
Now you just get to sit back and let these organic materials do their thing! You will be amazed to see your two-foot-tall pile of scraps shrink down in just a few weeks! Little-to-no maintenance is required in this no-till composting method. In cases where there is no precipitation for an extended amount of time, giving your lasagna garden a light watering is recommended. When composting, the right amount of moisture can be the difference between a successful and an unsuccessful compost pile. If your materials are too dry, they will not begin to decompose. But if they are too wet, they will just begin to mold and rot. Generally, natural precipitation is enough to keep your lasagna garden in good shape. However, if you do not receive any precipitation in an extended amount of time or if your pile begins to look dry, consider giving your pile a light watering.
4. Plant Your Garden
You will know your garden beds are ready for planting when your pile of green and brown materials begins to look more like a consistent layer of rich, dark brown soil. If you dig into your soil and still find large chunks of banana peel or sections where your leaves or grass clippings have not broken down yet, give it a little water to encourage decomposition and come back in another week. Every lasagna garden will differ slightly from the next, as many different factors such as weather conditions and environment will have an effect on how quickly all the materials decompose. Once everything is sufficiently broken down, you are free to start planting all of your favorite fruits and vegetables!
5. Maintain Your Lasagna Garden
If you want to be able to use your fantastic, nutrient-rich garden bed for years to come, you will want to make sure to replenish it from year to year. You can even expand it little by little if you would like! At the end of every season, repeat the initial process of piling up your green and brown materials. Leave these layers to sit throughout the off-season, and come spring, your garden will be ready for planting once again!
Quick Tip: If you are worried about the leaves or grass clippings in the top layer of your compost pile simply blowing away, using a heavier medium for the top layer is recommended. Using bark chips or even a large piece of cardboard weighed down by rocks is a simple and easy way to keep all of your compost where it should be!
Advantages Of Lasagna Gardening
If you aren’t yet convinced of the benefits of lasagna gardening, here are a few more advantages that might just change your mind!
1. The lasagna gardening method is a much less labor-intensive way to maintain garden beds that are healthy and rich in nutrients.
2. Weed growth is significantly diminished, and the ones that do grow will be much more manageable.
3. Your soil will retain water much better, as soil that is rich in compost and other organic materials absorbs and holds onto just the right amount of moisture better than normal soil.
4. The soil is loose and fluffy, making it easy to work with!
5. You will not need to fertilize as often, since the organic materials in your compost will create an already nutrient-rich soil.
6. You will get to enjoy watching your garden plants grow strong and healthy and will also get to enjoy a rich harvest of delicious, home-grown fruits and vegetables!
How to Create a Lasagna Garden
If you still have some questions about how to create a lasagna garden of your own, feel free to reach out! We are happy to help provide ideas, suggestions, and advice to help you create flourishing garden beds of your own! And for more information on composting in general, check out this blog. Happy gardening everyone!