Lasagna gardening is a non-traditional gardening method that is organic, earth friendly, and easy and also known for the its amazing results. Otherwise known as sheet composting, it's one of the easiest ways out there to make garden beds that are rich in nutrients and promote both vigorous plant growth and abundant yields come harvest time.
If you're a natural-minded beginner gardener or have a brown thumb (I kind of fit both profiles) you'll love the simplicity of this method and how sustainable it is.
What is Lasagna Gardening
This method of gardening is a super easy, super-effective way of creating beds that practically guarantee a superb crop every time you plant. Whether you plant more time-intensive plants or the easiest vegetables to grow, you never dig, and you never till, which makes all of your gardening easier.
Lasagna gardening gets it's name from the way you alternate different types of organic matter on top of your ground in layers like you would with lasagna in a dish. For example, you can put down a layer of cardboard, then a layer of kitchen scraps, then animal bedding, then grass clippings, then shredded leaves, then straw, and so on.
You repeat this process of layering whatever organic material is available for you. When it's all said and done, you have a rich bed that is easy to plant and maintain without ever having to use heavy or expensive tools.
Lasagna Gardening Advantages
Aside from the fact that you'll never have to dig or till again, there are numerous advantages to having a lasagna garden. Because of the way it's constructed and the composting process that occurs, your garden will have:
The newspaper or cardboard base coupled with the heat from the composting process will virtually eliminate pre-existing weeds in your lasagna garden, (which is why you normally would prepare your garden by tilling). Also, the composted soil will be so loose and fluffy, that any weeds that may pop up during the season will be a breeze to remove.
Better Moisture Retention
Compost holds water more effectively than soil, especially sand soil. This means less watering for your garden.
BONUS - with less watering, you will get fewer weeds!
During the gardening season, weed seeds (like dandelion tufts) will blow into your beautiful garden bed. It will happen!
For WEEDS to sprout and grow, however, they have to have 3 things
- Growing medium (dirt or compost etc.) and
Reduce your watering, and the top of the soil will be less hospitable to drifting seeds, and you'll reduce how often much weeding you need to do.
Less Need for Fertilizer
Compost is extremely rich due to all the different nutrients in the multiple kinds of organic matter used. It's like a soil superfood cocktail! You'll either never have to fertilize or do it very rarely.
Loose, Easy to Work Soil
Again the composition of your lasagna garden makes it so fluffy it never compacts so it's easy to work and easy for your plants to grow all season!
More Nutritious Crops
Thanks to this nutrient dense growing medium you created, your plants have access to a larger variety of nutrients in higher quantities. Due to the looser soil, the roots can grow much larger root systems which pick up even more nutrients and more water. The result is eating more nutritious and hydrating food for a healthier you!
Required Materials for Lasagna Gardening
The real beauty of lasagna gardening is how easy it is to do. You can keep it as simple as piling up material, or you can actually use it as your soil preparation for raised beds. In either case, the materials required are next to nothing.
- Gardening or work gloves
- Garden hose
- Wood spikes
- Organic materials
- Rope or Twine: (optional) Used to lay out boundaries for beds that aren't contained.
- Timbers or Stone: (optional) For a firmer layout for your lasagna garden
- Lasagna Ingredients: Brown and green organic materials like leaves, grass clippings, straw, plant-based kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, tea leaves and bags, plant trimmings, shredded newspaper, pine needles, whole newspaper, cardboard, etc.
- Garden Plants: Either bought or what you started indoors.
These are all fairly self-explanatory except for the brown and green organic materials. Here's a brief explanation of brown versus green organics for lasagna gardening.
Brown Organic Material
Brown organic material is, well, brown. This material is long dead. Brown organic materials are things like leaves, shredded newspaper, manure, and other long-dead or already partially composted material.
Green Organic Material
Green organic material is freshly cut. These include grass clippings, kitchen scraps, and other fresh organic materials.
Making Your Lasagna Garden
There are essentially three ways to start your lasagna gardening beds.
You can go borderless, rough boundary, or raised bed--the choice is entirely up to you.
Whatever you choose, here are the simple steps to make your lasagna garden bed.
