Advice on combining square foot gardening with lasagna gardening.

magnoliasouthAugust 1, 2007

I've gardened a bit in the past, but never on a permanent I'm-going-to-garden-all-the-time basis. My knowledge of vegetable gardening is really slim to none. With the exception of growing up with my gardening parents and a one time try of my own gardening resulting in an abnormally large number of beans... long story.

I purchased Bartholomew's Square Foot Gardening book and I'm also very interested in lasagna gardening, which reminds me. Is there no forum for lasagna gardening here at gardenweb? I looked but cannot find one. Perhaps I'm just not seeing it.

So my question is how many successful gardeners have combined these two techniques? I ask because I've seen a number of posts where SFG users have had difficulty finding vermiculite or if they have found it, it's terribly expensive and I'm not the least bit interested in such a high expense.

Does anyone have any tips to share? Because I'm new to gardening, I don't have a compost pile and to be honest, even if I weren't new to gardening, I'm not sure I'd maintain one anyway. This is where the lasagna gardening appeal begins to take shape. Laziness is my motto, sad but there it is.

Am I even posting this in the right place? Should I post this in the SFG forum? It's just that I'm new, so I thought it should go here.

Any help, direction or whatever you can offer me is greatly appreciated.

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lindac(Iowa Z 5/4)

Lasagna gardening is not an ongoing "method" but rather a way of easily building a bed. And when your bed is made why then go on to square foot gardening.
Linda C

    Bookmark   August 1, 2007 at 8:08PM
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Hi Linda and thank you so much for your response. I don't have any beds created yet. This is for the planning of next Spring. Yes it's early, but I want to know what all I'm getting into long before the actual 'getting into' period. ;)

As for the reasons why I wish to do it, there are actually a few of those. First is the convenience of eliminating traditional boring rows; I can scatter "boxes" throughout the sunny spots in my yard, rather than being stuck with one large space where one end, corner or whatever, doesn't get enough sun; It'll look prettier in my yard than the larger rows, and so forth. Let's just say that it'll work better for me.

I'm sure that there will be little difference really, it's just switching from rows to squares. I'm new to the whole lasagna idea. In fact, I'd never had even heard the term until I began seeing it written in these forums a few weeks back. I've ordered this book at the library, which I'll be checking out when it comes in. I think it's the ideal book to combine it with SFG.

So I'm still looking for ideas, tips, suggestions if anyone has any. :)

    Bookmark   August 2, 2007 at 8:25AM
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lindac(Iowa Z 5/4)

If you want to be planting in a lasagna bed next spring you best be starting one or more now.
I think you are misunderstanding what "Lasagna gardening" is. It's a way of building a bed by sheet composting. pretty much what you do is lay several layers of wet newspaper on the ground where you want your bed ( and is can be oval, kidney shaped or square, but I think anjything BUT square is more attractive) then you cover that with a 3 or 4 inch layer of green stuff, wet that down and follow with brown stuff, wet it, add something with active organisms like a finished compost, add more green, more brown and top your by now foot high pile with some wood chips....water well until it's a spongy mass and wait until spring.
The concept of square foot gardening is that you plant in masses rather than rows, pretty much as you would plant flowers. Square foot gardening has nothing to do with squares it can be done in drifts in a large bed or on the end of a bed where you have planted a shade loving plant in the end that gets less sun.
If you are at all serious about squarefoot gardening and lasagna gardening you really will be a lot better off with a compost pile. What are you going to do with all the dead plants and trimmings?
Linda C

    Bookmark   August 2, 2007 at 6:16PM
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I believe I have an idea what lasagna gardening is, but that was not my question. My question is how to combine the two.

I have this book, which I think explains it fairly well. I also have this book, that I believe gives just about every detail on square foot gardening. I'm also aware that lasagna gardening starts before winter, but given that I'm in a coastal region, there is no real hurry here. I didn't think I had to explain myself so fully.

