In this week’s tip, we’re going to cover the basics of lasagna gardening and how you can get started with your own lasagna garden this year or prep it for next year.

What is Lasagna Gardening?
Lasagna gardening is a method of creating a fertile gardening plot with multiple layers of organic materials. This can include compost, straw, leaves, kitchen scraps, cardboard, top soil, worm castings, etc. Unlike traditional flat earth gardening where you dig down into the ground, digging up grass/roots, exposing dormant weed seeds, breaking up heavy clay, and working the existing soil, lasagna gardening creates a mound of organic material above ground that facilitates gardening.

Why Lasagna Gardening?
Many people are drawn to lasagna gardening due to the minimal physical labour involved in setting up a new gardening plot. Depending on the types and amounts of materials used, it can be planted in right away without worrying about buried tree roots, heavy clay or poor existing soil conditions, and being flexible to accommodate a wide range of sizes, shapes and depths

Who Can Benefit?
Lasagna gardening is a great way to get started for a variety of gardeners. We find that people with small spaces (or want to start small) have the most success as it takes a minimal of time and effort to get started.

Who Shouldn’t Utilize Lasagna Gardening
There are many things to like about lasagna gardening that we’ve mentioned above. One word of caution we can suggest is for those who are working in potentially contaminated soil to utilize contianers or raised beds with a more permanent bottom to prevent plants from growing into the contaminated soil.

Also, if you’re looking to grow large root vegetables, this wouldn’t be a good first year crop as the many layers and/or dense subsoil may prevent the deep roots needed for high quality veggies.

How to Get Started:
Collect as much organic material as possible. This can include bales of straw, bundles of old newspaper/cardboard, kitchen waste like fruit and vegetable scraps (avoid meats, fats, and bones), coffee grounds, top soil, bags of fall leaves, peat moss, coconut coir, and anything else that you might put into your comnpotser. Most people find they don’t collect enough organic matter when they start to build up the layers. Ideally, you’ll want a balance of “green” and “brown” materials which are rich in nitrogen and carbon respectively. Green materials are your fresh/wet ingredients like food scraps and coffee grounds, while brown materials include dry leaves, newspaper and peat and coconut coir.

When you have the material collected, spread it evenly in your new gardening area, ideally layering green and brown materials in alternate layers. If you can, shred or chop up your materials into smaller pieces for faster decomposition and better plant growth. This can be done by running a lawn mower back and forth across your leaves, running small twigs and branches through a chipper, or taking garden shears and cutting up the materials into smaller pieces. The smaller and more uniform the material you add, the better the overall quality of garden and plants you’ll create. Newspaper and cardboard you can soak for several hours in a bucket/tub of water before hand

Finish the top layer with top soil, screened compost or other more traditional soil-like materials. This will make it easier to plant in, especially if you are direct seeding to ensure good seed/root to soil contact for your plants.

For more tips and advice, or to have us help you start your own lasagna garden, talk to us about our garden planning and coaching services.

Cover Image by Ryan, used under its Creative Commons license.

[Got a Tip?] If you have a tip to share with your fellow urban farmers, let us know at tips@youngurbanfarmers.comWant More Tips? Browse our Tips Archive for more.