Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Building a Spring Lasagna Garden

Lasagna gardening (sometimes called sheet composting) is a method of building a raised garden bed out of waste materials that eventually break down into compost. Your "lasagna" layers are built up of alternating brown and green materials that interact with each other, creating a rich growing medium for your vegetable garden.

Ideally, you would build your lasagna garden in the Fall, giving it time to "marinate" through the cold weather months, before planting in Spring. But if you're getting a late start, like me, you can build one in the Spring. You'll just need to use more soil and compost in the mix, since you won't have enough time for the soil to fully develop.

This is layer one, which consists of cardboard and newspaper. I wet it down to keep it from blowing away. Be sure to remove any packing tape from the cardboard boxes. This layer, as it breaks down will also attract earthworms.

Next step, I went out into the woods to find the next layer - browns. This layer can consist of leaves, pine needles, twigs, etc. If you don't have ready access to these types of materials, you can use straw.

Here's my layer of brown on top of the cardboard and newspaper.

Next is a green layer. Greens were harder to come by since it was early Spring and my lawn did not need mowing yet. Your green layer should be about half the thickness of your brown layer and can consist of weeds (not gone to seed), grass clippings, animal manure, vegetable scraps or egg shells.

Since greens were scarce, I added some bone meal fertilizer. This contributed the extra nitrogen I needed to get the chemical reaction started.

Next, I continued alternating brown and green layers in a 2-1 ratio. After the first layer, I started using compost for my green layer, sprinkled with some more of the bone meal fertilizer.

Here's my last brown layer. At this point my bed was just under 2/3 of the way full.

Since I plan on using the bed right away, I filled it the rest of the way with a 50-50 soil/compost mix. This way the plants can grow on the top, while the layers underneath start breaking down. The roots of the vegetable plants will also help this process along as they snake down through the layers.

My filled garden bed (ow, my aching back!) Normally I would not fill it quite this full, but I'm expecting the layers to compress a bit, so it should end up at a nice level by the time I'm ready to plant.

I will post updates as the season goes on!