Sometimes gardening can seem a bit too much like hard work, but lasagne gardening (also called sheet composting) is perfect if you want to avoid some of the pitfalls. Lasagne gardening is a no till, no dig method that as the word ‘lasagne’ implies is all about the layering. But layering what? Got a few dead branches or twigs lying around, and how about all those leftover vegetables? Well, put it all in the lasagne bed and that’s your recycling done. But how do you do it?
Firstly you need a carbon layer and this is made out of dry, dead products such as twigs and wood chippings, dry leaves, hay and importantly a few sheets of newspaper or one piece of cardboard. Put the newspaper or cardboard down first and you’ll immediately be squashing any weeds that fancy sprouting and taking over your whole garden (something they do after tilling). And because the newspapers do the job an herbicide would do, you’re not putting down anything that may be poisonous to birds.
Secondly you need a nitrogen layer and this will be made out of green waste, such as leftover fruit and vegetables, animal manure (but not dogs’ or cats’), egg shells, grass clippings and even ground coffee. This nutrient rich compost reduces the need for additional fertiliser. Put the nitrogen layer on top of the carbon layer and so forth, as if you were layering sheets of pasta and then meat then pasta to make delicious lasagne, and this nutrient rich compost will be just as yummy for the vegetables and herbs you may grow. Remember you can always pop into your local fruit and vegetable store if you’re short of any compost ingredients, as they’ll probably be throwing some items out at the end of the day.
You will usually want a carbon to nitrogen ratio of two to one, i.e. for every two inches of carbon there should be one inch of nitrogen – but the ratio can be in bigger chunks, for example a six inch layer of carbon and a three inch layer of nitrogen until the bed is around two feet tall, then cover it with some low nitrogen mulch such as shredded bark. Unlike traditional composting, you don’t have to check its moisture level or aerate it, just ensure that the bed is soaked thoroughly with water. Now that you’ve finished the fun stage of the process, the hard part begins… the waiting game.
Best time to make the bed
The best time to start your lasagne bed is at the end of the summer. Then leave it over the winter (it usually takes about six months for it to bake down into the earth), ready for spring when the garden will be a perfectly nutrient rich environment for your plants to grow in. Remember, it could take up to a year for everything to break down completely, but if for example the cardboard is still fairly hard you can always cut through it to plant.
Ready to go?
But once it’s all beautifully baked, you can start planting – tomatoes, onions, olives, garlic, herbs and whatever your heart desires, though planting methods vary slightly. Use some extra compost or potting mix when planting seedlings and seeds, while for shrubs or plants that need soil for the roots, you will need to dig a hole and put some compost in first.
Basically, the rules are, whatever nature throws in your way, you can usually add them to your layers. Interestingly as earthworms love paper, you’ll have created a wonderful environment for worms and other crawlies to set up home (in traditional tilling methods you often get rid of the earthworms and other organisms that enrich the soil and let it breath). So simple and eco friendly, and you can add extra mulch or scraps at anytime – the more the merrier.