Lasagna Gardening otherwise known as No till Gardening or Sheet Composting saves work and water! Both of those precious commodities are in short supply at our house. Call us lazy but we like this gardening method! Check out all the advantages of Gardening in layers!
Have you ever heard of Ruth Stout? She is one of the pioneers of this easier, better for the soil, water conserving, gardening method! I read Ruth’s book ‘How to Have a Green Thumb Without an Aching Back’ way back and …it didn’t work for me. I think now; I may not have mulched deep enough.
My weeds always found a way out of that mulch. Even cardboard could not stop the determined weeds. Deep Mulch (of up to two feet!) like Ruth recommends is expensive! Dave had a good tiller back in the day, so he tilled instead!
Every Fall and Every Spring he hoed out the (Large) weeds and tilled the soil for planting. He would carefully plant his seed in weeded rows. The weeds came roaring back.
So began the annual summer battle to give our garden a chance to mature before the field grass, buttercups and horsetails consumed those planted rows! Backbreaking, time-consuming and frustrating!
The old, tired tiller finally retired last year. Now we were in a fix. How to prep the garden? Last fall Dave caught this hint from a fellow gardener. “In the fall, lay down cardboard over the garden. In the spring it will be composted and you can plant. No tilling required. He came home with a plan.
Dave’s Lasagna Gardening Method to date: cheap but with a catch!
Last fall, as part of the Fall Garden Chores , he laid cardboard all over the garden. He top layered it with sheet plastic to help build heat under there and compost those weeds!
For a foodie, this method of gardening is a perfect visual. Layers of materials one over the other to create food! 🙂 This layering effectively creates a weed barrier, encourages worms and builds soil structure organically.
But now the growing season is here and the weeds are crowding the edge of our plastic cardboard mulch. Hmmm. we know to remove it is to invite a summer of back-breaking labor; again. We need to keep out the weeds! Our weed war is going well this year. Our raised garden beds, and gravel walks between those garden beds have improved our gardening experience considerably!
This gardening method is another campaign in the weed battle! Straw bale mulch is VERY expensive. So Dave started cutting holes in the plastic – cardboard layer and planting that way. Then we added a LIGHT layer of straw over the plastic to keep the plastic down.
The Lasagna method appeals because it improves all the garden at once! No turning the compost pile! AND our well is going dry 🙁 So the fact that mulching reduces water consumption in the garden is a big plus for us!
We adapted the lasagna gardening method to attack our severe weed issues aggressively. And cheaply!
If we wait for our property to supply the proper materials for mulching layers in the-up to two feet-depth required to kill all the weeds….we will grow lots of weeds in a continuing round of frustration. We have been there!! Animal manures,which we have, are also full of quick to grow hay seeds. Blow in weeds are rampant here since we are surrounded by fields of grasses and weeds! Straw has some seed heads too; but it’s better than hay. So we need to buy a LOT of it!
We will EVENTUALLY transform our garden to completely compostable layers. The plastic is a money-saving stop-gap. We now have time to build up the compost and mulch needed without breaking the bank!
We originally thought we would remove the cardboard and plastic in the spring and plant as usual. The lasagna idea hadn’t really been born yet. Our layer system did indeed kill and compost the weeds right in the garden.
It’s quick and easy and effective. BUT we now have to deal with that plastic layer. As time goes along we will continue to cut through it where we plant and build the composting layers over time. We hope to keep the entire project more manageable this way and allow us to budget the cost of all that straw. At the current cost of $10/bale and needing a lot of bales…the lasagna garden gets ridiculously expensive! Eventually, when we have enough mulch, we will remove the plastic entirely.
If you have access to free high quality mulching materials this is a humdinger of a gardening method!
THE ONE DOWNSIDE TO THIS METHOD; OTHER THAN HIGH COST OF MULCH IS…SLUGS AND SNAILS LOVE THE PLASTIC! If you are in an area where slugs grow like weeds, like ours; you want to keep an eye out for them and use lots of organic slug bait!
THE LASAGNA GARDENING METHOD: Properly done!
There are two huge attractions to this method, in my opinion.
- The first one is eliminating-or at least considerably reducing – the weeding and watering in your garden.
- The Second reason to do this is the advantage of sheet composting. It’s relatively easy to spread organic waste products in layers over the garden. No dealing with a compost pile!
I’ve listed the advantages of this gardening method in the graphic. But remember-it requires TIME!
Composting is not magic. It’s a method of enriching the soil through decomposition. Decomposition of materials in deep layers, year after year, will take a long time, depending on the materials used. So keep your time frame expectations realistic. Given several years of properly amending and mulching the soil with this method you will gain the listed advantages. In the meantime, you will have less garden work!
IN THE FALL:
- Lay Cardboard first in overlapping layers over the Entire garden area. Make sure it’s non-toxic cardboard that will decompose safely and leave NO SUNLIGHT ACCESS!
- Moisten the cardboard to keep the moisture underground and add heat.
- Top it this layer with whatever you have on hand to hold the cardboard down for winter.
