Are you thinking of creating a new garden bed next spring? If so, consider doing your ground preparation this fall with an all-natural, no-dig technique called “lasagna gardening”! You may be wondering, why is it called lasagna gardening? Read this article to find out! (We apologize if the word lasagna makes you hungry…)
Similar to the delicious dinner, lasagna gardens feature many, many layers of organic materials. When you layer all this organic matter on top of grass/weeds instead of digging, not only do you save yourself many back-breaking hours but you preserve the integrity and structure of the soil and feed all the soil-building building critters that call your soil home.
Now we know what it is, so let's talk about how to build your lasagna garden.
First, you need to mark out the area for your new garden. It should be approximately a foot longer and wider than you originally planned. Next, mow the grass/weeds that are currently growing there as short as you can… go ahead and scalp it! Then, take all those Amazon, Chewy, and Fed Ex boxes that have been collecting in the corner of your garage and break them down flat, remove any tape, and cover the mowed area with them. They should be one layer deep and overlapping by about 6 – 8 inches. Next, wet the cardboard with a hose. You can also use sections of wetted newspaper but they need to be thick sections. You may need to use a few bricks (or something else with weight) to keep the boxes down while they work their magic.
Then, over the next couple months every time you mow, lay down a thin layer (1/2 inch or so) of grass clippings. And the same goes for when leaves start to fall from your tree. Mulch or chop the dried leaves with your mower and put them on top of the lasagna garden. Repeat these layers until mowing season is over and the leaves stop falling. If you have a compost pile or access to bagged or bulk compost, you could layer that finished compost on too. If you used a bale of straw as a fall decoration, spread that out on it as well!
Once you have your layers started, be sure to keep the pile moist (not soggy, think wrung out sponge). At this point, some people also like to cover their new bed with a tarp or something similar; however I never have and it has still worked just fine.
A couple hints – Chopping everything into small bits helps it decompose faster. You can layer most organic matter, even if it was not mentioned here. Some other examples include: used coffee grounds, tea bags, weeds that have no seeds or that don’t root along the stem, coconut choir, egg shells, spent plants, etc. Avoid using dairy, meat, or oils and fats unless you are trying to ring the dinner bell for the neighborhood wildlife, dogs, and cats. Also, it can get a bit stinky!
By late next spring, the bugs, worms, microorganisms, and weather should have done its work and your soil should be grass or weed free, fluffy, and ready to plant in! Even if it doesn’t look like what you would normally plant into yet, go ahead and live on the wild side, and plant your garden. However, if you are not the ‘wild side’ sort of person (no judgement here!) – spread out an inch or so of well-decomposed compost or topsoil over the top. Then, plant through this - garden on!
By: Penny Bollin & Jessica Grisier
Urban Conservation Technician
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Lucas SWCD staff