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Lasagna Gardening - A Neat Idea

Posted: January 22, 2014

Do the words "lasagna gardening" mean anything to you? If you don’t care to dig, or mollycoddle your soil you might want to try this wonderful idea born of necessity, lack of large chunks of time, and a sore back.

We all know the popular Italian dish, lasagna, but did you know that there is a type of gardening known as “lasagna”?  Here is a recipe for starting a lasagna garden of your own.

The basic idea is to “sheet-compost” in a place where you want to create a new planting area.  It requires no digging, or grass removal.  You just need to remember the basic compost rules of layering nitrogen-rich greens with carbon rich browns.  During the winter months you can be stock-piling the compost ingredients (kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, etc.) and placing them in a container outside to freeze.  You should also be saving such items as newspapers, leaves, twigs, etc.

When choosing a space for your garden, remember light and moisture requirements, placement of obstructions such as septic systems and wells, utilities, and trees.  Also keep your neighbors in mind!

In measuring for the bed, it is best to keep it about four feet wide so that you can reach it from either side.  It can be as long as you wish, but begin small, as you can always make it longer.

The new bed should be covered with corrugated cardboard or 6-10 sheets of newspaper with the edges overlapped by 4-6 inches.  Then wet this down so that the layer stays in place.  This kills the grass and weeds and prevents further seed germination. Place a layer of the thawed nitrogen-rich kitchen scraps on the bed.

Cover this layer with a 4-6 inch layer of chopped leaves or shredded newspaper, then more nitrogen-rich material such as manure, then more carbon material.  Place as many layers as you wish, as the pile will reduce as composting begins.  It may be helpful to cover the garden with plastic to hold in the heat and to prevent materials from blowing around.

Within several months the new bed can be planted with whatever you want, depending on the season.  Top dress the bed yearly with compost in the spring and a blanket of chopped leaves in the fall.  Periodically bury kitchen scraps as an energy boost.  Just as you enjoy a meal of lasagna, you should really enjoy this new way of starting a garden.

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Tina Clinefelter
Penn State Master Gardener, Clinton County
Tina shares her 'Dig It!' news column in the the Lock Haven Express newspaper