Making Lasagna Beds

by Daisy

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This is what I’ve let one of the best spots in my yard become.  A real shame because sun is at a real premium around here and this is one of the sunniest areas.

The real reason for this neglect (besides laziness) is the soil is puny.  Gravelly, dead, sandy, weak soil.

I decided the best thing to do would be to start over.  Just cover it all up and lasagna it.

If you’ve never heard of lasagna gardening it’s a method whereby, instead of tilling and digging in soil amendments, you cover the turf as is with newspaper, cardboard, etc., and then layer over that compost, leaf mulch, grass, manure, barn sweepings, and so on and let it sit and decompose.

The idea is that the organic matter decomposes, earthworms tunnel up through the paper and into the layers of organics, and everything cooks up into a rich,  loamy soil as the weeds underneath are smothered.  No shoveling or roto-tilling required.

It’s good for my spot because it was overrun with weeds and since it’s Fall, I can start it now and it will be ready for spring.

Here’s the cardboard I found dumpster diving.  Missed a few spots.

Then wet newspapers.  Missed a few more spots.

Compost.  Wish it were thicker, but this was the biggest space I’ve ever lasagna’d.

Almost 40 bags of mulched leaves and grass, the result of a frenzy of curb robbing.

This wasn’t enough so after this photo was taken, I added a bale’s worth of straw chicken bedding and about six more mega bags of leaf mulch.

Ideally I would have layered in another strata of compost, but I didn’t have enough.

Notice the hose.  I wet down each layer as I put it down to speed up the decomposition.

I’m doing this in several other spots this year.  It really helps to fill my gardening urges during the off-season.  Come Spring, I’ll dig in there and hopefully it will have made a big difference in the soil quality and knocked those weeds out for a while.  I can’t wait to see.

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Mary November 15, 2010 at 12:54 pm

I think we’re going to do this in a spot we want to put a strawberry patch. I just have to come up with the cardboard.

Sue November 15, 2010 at 1:20 pm

Great idea. Thanks for passing it on.

Amber November 15, 2010 at 4:22 pm

I got the book about lasagna gardening from the library and enjoyed every minute of it. This year we moved to raised bed gardens and have 2 ready to go for this spring. I am hoping that next year I will have 3-4 more and am looking forward to lasagna-ing them all 🙂

Good post, I hope others read it and can learn the tricks that make awesome soil to garden in!!! So easy too!

Stephanie November 15, 2010 at 6:19 pm

I didn’t know what lasagna gardening was when I first started reading, but realized that this is basically (with much less stuff) what I did this fall in some areas to kill grass. I had some shrubs to plant, and they are going to get MUCH bigger, so I needed to create a fairly large bed, much larger than I actually wanted to spend digging in my rocky, clay, pain-in-the-bum soil. Thanks for the tip about wetting the layers down, I’m sure if I had tried some of that this fall it might have been so much easier to get the mulch down without the paper blowing away!

stacy h November 15, 2010 at 9:13 pm

yes, this is an awesome gardening method!! love it!

Alice November 15, 2010 at 10:57 pm

I have heard it is not so effective in extremely clayey soil — which makes me very sad, but I am using it to build up the area around my roses.

Kathy November 16, 2010 at 6:00 pm

Love it! I don’t have leaves, but have been looking around the neighborhood and think I might scavenge some. People never rake and bag, so I’d have to do it myself.

megpop November 17, 2010 at 9:49 pm

Sign me up I love this idea.

jan November 18, 2010 at 8:15 am

Nice idea. I have several spots in the yard that could use just this. Need to plant more veggies next spring and this would really expand my garden space.

Tanya Walton November 23, 2010 at 1:34 am

Wow….|I had no idea what ‘lasagna gardening’ was so I’m glad you explained it all and doesn’t the spot look so much tidier now. See it was worth trashing your car to get those leaves!!

Corinne November 24, 2010 at 6:14 pm

I’ve been telling ALL my friends about this! They love it. (*I* love it!!)
We have a spot in our backyard where the dogs have dug to China in about four places – so I’m going to fill those in after Thanksgiving and then we will make a Lasagna Bed out of the whole dirt-dog-play area. I can’t wait!
And now everybody else wants to do it too.

Mrsprd February 18, 2011 at 5:06 pm

Looks awesome and a great way to stifle weeds! I am wondering if the garden could still be considered organic because of the cardboard and newspaper? I want to do this, but I was hoping to have my garden be organic. 🙂 What do you think?

Tomato Lady February 18, 2011 at 6:07 pm

Mrsprd–Yes, cardboard is often used in organic gardening, both as weed suppression and in compost. It breaks down. Newspaper (except the color glossy pages) are considered safe. The ink is generally soy-based and biodegradable. Here’s to Spring!

Anon March 5, 2011 at 10:51 am

If you have issues getting cardboard, call big department stores like Wal-Mart or Target. If you call them before they crush their shipping boxes, they’ll give them to you. As long as you do it in the morning.

JavaLady62 March 28, 2011 at 10:20 pm

Can anyone tell me if those white coffee filters will decompose? I know the coffee grounds are great for my compost pile, but what about the filter? Yes or No? Thanks!!

Tomato Lady March 29, 2011 at 6:04 am

JavaLady62–I’ve put mine in the compost for years and I don’t ever notice them in the finished product, so I will say that they decompose just fine.

Dolisa Winkelman March 29, 2012 at 8:15 pm

I worked for hours making lasagna beds in 4 gardens! Wouldn’t you know, a wildfire swept through our neighborhood and …well, cardboard newspaper and manure BURN!! Luckily, our house was saved and people say that ash is good for the soil. Oh, well- I can’t wait to try again next year.

cadizkyman June 19, 2012 at 9:05 pm

I love this site… I enjoy making compost and getting ready for next years
garden’ I plant flowers or bulbs all year and use all your idea’s. I’ll put about ten or more bales of straw out next week and start with all your instruction. I’m just having fun… Keep putting out the wonderful idea’s..

Ellen Peavey October 28, 2012 at 6:41 pm

I made a lasagna bed put blocks and wood around it to contain it. I’m going to plant in it next year, the only problem is it is in a very shaded area. Ellen from Georgia

Nancy l Rogers, M.S. March 16, 2013 at 8:46 pm

This post is inspiring. Thanks.

Emmett April 9, 2013 at 9:08 am

That sounds like the ideal way to compost. My space is limited, so I am still using the Compost Tumbler. However, doing that in my raised beds this winter sounds appealing. Our winters aren’t very long.

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