Lasagna gardening

oncidihuh(z2 Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico)November 15, 2004

I'm gathering materials to start this and am pretty excited about it! I love to garden but have a slipped disc in my neck, so can't garden as I used to. I've got horrible, heavy clay for soil here and gave up this summer on my garden..that stuff is just too hard to work with. So, I found out about lasagna gardening from on the east coast and one on the west. I've got a big pile of compost and gathered bags of leaves yesterday. There are lots of farms lots of manure, plus free mulch from the city. I want to get the beds going now..and cook them over the winter. What are some of the materials you use in your lasagna garden?

I'm wondering about using computer paper as the bottom layer on some beds...the weed barrier. The book calls for newspaper or cardboard. Have any of you used other papers? I was wondering about shredded paper for a layer too. Thanks a bunch!!!

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mikeandbarb(z8 D/FW)

HI, I have inquired about lasagna gardening and was told only to use new paper black and white no color paper or cardboard. I did some work on one today and I used both because of short supply. Put about 4 inches of mulch on top.

By the time you can plant your plants in the ground it should be ready.

The area that I did today is pretty bare of grass and weeds but I wanted to rid the area of all weeds and grass plus it will help keep any new weeds from popping up.

I plan on doing this for all of my gardens due to arthritis and working in the yard has it's challenge.

Also if you use compost you don't need fertilizer, compost is rich.

Hope this helps, Barb

    Bookmark   November 15, 2004 at 7:30PM
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We make cages of 3 foot width welded wire fencing, about 4 feet in diameter. We put newspaper on the ground and set the fencing on top. Then we fill the container of fencing with discards from the garden and shredded leaves. We leave it through the winter. In spring we remove the fencing and any material not decomposed and put it in another area to continue composting. We put a few inches of soil over the decomposed material and plant. We've done this along rocky slopes that would have been inpossible to dig, without using the wire fencing containers. The purpose of the paper is to keep out light and retain moisture in the earth which kills off any weeds lingering in the earth. The paper decomposes too and allows the roots of the new plants to penetrate into the earth. We did a good sized area last fall/winter over a rocky slope and in the spring I sowed portulaca and dwarf zinnias over it. There was excellent germination and growth. I sometimes use shredded computer paper when using the cages, but it needs to be wet and it needs to be covered with plant material and mixed periodically as it decomposes. I have also used shredded computer paper to stuff into holes as filler, then cover it with dirt. I've done this sometimes on areas that need a little building up. I always make sure the paper is well soaked. Good luck. EP

    Bookmark   November 16, 2004 at 12:13AM
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homegrown54(z6 SE Ohio)

Man, you got me going, here! I thought I had "invented" this technique on my clay soil here in SE Ohio, and boy, I found out a book had been written about it! I respect the post regarding "no ink" "new paper" but personally, I have used my discarded proofs from my laser printer (I have a home graphics business) and put them right in the compost pile. Actually, I keep a bucket for scraps and oily water I don't want to put down the sink. Often I tear the paper with the grain and put it right in that bucket... out in the garden I have those big "hoops" of fence wire. I bag leaves with my mower in the summer and layer that with the contents of the bucket as I go... just anything that will rot. This keeps the wild critters from tearing up the pile. What you will find is that you need a LOT of stuff to layer up... I did pay 1.50 per bale of spoiled hay from a farmer which has made a SUPER difference. After I first got 'em, I put some out in a spot that didn't matter much to see if they'd "sprout" on me. They didn't and man oh man it's great. I don't know how to attach a jpeg here, but I have a couple cool pics. In addition, the worms LOVE it! No tilling to tear up their beautiful substructure of holes... and my plants use those little tunnels to find precious water in the clay in the summer!
I don't use heavily printed or metallic-covered cardboard like beer boxes, but I scavenge the heck out of cardboard at the Dollar Store and anywhere they're stocking shelves, and put it down in the rows... I am still picking fresh turnips, green onions, Swiss Chard and Kale here in SE Ohio and it's Dec. 24!!! And, I get a great jump in the spring 'cause everybody else is standing around wringing their hands 'cause it's too wet for them to till, a practice they seem to be "wedded" to. Anyhoo, off my soapbox... there's so much more to tell, but believe you me, you will like this method.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2004 at 3:25PM
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dabufkin(z8a Mississippi)

If you are having trouble finding enough newspapers, check
with your local newspaper office. They will sometimes
give you stacks of unsold newspapers.
I have found that the colored or glossy paper of sales
flyers, etc. doesn't break down nearly as fast as newsprint.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2005 at 10:04PM
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lynne_melb(z9b Melb FL)

Computer paper works great. I've used it since the 70's. Also junk mail. I wasn't aware of term lasagna gardening, I got the idea from Ruth Stout. I've heard that color ink now has a lot less lead than it used to. However, I have enough other stuff that I only use stuff with black ink.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2005 at 9:17AM
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I have started several beds this way. I was amazed at how easy it is.


