Gardening is hard work.
Sure, it has its benefits. Who doesn’t want to have their own food fresh from their garden?
But do you have the time to start your own garden? Look at the work involved in making the garden bed.
You need to dig the soil. Take out the rocks, weeds, and unwanted materials.
And may God help you if the soil test comes out bad. There’s a ton of work to amend the soil and bring it to the right levels.
But what if there was a way to avoid this? What if there was a way to get a garden bed ready for planting without any of this work?
The good news is that there is a way to get your garden bed ready without much work. It’s known as lasagna gardening.
What is lasagna gardening?
In one word, it’s “less” gardening.
You do need to put in some work but it’s not as much as regular gardening.
It’s a type of gardening where you don’t need to dig or till the garden bed. You need to keep adding layers of organic material and that’s it.
The organic material could be compost, manure, leaves, grass clippings, and kitchen waste.
The idea behind lasagna gardening is to learn from Mother Nature. Keep building layers of organic material that slowly decompose on their own. And give you nutrient-rich, friable soil as the end result.
How does lasagna gardening work?
It’s nice to get more from your garden with less work. But there’s a method to this “laziness”. It’s a way to mimic what Mother Nature does in the forest.
You see in the forest all those fallen dried leaves, twigs, branches, and grass. The heat from the sun falls on these materials. And it gets good moisture from the dew and the rains.
Then it’s time for the good guys like bacteria and earthworms to move about and eat up the organic matter. They help allow air and moisture to reach throughout the organic matter. And they help process the organic matter into rich nutrients.
After a few months what you get is compost made up of nutrient-rich and friable soil.
That’s exactly what we want to do with lasagna gardening. Create layers of organic matter that will decompose and turn into rich soil.
What are the advantages of lasagna gardening?
The biggest advantage of lasagna gardening is you don’t need to work as much on your garden soil. Set up the layers and let the decomposition do the work for you.
You’ll add layers of newspaper at the bottom and mulch at the top of the garden bed. This helps suppress the weed seeds from the bottom as well as from the top.
The layers of your garden bed help with good aeration and water retention. This helps the organic matter decompose well.
Once done, the soil in your lasagna garden bed will be nutrient-rich and friable. So you won’t need to add fertilizer to it.
You can make your lasagna garden bed as high as you want. This’ll help you work with your plants without straining your back.
You can add layers of organic material you’ve collected in the fall and winter to your lasagna garden. This will help you reuse waste and reduce pressure on landfills.
What are the disadvantages of lasagna gardening?
But it’s not all roses and sunshine with lasagna gardening. There are some disadvantages you should be aware of before you start.
It takes time for the layers of organic material to decompose. This could mean several months before you have your garden bed ready.
This is different from a compost pile where you can keep adding materials and turning the pile. Helps it generate heat and turn into compost faster.
You need to have your organic material ready when starting lasagna gardening. So you can add the layers into the pile. Otherwise the decomposing will happen at different times and slow down the process.
Light layers like dried leaves or newspaper might get blown away if there’s no heavier layer on top.
You can add any organic material in the layers of your lasagna garden. But if you don’t maintain the right balance of carbon to nitrogen, it’ll slow down the process a lot. And once you’ve added the layers it’s not easy to adjust them, unlike a compost pile.
If you do it right, you should not have problems of weeds in your lasagna garden. But you need to be careful because unlike a compost pile, there’s no internal heat that can cook up the weed seeds.
We like lasagna gardening because it reduces the work needed. But don’t think there’s no work to be done. You need to soak the newspapers and lay them in place. You need to unload wheelbarrows of the leaves, hay, grass clippings, and other organic material in the garden bed.
You know by now that creating a lasagna garden bed is a slow process. There’s not much internal heating taking place. So if you add layers of kitchen waste it’s possible pests are attracted to them. You could end up with a lot of snails and slugs in your garden.
What’s the best time to start lasagna gardening?
It’s OK to start building your lasagna garden at any time of the year. But the best time to start is in fall because you find tons of organic matter like dried leaves, grass clippings, branches, sticks, and hay.
It takes time to build a lasagna garden bed for growing plants. So starting in fall means your garden bed will be ready by next spring for planting.
The fall and winter weather will help keep the lasagna garden layers moist thanks to rains and snow.
Of course, if you don’t have a choice you can start your lasagna garden in spring. But if you want to plant seeds or seedlings you’ll need to add a few inches of compost or potting mix while the lower layers are still decomposing.
What are the materials required for lasagna gardening?
As long as it’s organic material, you can add it to your layers of lasagna garden bed. Anything you can add to your compost pile, you can add as a layer of lasagna gardening.
You’re going to have to alternate between layers of brown materials (that add carbon) and layers of green materials (that add nitrogen). The brown layers should be twice as deep as the green layers so the soil gets enough aeration and moisture.
Here’s a list of some of the materials you can add to your layers.
