Monday, September 5, 2011

Lasagna Gardening

I am very enthusiastic about forest gardening, as you can probably tell from my previous post, but there are some vegetables and herbs that need full sunlight in order to do well. For those crops, I prefer to use a form of permaculture called sheet mulching, of which there are several styles promoted by various experts.

Sheet mulching is a type of no-till, no dig gardening that requires little weeding and retains moisture very well, thus reducing the amount of watering necessary. It also requires no artificial fertilizers. When combined with companion planting (which I will discuss in a future post), there is typically no need for pesticides.

Here is a simple explanation of the idea: Mark off a plot of land that you want to turn into a garden, cover it with a thick layer of newspaper or cardboard (which chokes out the grass and weeds), cover the cardboard with a couple inches of compost, then put a layer of organic material (straw, leaves, grass clippings, etc) on top of the compost, then another layer of compost on top of that, and so forth until you reach the desired depth. 

You can also incorporate kitchen scraps (no meat or fat), crushed egg shells, used coffee grounds, cow manure, rabbit manure and other "ingredients" into your the lasagna garden, just keep alternating a layer of compost with a layer of organic material. The organic material will slowly compost over time, releasing nutrients into the soil, eliminating the need for artificial fertilizers. 

In two areas of my yard, I am using the lasagna gardening technique of Patricia Lanza - the areas immediately in front of and beside my front and back porches. Between them I have about 544 sq. ft. of garden space. I use these beds for my "salad crops" such as cabbages, mixed lettuce, yellow squash, zucchini, tomatoes, garlic, onions, peppers, carrots, radishes and broccoli. The lasagna beds have proved to be very productive and low-maintenance. In six years of having lasagna gardens, I have had no insect problems and very few weeds.

An added benefit is that these are the plants that need to be watched, cared for and picked the most frequently. Being right beside where I walk several times daily means it is very quick and easy to keep an eye on my salad crops.

The above picture, from early 2007, is of one corner of my back yard lasagna garden (since then, I've wrapped the garden entirely around my back porch). In the upper left is garlic, below that is loose leaf lettuce. Onions are in the middle and carrots are last things visible on the right side of the photo. And, if you click on the photo to get a larger version, you may be able to notice two young doves sitting among the onions. :-)

Patricia Lanza has written several books on lasagna gardening, which I own and recommend - Lasagna Gardening, and Lasagna Gardening for Small Spaces

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