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. I belong to the last category and have already made the first steps toward creating a ‘lasagna bed’.
To begin at the beginning – I’m not sure who to credit for the divine inspiration to garden this way, but someone has stars in their crown for sure! The basic idea is to ‘sheet-compost’ in a place where you want to create a new planting area – no digging, no grass removal, no big machines! If you remember your basic composting rules – layer nitrogen-rich ‘greens’ with carbon-rich ‘browns’ and sit back to wait for magic to produce lovely black gold, then you are good to go! Of course, a few other nit-picking rules need to be addressed also – light and moisture requirements, non-obstruction of septic systems and wells, stay clear of utilities and walnut trees and remember the sensibilities of the neighbors.
While you are carefully choosing a site, you can begin stock-piling ingredients – over the winter months, kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, egg shells and spoiled fruits and veggies can be placed in a composter or large, plastic garbage can and left outside to freeze – just remember that come spring, when it thaws, the materials will begin to perfume the area – time to get spreading on the new bed! You will also have been stock-piling newspapers, cardboard, fallen leaves, twiggy bits pruned off the trees by Mother Nature and any house plants that gave up the ghost under your tender care…A load of manure would have been nice for Christmas…or at least a couple of bales of hay or straw…
Now for the good part – measure off the bed – best to make it about 4 feet wide (can be reached into from either side) and as long as you wish (begin small, you can always elongate the bed).
Completely cover the new bed area with a layer of corrugated cardboard or 6-10 sheets of newspaper; overlap the edges of newspaper by 4-6 inches and wet everything down thoroughly to hold it in place. This will kill the grass and weeds and prevent further germination of seeds from the seed bank.
Now is the time to put down a layer of the newly-thawed, smelly, nitrogen-rich kitchen scraps to be hastily covered by a thick layer of chopped leaves or shredded newspaper (4-6 inches). Layer some more nitrogen ingredients on top – manure maybe or at least some bags of composted manure from a big-box store, then more carbon material. Feel free to make as many layers as you have ingredients for – even if the pile may reach dizzying heights. The pile will subside as the composting commences and it may help to cover the new garden with plastic to hold in the heat and prevent materials being blown hither and yon by spring breezes.
Within a couple of months the new bed can be planted depending on the season with whatever you wish. Top-dress the bed yearly with additional compost in spring and a blanket of chopped leaves in autumn and periodically bury kitchen scraps in its depths for an energy boost. Go ahead – try it, you might like it!