I'm very happy that you like other shapes, but I'm also very happy that I prefer square foot gardening.

If you're not familiar with combining square foot gardening and lasagna, then I'm not sure how you can help me. It's not that I don't appreciate your advice or opinion, I do. I'm just primarily interested in those who have successfully combined the two.

Thank you though for your post.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2007 at 10:47PM
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lindac(Iowa Z 5/4)

You make your beds using the lasagna method and plant using the square foot method...
But then I have only been gardening for 48 or more years....and you have 2 I guess you don't need any advice.
Asking how you can combine lasagna cardening and square food gardening is sort of like saying how can you combine raking and organic gardening. One is a way to start and the other is an ongoing process. You prepare a lasagna garden once, you square foot garden in it for years....replenishing it, of course with compost.
Glad to be of help where ever I can.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2007 at 12:00AM
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right; lasagna "gardening" is really more like soil or bed preparation or in-place composting than it is an ongoing method.

You can find a lot of info about lasagna gardening on the Soil Compost & Mulch Forum.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2007 at 10:07AM
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kristal(3b MN)

I know exactly what you are asking, and I'm sorry that you have gotten such a rude response. I have actually had great success experimenting with two, with variations on each "method", or whatever the correct terminology may be. This is, after all, the New to Gardening forum, where you should not be afraid to ask questions.

If you have the lasagna gardening book, it says that you may indeed plant right into it, without having to wait at all. It is just not as easy to plant through the layers. This is how I have built all of my beds so far. I have also not followed the recipe by any means, just using whatever organic material I had on hand to build my layers.

Be aware, though, that books are great resources but you have to be flexible and willing to experiment to find what works for you. If you like your beds square, rectangular, or triangular, then that's what you should do, and if you like to make elaborate shapes, then go for it. Don't let other people's opinions spoil your fun, because it's your garden, and it should be fun for you.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2007 at 10:46PM
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Actually, when magnoliasouth got the excellent advice/info she asked for, she responded pretty tartly;

see her post of August 2 at 22:47.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2007 at 8:01AM
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meldy_nva(z6b VA)

Please keep in mind that the phrase "lasagna" actually attained popularity via the books written by Patricia Lanza, which not only explains the making of lasagna, but advocates it for immediate use! While lasagna is very similar to sheet-composting (in fact, so similar that it is easy to confuse the two) lasagna differs importantly in that if made by Lanza's method (or incorporating an extra activator such as compost) it is meant for immediate use and does NOT require seasons to convert into an useable material.

SFG also has recipes for soil-making; most of them based on commercially available products and/or with commercially available fertilizers. People are quite taken with the particulars of intensive planting and often overlook the super-rich soil Bartholomew is using.

Magnolia is right about there being a possibility of combining the two techniques; but we have to be very clear as to which techniques we are discussing. Say SFT to an old-timer and s/he will think you mean only intensive planting... say lasagna, and s/he will think of layers of materials. It's all too easy to forget that SFT is intensive growing based on high-fertility soil, while lasagna is growing-however-you-like-including-pots based on OG layering of materials to make soil.

~Magnoliasouth, in answer I would say: make the soil by whichever method works best for you, and follow SFT's guidelines for spacing and care of the vegs. Don't worry about experimenting, and DO enjoy.

Oh, yes ~~ you *can* compost your kitchen scraps right into a lasagna bed or into a garden, as long as they are buried deep enough to not bring pests. It's easier to use a vermibin [a special home for worms]. A large garbage can is fine for scraps as long as you are careful about layering (there's that word again) and aerating. I actually use a bottomless can -buried in my garden. I always wrap kitchen scraps in newspaper, add soil occasionally and once a year I lift the can to a new spot. Garden worms do the aerating.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2007 at 11:25AM
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I did both SFG & LG this year and loved it. I have 2 4'x4' beds 3 2'x8' beds and am building 2 more 3'x8' beds. I di learn tomatoes should never go into the compost pile, as the seeds don't break down and I had so many volunteer tomatoes, oh man!!

