WHAT IS LASAGNA GARDENING OR NO DIG GARDENING OR SHEET MULCHING?
Now there is a term for you! I am sure many of you have heard of lasagna gardening I know most of you have eaten great lasagna but how many of you have eaten vegetables,herbs and grown flowers from a lasagna garden? This can also be referred to as no dig gardening or even the term sheet mulching has been used in identifying this style of gardening.
This style of gardening really began with a lady by the name of Ruth Stout in the early nineteen hundreds. This type of gardening was eventually called no dig gardening. Then along came a lady and renamed the procedure lasagna gardening which I must agree is a more exotic name for this style of gardening. The term sheet mulching I think is less well known.
Anyway a lasagna garden is really out of the scope of normal organic gardening because the total concept is devoted to a lasagna layering method hence the name lasagna. This garden method is developed by creating layers similar to the layering of ingredients in a pasta lasagna. It greatly reduces the need for watering and weeding through the use of heavy layers of mulch. However this mulch comes in a variety of ingredients not just your typical bagged mulch although that maybe used. The lasagna garden layering method builds its own soil with amazing rich nutrients which just yields higher garden production.
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THE DIFFERENCES IN LASAGNA GARDENING The Lasagna garden encompasses thick layers of organic mulch as well as other ingredients. You can utilize chopped up leaves(done with a lawn mower),grass clippings,hay,straw as pictured here,sawdust,a little wood ash,compost,humus,animal manure newspaper,cardboard,peat moss,bonemeal,and bloodmeal. This of course in no way implies that all of these materials need be used in your lasagna layering garden. I would presume that the use of ingredients would vary with the availability of materials in your locale.
The bonemeal provides phosphorus which should be sprinkled on top of your finished lasagna garden. The blood meal would make an excellent substitute for ether manure or grass clippings.
LET'S BUILD A LASAGNA GARDEN FIRST STEP
You must choose a spot for your lasagna garden. This can be either in your exisiting garden,on the lawn,or in raised garden beds. There will be a few preparation steps in lasagna gardening if you utilize the exisitng lawn or decide on the use of raised garden beds.
The lawn most be mowed and the grass clippings saved for layering in your garden. The raised garden beds concept will require you to construct a rectangular preferably out of cedar for weather resistance. Never construct the raise bed out of treated wood it maybe toxic to you or your vegetables that are planted. I would construct the raised garden beds with 8-12 inch high cedar and maybe four feet long and three feet wide. This is only for ease of working in your lasagna garden. There are some folks who only construct three sides but I feel for stability it should have four sides.
I need to point out here that the raised bed below is not deep enough. In order to have a depth of between 18 and 24 inches will require you to use posts 30-36 inches in length that need to be buried in the ground to some depth of between 6-8 inches. Then attach one cedar board,assuming each board is eight inches in width, on top of another until your height is equivalent to 24 inches. You can do with less if you are not going to the maximum depth of lasgana layering. The length of your raised bed is up to you, You can use less boards if the the board width is 12 inches.
This is an example of a well constructed raised bed.It will be filled with the same ingredients as your garden or lawn built lasagna garden. There is one note of caution here I would like you to check. Your going to lay end to end newspapers first in the lasagna gardening procedure but I want you to check the soil in your garden,in your lawn,or in the bottom of the frame of your raised garden beds. How compact is your base soil which you are about to cover? If the soil is badly compacted you may have to deviate from no dig gardening to just a little digging.
Here is why this maybe necessary;The fertile layers you are about to construct will certainly encourage the earthworms and you need these guys to assist in soil building. They also need a place to be sheltered from excessive heat,hot,dry,cold,and wet conditions.This may require going down several feet in the soil to find this shelter. There will also be worms that at first tunnel up under newspaper and add an additional depth of 3- 4 inches to the soil under the newspaper while the paper is breaking down. If none of this can happen because of compacted soil then either the worms will move away or die. There are a lot of organic gardeners who have translated no dig or lasagna gardening into never dig.In the case of compacted soil it may work fine in the beginning,can cease to be productive.I say CHECK YOUR SOIL BEFORE PROCEEDING.
SECOND STEP: If not using raised gardening beds then stake out your lasagna gardening area with stakes making your garden four feet long and about three feet wide. You want to work in it and not fall in it. A tub should be filled with water for the purpose of soaking your newspaper. I should also inject the use of flatten cardboard as permissible but I perfer the ease of newspaper. You should soak 4 to 6 pages of the newspaper at a time. Please don't use the glossy inserts with colored ink unless you want your cabbage to be a color other than red or green.Apply the wet paper to the ground making sure you overlap the edges by at least two inches this will prevent the unwanted weeds from intruding into your lasagna garden.
NOW AS THEY SAY LET THE LASAGNA LAYERING GARDEN BEGIN
THIRD STEP:I am going to suggest here what I used from the list of materials I discussed earlier on this web page. This does not mean that the other materials are somehow inferior it just means this web page would become a novel if I discussed every scenario. The most important fact here is to end up with a layer at least 18 to 24 inches thick. A lot of stuff I agree but remember by next year it will be maybe 5-8 inches high and require more feeding.
You have your newspaper and to continue your lasagna gardening add two-three inches of a water absorbent material like peat moss. I would add 4-8 inch layer of either humus,easily obtainable at your local garden shop or compost from your composter or scraps saved from your kitchen just as long as its organic. I prefer humus less messy even though you can apply kitchen scraps and other matter wihout using a composter. Then deposit another layer of peat moss followed by a layer of grass clippings. This can be followed by a layer of chopped or ground leaves and on and on until you have reached the depth of 18-24 inches.
As you proceed with your lasagna layering garden make sure each dry layer is sprayed with water so as to be as damp as a well squeezed out sponge. If you decide to use materials that may harbor weed seeds such as hay or uncomposted horse manure,place these in the bottom layers of your lasagna gardening to lessen the possibility of weed growth.
LASAGNA GARDENING PLANTING IMMEDIATE OR WAIT
There are many schoOls of thought on this issue one being by the lady who presented lasagna gardens to the world in her book entitled LASAGNA GARDENING. This gal immediately plants her gardens without waiting for percolation of her just constructed bed. She has great success in this method. THere are others who will tell you to wait a year prior to planting in your lasagna garden. A third method is surprisingly called cook the lasagna.
You cover the mulched area with black plastic and weight the edges with rocks or heavy branches. THe dark color will more effectively soak in the sun's heat and really hasten the decomposition of your lasagna garden. In any case you are now ready for the planting of your favorite vegetables,flowers or bulbs. Happy lasagna gardening.
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