Lasagna Gardening

kathaabAugust 22, 2008


From what I have read so far, lasagna garden is to make the bed in layers and the first layer is either newspaper or cardboard. What's the last layer and how many layers should there be? Also I don't have a peat moss to include in the mix, all I have is dead leaves, grass clippings and cow manure. How should I go about preparing the bed? Thank you.

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I'd refer you to the Composting Forum but sometimes a simple project like building a lasagna bed results in much excellent but often complicated answers. Sooo, this is from

..."Anything you'd put in a compost pile, you can put into a lasagna garden. The following materials are all perfect for lasagna gardens:

Grass Clippings
Fruit and Vegetable Scraps
Coffee Grounds
Tea leaves and tea bags
Weeds (if they haven't gone to seed)
Shredded newspaper or junk mail
Pine needles
Spent blooms, trimmings from the garden"
(Peat moss - forget this unless you've already got it on hand as a totally unnecessary ingredient.)

Start with a layer of cardboard or thickness of newspaper then...

"Just alternate layers of "browns" such as fall leaves, shredded newspaper, peat (if you have it), and pine needles with layers of "greens" such as vegetable scraps, garden trimmings, and grass clippings. In general, you want your "brown" layers to be about twice as deep as your "green" layers, but there's no need to get finicky about this. Just layer browns and greens, and a lasagna garden will result. What you want at the end of your layering process is a two-foot tall layered bed. You'll be amazed at how much this will shrink down in a few short weeks."

And if it's not two feet tall, just layer on what you've got. What the top layer ends up being is whatever gets layered on last. This is one of those things you can do badly (to some folk's way of thinking, anyway) and still have it turn out well.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2008 at 3:31PM
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brother/sister...Thank you very much.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2008 at 10:44AM
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vetivert8(NI-NZ zone 9a)

This is Esther Deans' no dig method which is similar. This can be built on concrete if you don't happen to have any visible dirt to start with.

Make a surround to hold the ingredients from wandering or being spread by birds. Bricks, small logs, planks, turf turned upside down, rocks...4-6 inches high, minimum.

Put down your newspaper or cardboard to a good quarter-inch deep. Do not use coloured paper - just ordinary newsprint, or plain cardboard.

Cover the cardboard with pads of lucerne hay (alfalfa).

Over this layer sprinkle a light dusting of dry (poultry) manure - other sorts are fine.

Cover this with a layer about eight inches deep of loose straw and sprinkle again with the dry manure (No big chunks)

Finally, on top, put a patch of good compost - 3-4 inches deep and about eighteen inches across where seeds are to be planted.

On very hard ground or concrete the very first layer is old leaves, small twigs, pieces of seaweed to a depth of three to four inches and then add the paper or cardboard and continue building. (If you're miles away from seaweed then use grass clippings from a safe place - and preferably with clover leaves, plantain leaves and so forth - though no seed heads - mixed in.)

Then plant up. If your zone allows - aim for either salad plants or your winter plants such as cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts.

After the first crop the first pile will have rotted down.

Just add a layer of compost or ancient manure and plant up your summer crop/s - remembering to switch between root crops such as carrots, cabbage-type crops, and useful nitrogen adding plants such as peas. To ensure diseases don't get established.

For the next round you might want to build over the old layer with a fresh round of hay , fertiliser, and compost and continue to increase the depth of your soil.

Whatever you do - stay off it. Build your beds so they are narrow enough to work easily from both sides - or install planking so you NEVER walk on the growing medium. (It gets squashed and the air/water can't move through. Bad for plants.)

If you plan to grow potatoes - cover them with a thick layer of straw so the tubers don't go green from sunlight.

If bending is difficult, you can build this on an old slatted bed base. The cardboard will hold the ingredients over the growing season.

With the ingredients you have you could both use them to build your grow-beds - and make compost for future use.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2008 at 9:01PM
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wow..very nice..thank do i know which is brown matter and which is green matter myself? for example when i cut grass clippings they are green but after a day or two they turn brown, leaves too. what are they considered then?

