Lasagna Gardening

The move to the Bruce Peninsula several years ago presented many challenges. With a lot of time on my hands and a love of the outdoors, I had the opportunity to explore gardening and it quickly became my new passion. The first challenge however was the soil, or lack of it. The nice, black, composted soil in our bush is only a couple of inches deep and so full of cedar roots it is almost impossible to dig. Purchasing topsoil is an option but it is expensive and you tend to get lots of weed seeds. Personally, I would rather spend my money on plants, but in the beginning I had to do both.
A couple of years ago I discovered a way to have the best soil with the least effort. Lasagna Gardening (by Patricia Lanza) provided my answer. Lasagna gardening is a non-traditional, organic, layering method, used to create better soil, or to create soil where there is none. My first attempt was an area about 6 feet by 10 feet, full of weeds and grass. I cut down the tall weeds, but left everything lying there. I then covered the whole area with overlapping layers of wet newspaper and some wet cardboard. I was careful to eliminate any coloured or glossy paper. The layers of paper should be at least 10 pages thick. Because it was autumn, I had lots of garden clippings, clumps of soil from edging and a large barrel of kitchen scraps (canning time, corn husks, etc.) I had purchased peat moss and I put a couple of inches between each layer. We drove to a residential area, knocked on a few doors and came away with a trailer load of bagged leaves. This made the final layer, other than a top up of any compost left in the bin. I covered the whole area with old pieces of plastic we had around. As I was dividing perennials, I cut a hole in the plastic and put in a few plants. I could have removed the plastic after 6 weeks, but because of the time of year, I removed it in the spring. In the spring, I started filling it with plants. This area has never needed any digging, only mulch added in the spring and fall. Very few weeds grow there and the ones that do are easy to pull because the soil is loose. Close planting and generous mulching greatly reduce the time needed for watering and weeding.
During the spring and summer months, I have started new beds, (because I see new and exciting plants) and I topped with thick layers of wet newspaper instead of plastic and planted them immediately. The newspaper looks unsightly, so covering it with peat moss solves that.
Lasagne gardening saves work, energy, time and money. It is great for people not able to garden traditionally because of age or physical limitations.
Some advantages of Lasagna gardening over traditional gardening are:
  1. After you make the beds, you never have to dig them each year; just add mulch.
  2. The ground stays cool and damp, reducing watering.
  3. Weeds are easier to pull from the loose mulch.
  4. Lasagna gardens aren't limited by rocky or compacted soil, since you'll be building the soil up instaed of digging down. This gives you a lot more flexibility when it comes to selecting a site.
  5. Lasagna gardens are full of earthworms and worm castings are wonderful for achieving humus rich soil.
Some other examples of layering material other than those mentioned are: animals manures, chopped hay, wood ashes, sawdust, straw, bone meal, shredded newspaper and blood meal.
We keep a large area, 8 by 12 feet, as a soil producing area. We continue to layer whatever we have all summer and keep it covered with black plastic at all times so we always have soil in various stages.
If you are determined to make gardening part of your life on the Bruce you might like to try Lasagna Gardening!
Betty Boyes,
Windsong Gardens

Graphic Design by Michael Cox