Lay Out the Garden
Laying out your garden is simply designating where your garden will be placed. If you bought raised beds or are going to make them from scratch, this is of course easy. Simply decide on a spot for your lasagna garden and construct your beds.
If you're going for a more free-form or rustic approach, all you need to determine the boundary of your garden is some twine and wood or garden spikes or you can just start piling free style if that's your style. Place your spikes where the corners of your lasagna garden will be and run the twine around all four corners. This creates your garden boundary.
Make Your Lasagna
This is a fairly loose endeavor. All you need to do is place your soil foundation and then start layering. All the materials you use will break down with time resulting in the height getting shorter than when you originally make the bed. So make your garden taller than your goal depth.
Create the Base
Begin by laying down a layer of newspaper or cardboard on the bare earth where you'll be preparing your lasagna garden. This blocks any weeds from making their way up and into your mixture.
Both the newspaper and cardboard will decompose over time, but if you use cardboard, it's advisable to thoroughly saturate it with water to promote faster decomposition. It also creates the ideal environment for worms, which are great for your garden.
Make sure that there are no spaces in between sections of the cardboard or newspaper. If you can see any ground through it, the sun can "see" through too, and you will get weeds. Cover over any cracks or holes in the cardboard or newspaper with more of the same so that you can't see any ground.
If using newspaper, typically you will want at least 4 sheets of newspaper to have a thick enough "lasagna layer" barrier.
Layer Your Materials
We're finally to the lasagna portion of lasagna gardening - the layering. You can make your bed as thick as you desire, but the minimum depth is two-feet.
This is where having raised beds or borders of timber or stone is ideal because you can make full use of your garden space. Without a border, since the lasagna gets a little deep, you may have to layer in a pyramid shape. That isn't bad, it simply means you will have less growing area.
Layer brown and green material like you'd layer a pan of lasagna, making sure that the brown layers are roughly twice as deep as the green layers. That's because you want a carbon to nitrogen ratio of 2:1 and the brown materials contribute the carbon, while the green contribute--you guessed it-- the nitrogen!
Water each layer to give your garden a head start on its composting, and to help compress and lock the material in place.
"Cook" Your Lasagna Garden
Here we go. It's time to put this baby in the oven, as it were. "Cooking" your lasagna garden is easy--you mostly just let it sit there for six months or longer.
You can also turn up the heat and cook it faster if you desire.
Alternatively, you can cover your pile with a dark tarp or similar covering. This will "bake" your bed and have it ready for planting in around 6 weeks!
Up to a Year
If you're making a lasagna garden for the first time, prepare it sooner rather than later. You can actually build it all up in the spring or summer and then just let it do its thing until the next year's growing season. You'll have the best garden earth you've ever had the pleasure of gardening in.
If you choose to go the route of a full year, be sure you layer your lasagna deeper than the recommended two-feet minimum. Your lasagna garden will have a full year to cook and break down, which means you'll need more material to maintain a suitable planting depth once everything is said and done.
If you choose to start your lasagna gardening prep in the fall when clippings and other organic materials are more readily available, stick to about a two-foot depth so your garden can properly cook down over the winter.
Set It and Forget It
In either case, you don't have to do anything at all. You watered it in as you layered it, so unless you have an extended drought, you should really just be able to set it and forget it, as it were.
Plant and Maintain Your Lasagna Garden
Here's where lasagna gardening is just like any other method. You plant and care for your garden in exactly the same way (you can check out these posts on starting seeds indoors and how to harden off plants for some handy tips), it's just so much easier to do. You'll find that you can simply move your garden soil around with a gloved hand at pretty much any depth to do your planting. That's how high quality the soil will be.
Maintenance is also the same with a lasagna garden as it is with a standard garden. You'll want to put down a layer of mulch each season to help retain moisture. You can either buy it or use collected grass clippings for a mulch that retains moisture and "burns off" any weeds that might be lurking in the bed.
Lasagna Gardening is Easy
That's it. Simple right? Although there's a lot of information in the post, if you break it down, you'll see that it's mostly just being sure that you know how to layer your lasagna garden and then let nature do the work.
Lasagna gardening is incredibly simple and makes for a wonderful planting and harvesting experience. Give it a try!