    Bookmark   August 26, 2008 at 1:59AM
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Your best approach is not to overthink the process. Just consider the forest floor where composting goes on without any human intervention.

When deciduous trees shed their leaves naturally, the leaves are considered a "brown" regardless of what color they are.

Some materials can actually be both: fresh grass clippings are "green"; however, dried grass is "brown". So you can use your grass clippings either way depending on what condition they're in when you add them to the mix.

Just pile it on and let it do its thing.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2008 at 11:48AM
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lindac(Iowa Z 5/4) can do it with all green, but it may smell like a silo for a while or all brown, but it will take longer to break down.
I think the very best stuff is that mix of grass clippings and fallen leaves you get when you mow the lawn in October!

    Bookmark   August 27, 2008 at 2:16PM
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hi..thank you all for your help..can i add topsoil? i like the ground leveled. sorry so many questions.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2008 at 8:40AM
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hi..thank you all for your help..i need the ground leveled. is it ok to digg up dirt, make the layers and add soil on top? will that still be lasagna? sorry so many questions.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2008 at 9:28AM
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vetivert8(NI-NZ zone 9a)

That's a curly one!

Lasagne/no dig is generally done above the exisiting ground level simply because that dirt is either non-existant, or it's awful in some way.

By making what are essentially ageing mini-compost heaps and planting into them then you have a rich soil that roots can easily roam through to get food, water and air. And your plants grow greatly (all else being fair.)

If you know this next bit- apologies.

Unless a soil has been fed year on year with plant material (such as fallen leaves) then the top layer, where most of the goodness is, can be pretty thin. Under it will be a subsoil which may or may not be a good habitat for a plant's roots. (It could be hard pan, thick clay, or lots of boulders with a bit of dirt around them, for example.) It's often a different colour from the darker topsoil layer.

If you were to dig up soil and add it to your growing bed you could end up with a lot of subsoil which won't generally have that light, fluffy, easy-living texture of your lasagne. Like pouring gravy over a souffle...

Neither lasagne nor no-dig looks 'tidy' - unless you have constructed a raised border for it. If you want good cropping conditions quickly these methods are excellent. If it is important to maintain the garden ground level then you may need to use a different system of cropping - and the 'Square Foot' method might suit you better. For that, you add a bucket of compost to the particular square you wish to plant and mix it with the local soil.

With any of them, though, you are going to end up with a bed that is above the level of paths/ lawn - simply because you've loosened the soil/or built onto it, and added more material.

Delving down won't help as you could end up with miniature lakes after rain - and lots of drowned plants.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2008 at 6:09AM
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I thank you for the input..things will get decomposed whether i add topsoil or not..right? what difference will that make as organic matter wont be added after i plant, simply mulching. personally i don't find raised bed attractive. what does "delving down" mean?

    Bookmark   September 2, 2008 at 4:27PM
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vetivert8(NI-NZ zone 9a)

Yes. The topsoil, if used lightly, would hold material from being blown around. Itself might also be moved by wind/rain, depending on conditions in your area. You might need to install a windbreak of some kind, or put in plants to break up wind gusts, if wild weather is a problem for your garden.

If you are mulching with compost, old leaves, straw, sheep fleece or similar - you are adding organic material.

If you put on plastic or pebbles - those are both inorganic and may make future gardening difficult - particularly in the vegie garden.

'Delving down' - as in making a hole or a trench below the grade level.

From what you've said I'm imagining a field which has been ploughed then levelled and sown. Not like a municipal garden with neatly mounded beds.

As soon as you disturb the soil or make a no dig garden of any sort then the level will be gone. If you continue to work that area it will rise. If you use it once then move to another site it can be levelled again.

However, if you intend to use the no dig method to give a good start to, say, perennials, shrubs, bulbs, then it will probably return to level within a year at most.

The edging for both methods is there to stop the material being scattered about the garden by weather and creatures, and help conserve moisture. If you can do this some other way then there's no need to have a raised bed, as such.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2008 at 6:30AM
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