Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Lasagna Garden

We are in the midst of some really spring like days, and that always makes me think of GARDENING. Several years ago I read an article about 'Lasagna Gardening', so named because you make layers. It sounded interesting and relatively easy, so I gave it a whirl. The formula is pretty simple: wet newspapers spread over the area you want as your garden. Layers of compost, topsoil, and peat moss go on top of the wet newspapers in layers. Lots of shoveling, but no tiller needed. The wet newspaper provides a base for the garden while smothering the grass. Newspaper breaks down really quickly, and in about 4-6 weeks, you have some really nice dirt for planting. The first one I did was really successful. And in my quest for less mowing and more garden space, I decided to expand the current one.

Yesterday morning, (early, because Lowe's is a madhouse on the first nice day of the year) Obbie and I tootled off for supplies. Topsoil, peat moss, and bagged cow manure. We stopped at Fays for breakfast (ooh Fays...they will get their very own blog entry one of these days) and went home to start the process.

This is what it looked like before we started:

First you lay a bunch of newspapers down. By section. You don't have to open them up fully, just by sections. Like, the sports section, classifed ads, Living, you get the idea. Wet them throughly.
I hosed them down til they were sopping. Then put two more layers on top and hosed each down after laying them out. Do NOT use the glossy ads or any shiny, glossy paper. It won't break down like newsprint. Most newspapers have colored pages now, but it's soy ink, mostly, and that breaks down. It's the coated stock thats a no no.

Then came the first layer of soil. Obbie raked all the old dead stuff off the first garden, and we got a bunch of the old compost I had around back. We mixed that with some fresh manure from the neighborhood steers that Mule Man had brought over earlier in the week:

Then we set up the assembly line for the soil. Our forumla went something like this: Into the kiddie pool (best thing EVER for mixing dirt) One forty pound bag of topsoil. One forty pound bag of cow manure, several shovelfuls of peat moss. Rake and shovel and mix until most of the big lumps are gone. Add to that one wheelbarrowful of poop. Mix that in throughly. Dump into the middle and rake outwards. We did that four or five times.

This was the final result:

The weather wonks were calling for rain today (and it is!!) so the brick & board set up in the front is to keep the dirt from draining out into the yard. That will be replaced by some really nice border bricks when it's closer to planting time.

I hear you gardeners out there asking about the green fresh manure. Yes, I am very aware that it will burn the plants. However, right now it's only the second week of March. In Pennsylvania, Mother's Day is around the time we can plant outside without worrying about frost. 6 weeks is time enough for the green manure to calm down.

The tally:

6 weeks worth of newspapers (Daily & Sunday) NO COATED STOCK!!

6 forty pound bags of topsoil
4 forty pound bags of store bought manure
1 3.8 cu ft brick of peat moss
1/4 3.8 cu ft brick of peat moss
1 20 pound bag of potting soil (in the last layer)
5 wheelbarrow loads of green fresh manure/compost

The new part of the garden is 6x8. Plus there is a dip in the middle of it, and that took some filling in. I figure around mid-April we'll put another bag or two of topsoil and compost on the whole garden. After doing that, we raked the yard, and collected a ton of leaves, who are now mixed in with the green manure. That will be some happy, happy compost come April and May.

Yes, I'm a little sore this morning. Obbie and I had a couple Advil for appetizers last evening. My shoulders are a little tight from all the shoveling. No big deal.

Lasagna Gardening, the book, is written by Patricia Lanza and published thru our pals at Rodale Press. In addition, if you Google Lasagna Gardening, you'll get the article from Mother Earth News in the top couple of hits. Trust me, this is a great system of gardening. From little flower beds to larger plots, this is the way to go.

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