    Bookmark   February 5, 2005 at 9:54AM
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gurley157fs(zone 7/8sc)

I just made a new bed a week ago. I use just about anything. Like homegrown54, I have been doing this since before I knew there was a name for it. You will be suprised how many people poo-poo the whole idea. Just today someone in the Soil Forum gave me a good 'put-down'.
Don't let anyone discourage you. Simply dumping what you want on top of the soil is so easy I just can't imagine doing it any other way.
I save all of my leaves from fall, collect newspapers from everyone and anything else that I can think of to put in. I do like to add a few shovel fulls of sand here and there so the soil doesn't become too 'heavy'. Over a period of time, not only do you have great beds but they keep building up higher and higher (less bending over).
I thought really hard about this before I put it in writing, but over the last 10 years (since I quit tilling) I don't think I have ever lost a plant that I put in a lasagna bed.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2005 at 8:53PM
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oncidihuh(z2 Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico)

Hi again,
Thanks for all the input! I have an L shaped garden area. So far, I've got 31/2 4'x8' beds in the bottom of the L. I'll make some different shaped beds in the larger area. I've covered the beds with black plastic to help them break down over the winter. I love doing this so far. It's so easy..especially compared to what I was trying to do before.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2005 at 12:11PM
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I have been doing what I guess is lasagna gardening for the last 20 years. I can get free wood mulch from the town and have been piling it up on top of the clay with whatever else I have. My garden soil is now nice and easy to work in . When I plant a new area I put down 15 to 40 layers of newspaper and even use colored, if i don't have enough. Next I load up the wood chips. To plant right away I add some purchased soil in a small area and then pop flowers, shrubs, or trees in with no aches and pains. Eventually the wood turns into nice friable soil.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2005 at 8:15PM
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Hi! I'm a newbie. I just started lasagna gardening. I have joint and muscle problems that have made gardening difficult for me, and I hope it will enable me to enjoy gardening without pain.

I am renting and caretaking a friend's house. I inherited a huge mountain of grass clippings. a surplus of windfall apples and pears, and a large abandoned garden that was now a volunteer weed patch.

Even though I did not plan on gardening this year, I had to do something with the overgrown mess.

A neighbor "weed-whacked" it for me to flatten the four-foot volunteer growth. I flattened and layered my emptied moving boxes as far as they would go. I layered about six inches of old lawn clippings and watered it to keep it down.

Today, I found scrap lumber enough to make two raised beds, each about five feet square.

Now, I am raking up all the windfall apples and pears, and I am layering the beds with the fruit, dried leaves, grass clippings and soil. They are now nearly a foot thick.

I don't have peat moss or coir right now, but I figured it was best to just get started , since I have to clean up the yard anyway. Might as well put the stuff to some use.

Any suggestions for a substitute for peat moss or coir? Or will these piles still "do their thing"?

    Bookmark   September 19, 2006 at 12:52AM
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hi everyone, hopefully there's someone still reading this...

I just made my first lasagna bed last fall. What I found was that first, it was super easy, and second - it was SO EASY! And it looks like I just added a foot of growing medium where there was previously just grass!

I really did not like the idea of pulling up sod, shaking out the dirt, and worring about microrganisims leaving before I planted. It's a lot of work, which, for food, work is just part of the process. But after I observed a garden at a Permaculture class that was growing melons and squash after being lawn just months before with no tilling or weeding, I knew I needed to try this.

I still haven't seen my bed yet since I completed it last fall, as we still have feet of snow on the ground and it's mid-april now. But before the snow fell, my garden included a lot of great material, none of it cost me a penny and all came from my area. What helped me was looking in a composting book for lists of bulkly material that could be composted. There were a lot of good ideas. The layers were as such, from bottom to top:
spent barley malt from a local brewery
chunky mostly finished compost
grass clippings
rotted manure
soil from a previously dug out pond
autumn leaves

Now that I've been reading more, I think that I would have put in some sand from our sand pit down the road to help with drainage.

I strongly believe there is no "right" way to make this concept work. There are many paths leading from many places to accomplish your goal with what you have for initiative, brains, and mulch materials. I am so happy to be able to find this out right when I needed it most. What I didn't like was the idea of going to the store to buy 50 bales of peat moss!!! I already purchase one bale for starting seedlings. I like how people are using spoiled hay, which in many places, is very abundant. I don't believe that a good bed requires peat moss; nor do I think it's a bad thing to use it. I just don't like the idea of paying for it and depleating a very very slow-growing resource when there are many other materials to try out first. I look forward to getting a bunch of the spoiled hay this spring. That is if we ever see a day without snow here in Maine...

My question is: has anyone used lasagna gardening for beds in a large greenhouse? Would love to hear about it!

