Over on my Facebook page, Catherine laments the fact that her clay soil isn’t good for gardening and her budget just doesn’t allow for hiring a big piece of equipment to turn and improve the soil. While I don’t have clay soil, I’ve mentioned before that our soil is puny. When we first moved in, I wanted to get some plants in the ground right away, but knew that I’d need to improve the soil for better success in the long run. I’d read about lasagna beds (called such because the beds are layered, much like a lasagna) but had never tried them. This seemed like a perfect chance to try them out, and they may be the answer to Catherine’s troubles, too.
Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures of my lasagna bed process, but I can tell you how I did it.
- I started by raiding my recycle pile. Cardboard boxes, newspapers, and even old catalogs form the base of the lasagna bed. I covered my planting area with a thick layer of these paper products, overlapping them as I placed them down, and then wet them thoroughly. This base layer was close to 1/2″ thick.
Note: This is a no-till method of planting. You do not need to work the soil under the lasagna bed. You do not need to pull weeds. The newspaper and cardboard layer will smother any weeds that are there. Score!
- Next I added something you’re not likely to have on hand: chopped banana stalks. I used these only because it’s what I had on hand. You can use coconut coir here, or peat moss (though there are environmental issues with peat moss), or some sort of locally available organic product that holds moisture well.
- Layer number three was leaf mold, or partially decomposed leaves. You could also use rotted straw from a stable, lawn clippings, sawdust, or any combination thereof. Again, I watered the bed down.
- The final layer was store-bought compost. In the future, I’ll have my own compost or composted manure, but at the time store-bought was the best I could do.
- The finished lasagna bed sat about 10″ high. Once it was complete, I planted seeds directly into the top layer of compost and watered them in. Days later, I had sugar snap peas growing.
As the plants grow, the roots work their way down into the layers of the lasagna bed and the worms work their way up. The layers decompose, improving the soil while supporting a crop of vegetables. I found that I did need to be judicious about watering, since the lasagna beds didn’t hold moisture as well as a soil bed would have.
When my peas were done producing – about four months later – I pulled them out and dug into the lasagna bed. (I was so curious to see what I’d find!) While my puny soil was still far from perfect, just about everything I’d layered into the beds was gone. There were a few remnants and small pieces remaining from some of the cardboard boxes, but that’s it! Everything else had completely disappeared and become part of the earth.
I made my lasagna beds directly on the ground with no containment. The folks over at Urban Garden Casual made their lasagna bed within the confines of a simple wooden planter. It’s a pretty flexible way of planting.
While I didn’t think to take photos in my garden, this post over at Backyard Bounty has some process shots that you might find useful.