Lasagna gardening is a method of gardening that requires no tilling or weeding from the gardener, yet produces rich and fluffy soil. Also called ‘sheet composting,’ lasagna gardening involves building layers and layers of organic matter in a designated area of the garden, waiting until they compost, and then utilizing the fertile soil that is produced to grow plants. Aside from being convenient and physically undemanding, this type of gardening is beloved by gardeners because it is environmentally-friendly; rather than throwing your biodegradable waste into the trash, you’re using it to enrich your garden’s soil.
Creating the first and subsequent layers
To begin your lasagna garden, you need to create your first layer. Acquire some brown corrugated cardboard, or several newspaper layers, and place them wherever you want your garden to be (this could be on a weed patch, on a patch of grass, etc.). Then, once the cardboard or newspaper is in place, water it. This will start the process of decomposition, since the wet layer will gradually sink into the earth, both suffocating the grass and weeds below it and attracting earthworms that loosen the soil by tunneling through it.
Once your first layer is composted, you can start to add layers of real compost. This could include leaves, coffee grounds, vegetable and fruit scraps, grass clippings, manure, teabags, seaweed, shredded newspaper or junk mail (most paper is biodegradable), peat moss, and garden matter. However, it is best not to just dump everything atop your first layer. Doing this will probably make your lasagna garden indistinguishable from an ordinary compost heap. Instead, alternate between the browns (e.g. peat, shredded newspaper, fall leaves) and greens (e.g. grass and garden cuttings, vegetable peels). Ideally, the brown layers should be twice as deep as the green layers, since brown layers are usually comprised of material that is ‘thinner’ than the green layers, and thus biodegrade more quickly. However, it is not important if this rule is broken; as long as you organize your lasagna garden into layers of some kind, you’ll get good results.
You can stop adding new layers to your lasagna garden once the compost heal reaches a height of around two feet. After you’ve achieved this height, you can wait until the compost heap shrinks in size – this will probably happen much quicker than you expect. Once the compost heap has shrunk to a nice layer of fertile earth, you are able to start planting.
If your garden’s first layer consisted of cardboard, your hands (or, if you prefer, shovel) will pierce through the decomposed card and expose a layer of rich, fluffy soil underneath. This is where you should plant your plants or sow your seeds. If you need to cut a hole out of the cardboard to make way for the plants or saplings, that is fine.
Now that your lasagna garden is established, you can care for it using the traditional methods of weeding and watering. Some gardeners like to continue adding unobtrusive layers of compost (ideally straw, grass cuttings, or leaves) to their garden to ensure the living conditions for its plants and insects remain rich and moist for a long time, thereby creating the ideal conditions for growing nutritious, organic produce.
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About the author: Michael Ravensthorpe is an independent writer from the United Kingdom whose research interests include nutrition, alternative medicine, and bushcraft. He is the creator of the website Spiritfoods, through which he helps to promote the world’s healthiest foods, whether they be established superfruits such as mangosteen or lesser-known health supplements like brewer’s yeast.