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How to Do Lasagna Gardening

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Lasagna gardening, also known as layered gardening, sheet composting, sheet mulching or no-dig gardening, is a great way to start a new garden. Rather than bringing in yards of soil, you build up the soil you have by adding layer upon layer of organic matter, alternating carbon- and nitrogen-rich layers. Over the course of a year or so, it all breaks down, thanks to the action of beneficial microbes, insects and earthworms. What’s left is soil that makes the perfect planting mix to grow your garden.

Lasagna gardening was popularized in the late 1990s with the publication of Patricia Lanza’s book by the same name (Rodale Books, 1998). Her book introduced a new generation of hungry gardeners to an economical system of soil building that mimics nature itself: In the course of a season, grass and weeds grow in a field, they dry out and decay, and perhaps the field is covered with a blanket of autumn leaves. If this patch of land is lucky, fallen fruit or animal manure may supply some nitrogen-rich organic matter. When the rains come, the whole mess gets soaked, providing an ideal environment for compound breakdown.

Instructions for creating a lasagna gardening:

  • Choose a site for your new garden and stake out the area. Place a thick layer of newspapers or cardboard over the area to kill the existing weeds or turf. Water the papers or cardboard to hold it in place. This is the first layer of your lasagna garden.
  • Put down 2 to 3 inches of water-absorbent material like peat moss for the second layer and sprinkle it with water.
  • Spread a 4- to 8-inch layer of organic material such as compost, leaves or grass clippings for the next layer. Sprinkle with water to settle this layer of the lasagna garden.
  • Add another 2 to 3 inches of peat moss over the compost and spray with water and spread another layer of organic material. Water it down.
  • Keep putting layers of peat moss, then an organic layer of clippings, leaves or compost over and over until the total height of the layers reach 18 to 24 inches high.
  • Sprinkle a light layer of bone meal and wood ash on the top of the pile to add phosphorus and potassium to the mix and wet down.
  • Plant the plants or seeds by pulling apart a bit of the mulching materials, put the plant or seeds in and then cover and pat down. Water the entire lasagna garden thoroughly and continue to water throughout the growing season.
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