Lasagna Gardening – What It Is and How To Get Started

by | Organic Gardening

What is Lasagna Gardening?

A trend in urban gardening today is lasagna gardening.  Lasagna gardening makes new soil by layering materials as when making lasagna to cook.  Layering yard wastes and kitchen scraps instead of tomato sauce and cheese.  As with the regular lasagna, there are many recipes for lasagna gardening.

Most recipes call for either removing vegetation from the bed area or at least scalping it.  Some call for adding amendments to the soil at this point.  You start by placing thick layer of newspaper over your garden area.  The newspaper helps keep the area moist and dark, thereby attracting earthworms.  This also keeps weed seeds from germinating.

Organic material is then layered to complete the lasagna garden.  Generally, a green layer followed by a brown layer.  A green layer could be grass clippings, garden waste or kitchen scraps.  Leaves, compost or even manures make up the brown layers.  This is called organic gardening.

It is also called sheet composting.  You are making sheets of organic material that gets composted to make new soil.  This is not something new though, Mother Nature has been doing this for a while now.  Take a walk through the woods If you want to see how she does it.  She puts down a new layer each year.

Lasagna Gardening Recipe

Like I said, there are many recipes, but I never follow any.  We are talking about organic gardening.  Everyone is going to have different materials available.  What you have on hand is what is going to determine how your lasagna gets made.  There is no set way of doing it.

When I started lasagna gardening, I had a neighbor that owned a landscape company.  He always had bags and bags of grass clippings and other yard waste.  He had to pay to get rid of them.  Me, being the good neighbor said “Hey just toss them in my yard I’ll take care of them for you”.  I then made a compost pile.  A big pile.

After a few months, I noticed that the material wasn’t composting fast in this big pile.  I decided I needed to turn the pile.  It was not an easy task in this big pile, so I spread it out.  The only space I had was my garden.  It was late in the season and there was nothing growing there but weeds.

Every day I was adding more.  Every once in a while I would turn what was there.  I was adding green stuff and brown stuff, in no particular order.  Then one day I came home to find about a hundred bags of leaves in my yard.  All I could do was dump them on top of what was there.  I had circle in the middle of my yard that was about 30 ft across and about 3 ft tall.  I just left it for the winter.

No Till Gardening

When spring came the mound was only a few inches high.  My intention was to till everything in, until I noticed how many earthworms I had.  I decided to just plant in the compost and let the roots go where they wanted.

I planted 4 tomato plants that year and had hundreds of tomatoes.  The tomatoes started producing in May and lasted into September.  I had a rosemary plant that went from a 6 inch cutting to a 3 foot tall bush. Watermelons and cantaloupe wouldn’t stop.  I think I canned 25 jars of green beans.  I became a believer.

Unfortunately, my neighbor moved that year, so my easy access to yard waste stopped.

Garden Organic

I now save all my cardboard boxes.  I also save and shred all non-coated paper (junk mail).  The cardboard will either start a new bed or used in paths of an existing garden.  The shredded paper gets spread around the plants.  After it gets wet and dries it becomes a solid mass on top of the ground.  As such, it prevents weed seeds that blow in from germinating quite well.

lasagna garden springI was also lucky enough to get a tree trimming company to dump some of their trimmings (50 truck loads or so).  They were looking for a place to get rid of it and I was glad to take it.  You can see part of in the pic.  Some of the trimmings have been composting for about 3 years now.  This gets used as a top dressing for the gardens as well as around all my trees.

I start a bed by doing the grass removal thing and putting down cardboard and paper.  I soak that and then cover with grass clippings, weeds or most anything green (no seeds).  Then I put a layer of compost.  Generally that will consist of composted chicken manure and straw.  I just keep repeating.

The Benefits Of Lasagna Gardening

They can go just about anywhere.  Anywhere there is enough light.

They can be on the ground or in a raised bed.  You can make them whatever size you like.  As you can see from the picture at the top of the page, I like mine a little taller.  I don’t like kneeling to garden.  I can sit and garden with this bed.

It will take a season or two to get your lasagna garden in full swing. You want a couple of feet of lasagna.  Once you do get it going, it will be well worth it.

There is less labor in watering and weeding.  Harvests are almost always much greater.  And it is organic.

No more spending money on fertilizers.  You will be building your soil by composting.  Compost is full of nutrients.

Tilling will be a thing of the past.  Since your soil will be loose and crumbly, digging will be easier.  Weeds will come up with little effort.  Gardening will be more enjoyable.

The most important thing in lasagna gardening is to just get started!  Give it a try, you might just like it.