- Well-rotted manure
- Pine needles
- Peat moss
- Weed-free hay or straw
- Alfalfa Hay
- Coffee grounds, tea leaves, tea bags, coffee filters
- Grass clippings
- Shredded newspaper or cardboard
- Branches, sticks, twigs
- Kitchen vegetable and fruit waste
How can you create a lasagna garden bed?
Now it’s time to start building your lasagna garden bed. Check out the area where you want to build it.
Make sure the area is flat and gets at least four hours of sunlight every day. Make an outline in the area of the size of your garden bed.
You can determine how much space you want for the garden bed. This could be a 4×8 or 2×3 feet bed depending on how much you want.
You could even create a raised bed right on the unworked ground. Make sure to trim the vegetation if any on the garden bed before you start.
The first layer at the bottom should be of newspaper or cardboard. This will break down slowly and smother the weeds that might be present in the soil. It’ll help soak up a lot of the moisture and keep it in the soil.
You can have around 6 layers of newspaper to keep this sufficiently thick. Make sure to water it well so that it does not get blown away and retains the moisture.
Next, you can add a layer of high nitrogen material like grass clippings or coffee grounds. Water this layer well.
Then you can add a layer of high carbon material like straw, dried leaves, or hedge trimmings. And water this well.
You need to keep alternating between the layers of nitrogen (green) material and carbon (brown) material till your pile reaches a height of at least 2 feet.
Make sure that the carbon material is twice the amount of the nitrogen material. And you’re spraying enough water on each layer.
If you start in fall, that’s all you need to do. By the time spring arrives, your lasagna garden bed should be ready for planting.
But what if you started in spring and want to start planting as soon as you can? Then you need to add a 3-4 inch layer of compost or potting mix as the top layer of the lasagna garden bed. And it’s ready for planting.
The bottom layers will decompose and by the time the plant grows, the soil will be ready for the deep roots.
How to maintain your lasagna garden?
So now it’s spring and your lasagna garden is ready for planting. It started with 2 feet but now has decomposed and shrunk to about 6 inches.
Dig into the soil and you should find nice soft and loose soil underneath. That’s when you know it’s ready for planting.
As time goes on, your lasagna garden will keep on reducing in depth. That’s why you need to maintain it.
You can continue to add layers of organic material on top and it’ll keep working for you. Keep adding things like straw, grass clippings, bark, mulch, chopped leaves, coffee grounds, compost, and kitchen waste to it.
Do remember to water the garden bed often and check for weeds that need to be removed.
You can sprinkle some cayenne pepper to discourage rats and mice from digging into the soil. Sprinkle some cinnamon to prevent fungal diseases like powdery mildew.
If you find some bugs in your lasagna garden, use organic insecticides like neem oil to get rid of them. You don’t want to harm the beneficial insects and pollinators like bees that visit your garden.
I hope you’ve learned about lasagna gardening from this post.
If you’ve been on the fence about starting your own garden because of the work involved, lasagna gardening should be something to consider.
It’ll save you a lot of time and effort in starting your garden bed and maintaining it.
All you need to do is plan the area where you want to start your garden. And start adding layers of organic material to it.
I hope this gives you encouragement to start your own garden and grow your own food.
It’ll help change your family’s life. So let’s get going.
Here are some of my favorite container gardening tools
Thank you for reading this post. I hope it helps you with your gardening needs. I’ve listed some tools below that can help you with container gardening. These are affiliate links so I’ll earn a commission if you use them.
Gardening Gloves – I find the Pine Tree Tools Bamboo Gardening Gloves really good for both men and women. It’s made from bamboo so helps absorb perspiration. They are also comfortable and fit very well.
Containers – You know picking the right container is crucial for your container gardening. I’ve written a detailed post on the best containers you can choose from. If you’re happy with a plastic container, you can check out the Bloem Saturn Planter.
Watering Can – This is a must-have tool when you’re growing plants in pots or grow bags. It helps to water the potting soil without splashing on the foliage. The Kensington Watering Can is stylish, strong, and can provide precision when watering potted plants.
Trowel – Garden Guru Trowel is my favorite because it’s durable and comfortable to use. My gardening friends really love having a trowel because they use it for digging soil, mixing fertilizer, moving seeds, leveling out the soil, mixing compost or mulch, and also dividing tubers
Bypass Pruner – I really like the Corona Bypass Pruner because it’s durable and gives a clean cut that helps plants recover faster. If you’re looking for something cheap, get the Fiskars Bypass Pruner that is really good as well.
To see an extensive list of the best container gardening tools gardeners recommend, check out this resource that I made for you.
Kevin is the founder of Gardening Mentor, a website that aims to teach people to grow their own food in a limited space. As a self-taught gardener, Kevin has spent several years growing plants and creating gardening content on the website. He is certified in Home Horticulture and Organic Gardening by expert gardeners from Oregon State University.