    Bookmark   April 16, 2007 at 9:12AM
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I have used colored paper, newspapers, cardboard, , , any paper products. Many companies use vegatable type dyes for their print now and no one uses lead based ink for their print so you really are quite safe to use any paper products. I like going to the grocery store and picking up cardboard boxes there -- they have bunches and bunches of it and they don't mind sharing it.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2011 at 2:07PM
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oncidihuh(z2 Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico)

Hello again,
My original post was in 04, when I lived in CO. Here in Celina, we have dark soil that has clay but is much easier to work with that what I dealt with in Montrose, CO. I'm working on raised beds this year, so far I've got 2. Using the soil, compost and partially composted, chopped leaves, along with some expanded shale. I still refer to and use lasagna gardening methods mixed in with this but think raised beds will be easier for me in the long run. It's a work in gardening is :-)

    Bookmark   April 4, 2011 at 11:01AM
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I hope someone can help me with my Lasagna Gardening problem.
My raised beds are cleared out and ready to be added to or maintained around oct. The problem is the only material I have for the garden at that time is leaves. I know I should be layering browns and greens but how do I do that when all I have is leaves. I have lots of grass in the spring summer and early fall but not October.
should I give up or does someone have an idea for me?

    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 11:21PM
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I understand ending up with a huge pile of leaves, and nothing green. What I'd do is to define the area with newspaper, then dump a thick layer of leaves in place. Cover with more newspaper or thick cardboard.
As you are cooking in the kitchen, take out your veggie waste, or even things that have gone bad/moldy. That includes all vegetable matter, bread, citrus skins, etc. Never put anything dairy or meat into a compost heap.
Before you put out the green stuff, bread, coffee grounds, tea bags, old cut flowers and the like, make sure to cut large chunks into small bits, especially for whole veggies, or trimmings like fresh broccoli stems, citrus skin, potatoes, onions, corncobs, etc.
Since you are getting a late start, I suggest you put up some chicken wire to help keep the mammals out of the pile. The winter weather and spring thaw will help to break down the greenery.
In the spring, follow the original lasagna recipe with this addition; put several inches of top soil, or potting soil between your leaf/winter greens base and the rest of the stuff.

I had a neighbor who had an enourmous number of deciduous trees. Over the years, he'd rake up the leaves, take them to the "back 40", where there was forest/brush growth, and pile them on top of each other. After living there for 15 years, his leaf/compost pile was enormous. He showed me what had developed on the bottom of the leaf pack; absolutely marvelous compost.

I live in the south, so it took longer to break down his leaf pile because of the milder seasons. One the other hand, if you decide to simply find a spot to pile the leaves to compost, as a pernament installation, don't add anything except grass and leaves. Over time, the inside of the pile will generate it own heat to break down the pile. Bacteria will develop, then be joined by good old earthworms and other weirder bugs, to produce a rich compost pile.

The heat that a pile of composting anything generates is why I'd add some ready to use dirt on top of the heater, to avoid burning up tender roots.
I hope this make sense to you!

    Bookmark   November 22, 2013 at 5:55PM
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Save the piles of leaves and nnext summer, use lawn clippings mixed with the leaves as you get the clippings. By fall you will have used all the leaves and can start over for the next season.

About using paper and a search for chemicals used in their manufacture, including glues to hold the pulp together, and then decide if you want to grow your food in it.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2014 at 11:56AM
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Wow there are some great tips here! Thanks!

    Bookmark   September 3, 2014 at 3:39PM
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@susanzone - I have used plain brown corrugated cardboard for weedblock under my mulch for decades. It is an approved organic material.

Per the ATTRA website:

ATTRA has not found any research studies to establish the impact of black ink used in the printing on newspaper, or whether the inks and glues used in cardboard are completely safe. However, there is abundant anecdotal and experiential evidence that suggests the use of brown cardboard as mulch is very effective as a weed barrier and that it biodegrades and does not appear to pose any substantial threat to the health of the soil and soil organisms. Many organic gardeners and farmers and ecological landscapers use cardboard often and say that it makes great sheet mulch

If you know of any peer-reviewed studies showing that plain brown corrugated cardboard or non-glossy paper without colored inks includes dangerous chemicals that would make it unsuitable for use as mulch or weed barrier or in compost, I'm sure that ATTRA, NOP, and the USDA, among many other national organizations, would like to know that.

As it stands, they are allowed under current federal organic regulations.

Here is a link that might be useful: Details on cardboard and paper used as mulch

    Bookmark   September 14, 2014 at 9:38PM
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re sheet composting when you run out of green!!! I have been deliberately cultivating comfrey and give it many hair cuts for a green layering!! I use all garden waste even using hateful weeds way down in the layers, some times I will place a second paper barrier over weedy green layers or place a tarp over a bed to hurry up composting, I have even purchased alfalfa pellets when building garden beds in the winter, they come in 50 lb bags and they go a long long way lots of ooomph!

    Bookmark   October 27, 2014 at 11:04PM
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