Monday, October 22, 2007

Lasagna- It's Not Just What's for Dinner Anymore

I have a large flower garden in my backyard that had become overgrown with weeds, grass, and plants I didn't really care for. I've been gearing up to do a complete overhaul on it. And so Saturday became the appointed day.

Several years ago I read a fascinating gardening book called, Lasagna Gardening by Patricia Lanza. It revolutionized gardening for me. I always wanted beautiful gardens but I really didn't know how to go about having them. It all seemed so intimidating. This book is a very easy read and it just makes so much sense and it is a very easy approach to having great soil which in turn grows great plants. The basic premise is that you choose any area you want for a garden bed. You don't have to dig it up or turn the soil over or even pull the weeds or existing plants. You simply lay newspaper over the top of it. And wet it down. Then you use a "lasagna" technique by layering several organic layers until you have a deep pile. Then you simply leave it over the winter to "bake". No kidding - it really does work. I tried it on a very small garden area a couple of years ago to be sure it was going to work. And it did! The little garden patch I tried it on truly has the best soil on our property. And it has incredible earth worms in it which is a very good sign that it is good soil. So I decided it was time to employ the technique on my larger garden in the backyard. Here is what I started with:See, I wasn't kidding - it has completely overgrown with spreading grass and weeds and I could no longer control it. So I spread out newspaper all over the top of it like this:Be sure and use only the black and white sections - not the glossy colored ads. Then Chuck (that's my husbands name, I'm not sure I've ever told you that) gave me some old moldy hay that is not good for the horses. So we spread a layer of that.And then we did a layer of leaves of which we have an abundance of at this time of the year. If you get really going with this lasagna gardening you might want to take all your neighbors leaves too!Next I did a layer of compost. I am especially proud of my compost pile. I don't use any fancy barrels or boxes, I just found a piece of ground that is out of the way. And every time we mow the yard or rake the leaves we dump it here. I also save all my vegetable peelings, coffee filters and grounds, paper towels, egg shells, etc, and add them to the pile every few days. Don't include meat products or you will have rodents. And we don't like rodents. At least I don't. Tip: Sometimes I get coffee grounds from a restaurant in our town that saves them in 5-gallon buckets - it is a great acidic additive to soil. Here is a picture of my compost pile.The left side is my new compost and the right side is where I was digging the older compost this weekend. We layered it on the garden like this:If you don't have room for a compost pile or you don't have enough you can also buy peat moss - it's basically the same thing. I did that for my smaller garden because I hadn't started composting yet. Reading the Lasagna Gardening book is what got me started composting. And as an added bonus, when you have three of these:you have a lot of this. In our neck of the woods it is called several different things, horse hockey, horse apples, black gold - you get the ideaSo I was doing A LOT of this:which is why my muscles are really sore today! And these guysdon't have any sore muscles. They just watched us all day.
We also mowed the lawn and used all our grass clippings like this:and I got excited when I realized we could empty out our fire pit and use the ashes - that would be great added acidity to the soil.I was so appreciative that Chuck helped me. He did all the heavy work.And I opened all the gates - hey, somebody had to!So here is my garden bed "baking" for the winter. I kept layering until I ended up with about 12 layers of organic materials on it.I can keep adding to it as we mow the lawn and rake our leaves. You can plant in the spring or you can plant now. I am going to go ahead and plant my tulips and daffodils in it this week so they will come up in the spring. I am going to put strawberries in the spring along with a few flowering bushes. I'm going to try to keep it as low maintenance as I can.

Whew! This turned out to be a long post. But I just love lasagna gardening and I wanted to share all about it. Patricia Lanza's book has lots of other good information in it as well. You don't have to use all the materials I did - you use what you have and what you can get a hold of. And I definitly prefer to use what I don't have to pay for! Just keep layering - that's the secret.

And I don't think it is strange at all that I have added lasagna to the dinner menu this week as well!


Corrie said...

Thanks for the information. That is so cool. I've never heard of gardening lasagna before! It looks like you have a beautiful yard!
Happy planting, Robin!

Becky said...

And in a stroke of genius minds thinking alike and all that ... I am serving lasagna for dinner TONIGHT. Not your kind of lasagna, my kind of lasagna. You know ... noodles and cheese and spinach.

I LOVE this idea. I used to be a composter and I stopped. I am not even really sure why, except working full time just took the wind from my sails so to speak. Perhaps I should go back to it.

I DO use my coffee grounds every day. I just take them outside and throw them on a different area of the garden every day.

I am going to look for this book at the library. Thanks, Robin.

And your hard work will surely pay off. I hope you will show us the after pictures next year.

pei girl said...

thank you so much for this information Robin you are such a sweet lady now maybe I will have a nice garden come spring.have an awesome day :0)(hugs from the Island)

Lucydolls' ramblings said...

Robin, you are so full of great information. I wish I wasn't sitting in the beet dump weighing trucks, I need to be in my yard now with all the info you just gave me.
The WOF was good, it wasn't the best one I have been to. Sometimes I like a little deeper spiritual challenge, but it was great. Sandi Pattis story always brings me to tears, as do most of the others. I sure wish they would come back to Boise.
Have a great day!

Anonymous said...

Loved the comment you left on my blog about lasik. You are so right! I know nothing about being a composter, but it sounds like you good at what you know!

Angie said...

This was awesome! My mother plants a summer and winter garden...I am going to print and share this with her!
BTW, our associate pastor told me that when he is on my blog, he visits several of the ones on my sidebar...but likes yours best!

Penless Thoughts said...

I'll have to show this information to my husband. He's the gardner in this family. Sounds interesting.

Lisa B. said... can go into any Starbucks coffee and get Grounds for your Garden for free....we save all our grounds for organic gardeners and composters!

Dawn said...

You should be very proud of yourself!! I just read about the newspaper method of weed control this last week. That is amazing.

Karen said...

Oh my goodness you are an inspiration! I tried the newspaper trick a few years ago, and we had the best veggies ever, but I've not done the layering. I compost the same way as you do, too. Alaina would love to have a horse as beautiful as yours!

kris said...

That looks wonderful - you will have such nice soil in that garden for next year! I'm a huge fan of composting!

Becky said...

Hey Robin. Thanks for the thimble idea. I actually have tried some more flexible ones that I bought and I keep going right back to my old fashioned traditional metal thimble. I guess it is all about what you are used to.

I finished quilting it today. I just did the big purple and pink squares so it was not that much. And it is a small project.

So tomorrow I can finish it up and hopefully get some kind of doll quilt done for the big sister. That one will be very quick and easy or I won't do it at all. Time to move on.

I have so many Christmas things I want to do.

gail@more than a song said...

I'm SO not a gardener but this was interesting to read. And it does look like y'all did tons of work but I bet it'll pay off later. That looks like a good way to get a bed ready, if I was a gardener you know!