- In the spring cut through the cardboard layer to plant and
- Continue to top the cardboard, in layers, with decomposing materials(anything will work that decomposes EXCEPT!! Do not use any animal products! This will attract rodents and other pests to your garden. VEG MATERIALS ONLY!
Are you starting a brand new garden?
The Lasagna method is a good way to begin! In the fall season BEFORE you intend to plant your garden; spread thick, non-toxic cardboard over the area you want to garden. You can put the cardboard on grass sod, or any soil surface no matter how weedy! All the grass and weeds will be composted by spring (Or pretty close) and you can make your rows cut into the cardboard, plant and mulch around the rows.
Depending on the materials you use, it also produces a fine compost right on the ground you are gardening. No transport needed. Nice! (Our compost pile will eventually be retired to this method I believe. Lasagna Gardening makes so much sense!)
Go search out the community boards at the local feed stores for free mulch. The free column in your newspaper and other sources for free advertising may have it too. People often give away or sell mulching materials. If you can go pick them up and get them for free. YAY! Do it! As often as possible. The more material on your ‘lasagna’ the better. We have been lucky enough to score some great compost from Dave’s Mom when she moved. He added it to our raised beds. Now we need a semi load for the rest of the garden 🙂
Over time, with the Lasagna gardening method; you will have a winner of a garden with little labor. Thank you to Ruth Stout and all the others that have created this sensible gardening method! This is a great video of Ruth. She teaches her methods, shows us her garden and describes her life. and I have to say she is quite the personality and now I know where Naked gardening Day started!!
These articles on this subject are worth reading for a more thorough understanding of this type of gardening practice. The term sheet composting and NO Till gardening mean the same as Lasagna gardening. Read these articles for a better understanding of the science of this method. Learn how well this method can work for your particular garden. Happy Gardening!
TUESDAY IN THE GARDEN BLOG HOP! This post is part of a blog round-up of excellent gardening ideas from our five different garden bloggers who each have something important to offer in garden experience. Click on the link to each blog below and find out how to benefit from these gardeners experiences.
And remember, we LOVE conversations! Feel free to enter the discussion in the comments section below. Have you tried the Lasagna method? What are your garden experiences and questions? We would enjoy learning more about you!
Friday 26th of February 2021
I started my Lasagna Garden about 10 yrs ago with the help of Patricia Lanza's book. It changed my life in gardening! It is and still is a a wonderful read and reference.
Sunday 28th of February 2021
Hi Penny, Thanks! I'll check this book out. So fun to learn.
Tuesday 16th of January 2018
Hi, My daughter sent me your blog and I was amazed that you didn't mention my books: Lasagna Gardening, Lasagna Gardening for Small Spaces & Lasagna Gardening with Herbs, all published by Rodale. Loved your pictures and blog. Always wanted to do something like this but was too busy and was working alone. My first book on Lasagna Gardening came out in 1998 and then one every two years until I had three. At 82 I am still doing Lasagna Gardening on our Tennessee property. Good luck.
Tuesday 16th of January 2018
Hi Patricia, Welcome to Homemade Food Junkie. I'd love to read your book on Lasagna Gardening. I'll look it up. Thanks for stopping by. Hope to see you again. Happy Gardening:)
Wednesday 8th of June 2016
This post made me want to get out in my garden and try this, all while making me extremely hungry for some lasagna! I love how you break it down and make it simple for someone like me who is new to this method. I'm definitely pinning this for later, and I hope to give it a try sometime down the road!
Thursday 9th of June 2016
Lol. Thanks Angie. We are converts to this easy method of gardening. I highly encourage you to give it a try :)
Tuesday 7th of June 2016
We just started on our journey to a no-till garden. This year I rototilled one raised bed and covered the other two. I wish I had started in the fall but didn't get around to it until January. We covered the beds with plastic and then once the weeds were dead, I added a layer of compost and planted. It was a little difficult planting this year in the beds that were not tilled but the plants are doing good so far. It has really cut down on our weeds too. Which is what I was hoping for. :)
Tuesday 7th of June 2016
Me too Shelly! So far so good. Eventually we should gain other advantages to this gardening method too. But in the meantime, I'm happy with the reduced garden work :)
Tuesday 7th of June 2016
We love using black plastic to kill weeds - we just lay it down every winter/spring. We do remove it to plant, though. Our larger beds have never been tilled, so all I need is a new layer of compost and very few weeds form all season long. Keep at it - it is possible with time, you're right. :)
Oh, and here it's plastic that's expensive and straw that's cheaper at $6/bale.
Friday 24th of March 2017
Where do you get your compost, and how thick do you put it on? My soil gets hard in the beds by spring. Is that normal if you don't till?
Tuesday 7th of June 2016
That's Wonderful to hear Jami! Dave's always got plastic around for his business. That's why we are using clear plastic (I know it should be black but that IS way more expensive). So far we are encouraged. We do plan to make the mulching system work without that plastic barrier once the weeds are thoroughly killed. I like the idea of blanketing the garden every fall to keep new weeds out. Hopefully in a few seasons that is all we need too!