Steele: Build a ‘lasagne garden’ by layering compost materials

Although most often made to create a vegetable bed, the lasagne garden can be used to grow almost anything.

Vegetables growing in homemade 'lasagne garden' compost.

As promised in my previous column, this one is about making your own soil. This is advantageous as you know exactly what’s in it. You can make nutrient-rich, weed-free soil that will produce excellent results. Lasagne gardening is a relatively cheap and easy way to make a new raised bed of good soil and consists of layering the same materials you might use in a compost, in the place where you want to create the new bed.

Gwen SteeleIt’s also an easy way to get rid of some lawn.

Although most often made to create a vegetable bed, the lasagne garden can be used to grow almost anything. First choose your spot. If you plan to grow vegetables or plants requiring sun, make sure there will be at least six hours, daily, of full sun during in the growing season.

It is best to stay away from trees. In my experience, most have wide reaching root systems that always make a bee-line for good soil and extra moisture.

Also avoid making the garden on top of morning glory weed as it, too, will thrive in the good soil.

To make it on top of lawn, first cut the grass as short as possible. Then soak the ground and cover it with an overlapping layer of wet cardboard. Appliance boxes work well. The cardboard helps smother the lawn and draws earthworms. They like cellulose and help break up the turf while eating the cardboard.

Fall is a good time to make the bed as there are lots of materials around. Begin with a layer of chunky material such as frost killed vegetation from your gardens or used animal bedding (straw and manure mixture). Then add layers of green/wet/nitrogen materials such as compost, manure, grass clippings, kitchen waste, smashed Halloween pumpkins and soil, alternated with brown/dry/carbon materials such as shredded leaves, straw and frost killed plants.

Make sure each layer is very wet before you put the next layer on. The ‘green’ layers can be two to four inches thick and the ‘brown’ layers, double that.

To further enhance nutrients in the bed, supplements such as bone meal, wood ashes, and worm castings can be sprinkled over upper layers. Keep repeating alternating layers until the bed is about two feet high.

lasagne gardenLeave it to rot down over winter. To speed the process, you can cover the bed with black plastic and weight down the edges.

In spring the bed will be about half the height. You can plant through holes in the plastic for such things as squash or remove the plastic and put a wooden or other framework around the bed to contain it before planting.

A lasagne garden can be made at any time of year and planted immediately.

More detail can be found in books on lasagne gardening by Patricia Lanza, available at the library.

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