All in all the harvest was good and next year will be better!

Can we post pics here?

    Bookmark   October 5, 2007 at 12:24AM
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when you add red wiggler worms or Tiger nightcrawlers to the compost pile, everything gets eaten and there are no voluntary plants unless your worms die. I use bails of hay around the compost pile to keep the worms warm and lights are solar power so they don't crawl out. This helps with the composting much faster than letting the dead plants just sit there for me.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2007 at 5:38AM
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Well, I guess I will add my two cents worth, though ha' penny's worth might be more accurate. I don't really like the terms that are used most often because of misconceptions people have. Many people think square foot gardening is little square plots with diverse things in it and the plots have to be arranged all in neat rows. It doesn't have to be that mundane. Several responses here have said that, and I have to add my "that's right!" to it. I prefer small space gardening as a term. I also like layer gardening rather than lasagna gardening because there is a misconception that lasagna gardening is a set method of preparation that requires a sort of recipe approach.

That all being said, small space gardening is what it is. There are basic principles that make it work well. Combining it with layer gardening, however, is a little tricky. One of the problems you run into is your layers. Some of us who have started gardening from scratch have no green stuff to put into a garden layer. In a new house inside a new subdivision? Yeah, I am. No trees! Where am I going to get brown stuff to put into a garden layer? And, if you do find the ingredients, the layers are not bioavailable and do nothing but act as mulch for a year or two. The added difficulty is planting things in those layers, or through the layers to the untreated soil beneath (which is what you are really doing that first year).

The truth is that this method takes way too much time anyway. If you want to start fast and then add greens and browns to keep going, here is a good way I have used again and again. And this method actually speeds things up and adds a wonderful treat to your garden.

Step one: become a grass murderer! Sorry, but you have to. Kill the grass in the bed you want to make. Removal is best, but back breaking, and if you have that hated weed, Bermuda grass, you will just get invaded from anything you missed. For that reason, you want to put down something that will choke the grass out well enough not to leave any behind. I like using a combination of newspaper and cardboard in the winter. Next put up your bed walls to contain your bed, being sure that you have the walls a little smaller than your newspaper and cardboard prep. This is because one of the most annoying things is to build your bed walls first and have grass survive at the very inside edge of your bed, sending runners all through your bed in early spring.

Next layer the bed. I use the following, but the trick is to come up with your own that works for you. You will notice that I use a little more wood much than you would expect, but wait for it! There is a good reason.

Starting with the deepest layers:

Composted humus and manure
wood mulch
composted humus and manure
top soil
wood mulch

Now, this can be planted as soon as spring hits (or immediately if you are growing some cool season crops). Now you need to do something that will break down all that wood mulch (remember I used two layers).

I like to use King Stropharia mushroom spawn and put it in the garden.

Okay, I know that sounds crazy, but it will make sense in a minute.

King Stropharia is an edible mushroom and decomposer that works wonders. As it breaks down the wood, it releases nutrients to the soil and attracts earthworms. It also preys on nematodes. After your first season of gardening, you can cut all the dead stuff and put it in the garden. Throw in some more wood chips or wood mulch (hardwood works best in my experience) and the mushrooms will keep digesting and composting the soil. You then plant again the next year, leaving the layer of debris and mulch from the previous year on top and harvesting your mushrooms.

The result is that you now have an active, living compost pile right in your garden that you can layer things on to your heart is content. If where you live is warm enough to grow the mushroom, I definitely say you should try it. I have heard that phoenix oyster mushrooms work equally well for setting up a space saving garden with layering.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 3:30PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Well said! The only thing I would add is that even when smothering, with a creeping/rhizomatous grass, cutting around the outside edge is really worthwhile to make sure there are no more connections to the grass outside the borders. If still connected, it can stay alive for months under a smother, and pop up again when it gets a chance (like when digging around to install plants.)

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 9:42AM
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