Lasagna Gardening 101
A lasagna garden is not full of herbs and ingredients for an Italian pasta dish—it's a way of gardening that's easy, organic and fun!About 20 years ago, Patricia Lanza was a newly divorced 50-something who had raised seven children and was looking for a new path in life. She turned to gardening on her small farm near the Catskill Mountains of New York as a way to relieve stress and relax. However, Patricia found the traditional gardening methods passed down from her grandmother to be difficult and time consuming.
Common sense told Patricia that layering or sheet composting would help her build rich soil for her garden easily, without digging and tilling, but Patricia took that principle a step further and developed a method of gardening that has changed the way people grow vegetables, herbs, fruit and flowers around the world. Her method is called lasagna gardening, and it's the basis of three books she's written, including Lasagna Gardening: A New Layering System for Bountiful Gardens: No Digging, No Tilling, No Weeding, No Kidding!
Learn how to make a lasagna garden of your own!
When you make lasagna, you layer pasta, sauce, cheese and meat until your pan is piled high with ingredients. When you make a lasagna garden, Patricia says you choose a garden site and then cover the ground with thick pads of newspaper soaked with water. Then, you layer green and brown yard waste and other organic materials, at a ratio of one part green to four parts brown, until the garden is layered up several inches high—like a lasagna.
Patricia says wet newspaper kills the grass and weeds on your garden site and attracts earthworms that will help till the soil you create. Assembling a 4-by-8-foot lasagna garden only takes about 45 minutes, and once it's built, Patricia says you simply make space to plant your seed or seedling by pulling some of the layers apart, then add water, stand back and watch your garden grow. "It's easy and organic and smart," Patricia says. "What I am asking people to do is to work less and gain more."
Materials you need for a lasagna garden
Most of the materials you need to make a lasagna garden are readily available and free, Patricia says. While you can buy bags of mulch and peat moss to make some of your garden's layers, Patricia suggests asking neighbors or someone at your local waste management facility for their yard waste and old newspapers at no cost you. Here are some more typical materials you can use as layers in your lasagna garden. Remember, Patricia says to layer them at a ratio of one part green to four parts brown.
- Grass clippings
- Barn litter
- Coffee grounds
- Blood meal
- Newspaper (use as your first layer)
- Cardboard (use as your first layer)
- Shredded office paper
- Fall leaves
- Wood chips/twigs/shredded branches
- Peat moss
What makes lasagna gardening earth-friendly?
While lasagna gardening is a way to easily grow fruit, vegetables, flowers and herbs, Patricia says it's also a great way to help you live a green lifestyle. Here's why:
You're recycling waste: The materials used to create your lasagna garden typically end up in landfills, Patricia says. By using barn litter, newspaper, grass clipping, leaves, chopped up limbs of trees and more in your garden, you are reducing waste and recycling!
You're not using chemicals: You shouldn't have to use any chemicals in lasagna gardening, Patricia says. You produce all-natural chemicals from your green and brown raw materials and you can consider the food and flowers you grow to be chemical-free.
You're conserving water: Patricia says lasagna gardening uses a quarter of the water a traditional garden uses because the materials are concentrated and stay moist. She suggests using a soaker hose to water your garden when you first plant, and then water as needed throughout the growing season.
Once you build your first lasagna garden, Patricia says you'll want to expand and garden more. "If you do this, you'll develop a lasagna gardener's eye and see resources [to build] your garden all around you," she says.
Check out Erin White's lasagna garden in Iowa
Erin's step-by-step directions to build your own lasagna garden