Lasagna Gardening

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Lasagna Gardening is a Great Way to Build Soil

Lasagna Gardening is a great way to build soil!

What a wonderful day in the garden I’ve had!  I’ve been interested in no-till gardening for years, since the 70’s when I was influenced by Ruth Stout.  I’ve dug a garden all these years, but used lots of mulch as she advises. Last year, Mike built two raised beds for me which we filled with purchased soil and manure.  In the fall, I added several inches of chopped leaves to put the beds to bed for the winter.  I used a garden weasel to mix the leaves  a bit with the soil this spring, but that is all the digging that will be done.

Last summer, we experimented with lasagna gardening at our cottage and since that garden outproduced the one here in town, we decided to add a third raised bed this year and start another lasagna garden. Also known as sheet composting, a lasagna garden is built by layering organic materials which eventually will decompose into wonderful garden soil.

The good news is that it is not necessary to wait until that decomposition occurs to begin planting in the layers.  I spent 3 – 4 hours building my garden today and hope to plant some cool weather plants this weekend.

Here’s how I did it, but the great thing is that there is no exact right way to do this.  You may use whatever materials you have available as long as you use both “greens” and “browns”. “Greens” include materials like grass clippings and manure and provide nitrogen. “Browns” include hay and leaves and provide carbon.

My first layer is a 1/2″ layer of newspaper laid right on the ground – no need to dig first.  This layer will choke out the grass and weeds. Next, I added some partially decomposed hay that we had from last fall. I then added a layer of well rotted cow manure from a local farm. Any type of manure would be fine as long as it is not fresh. On top of the manure went several inches of chopped leaves.

Although not completely necessary, I then sprinkled very thin layers of bone meal and blood meal to add phosphorous and nitrogen respectively. I continued layering with more hay, manure and leaves and finished with a layer of compost. Here’s my new finished bed, ready for planting,  alongside my two older beds:

Now thats what Im talkin about.

300 x 250To learn how to build a garden that builds healthy soil, be sure to check out my eBook The Art of Gardening: Building Your SoilYou really can become a better gardener, and you really can grow healthy, nourishing produce. It’s all about the soil! Click here to buy now.



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  1. Kara says

    So my mom and Jeremy have convinced me to try to start a little garden and most likely a few chickens…I am glad you have a blog! Thanks for sharing :)

  2. says

    So glad you explained the ‘lasagna’ part of the gardening. I imagined you were growing lasagna ingredients. This is very informative and makes mulching seem simpler than I realized.

  3. says

    That looks really good! I, too, read Ruth Stout in the 70’s — and watched Crockett’s Victory Garden (the original!) faithfully. I got to meet the author of Lasagna Gardening, at an Altered Book Club meeting, of all places — it was at the Memphis Botanic Garden and she was giving a talk the same night and heard we were in another building and wanted to come see what we were doing.

  4. says

    Great project! I didn’t know about lasagna gardens until last summer when I put in a flower bed and read about it on the internet. My raised veggie beds were already in. But, I love the flower garden…well worth the effort. You’re lucky to be gardening already!!

  5. Rebecca says

    What kind of leaves do you use in the fall?
    I had heard that oak leaves are bad for a garden because they are too acidic. So all these years we have been removing the oak leaves from the garden and still the pH is really low. What do you recommend?

    • susanv says

      Hi Rebecca! It is fine to use oak leaves in your lasagna garden. If you find that the ph is acidic, you may add either dolomite or lime to sweeten your soil.

  6. patricia fryauff says

    So all I need to do this fall is cover my garden with chopped leaves then do the layering in the spring? or should I start layering now?
    And our ground’s pH is acidic and usually add lime to correct it, do I sprinkle that on now or wait until the spring and don’t I need to mix that in?

    • susanv says

      Patricia, I would do all the layering of materials that you can now to give it time to decompose. It’s not wrong to do it in the spring, it’s just better to do it now. I wouldn’t add lime w/o a soil test. There are inexpensive meters that you can purchase to test if you prefer not to have a full soil test. Some of them are combination moisture meters which I can’t live w/o.

  7. patricia fryauff says

    Can I use this in my veggie garden that is not a raised bed? and this years growth was a bit out of control (weeds and tomatoes:) What should I do next???? Rip out the dead plants first, till one last time, then cover with chopped leaves to sleep for the winter?

    • susanv says

      Yes, you can build on top of your old garden. I would rip out, or better yet, cut the old plants down to the ground. (The roots will help to build your soil as they decompose). I would then lay down several layers of newspaper to control weeds and start building on top of that. Make paths which will be the only places you will ever step from now on.

      • patricia says

        Thanks Susan! I am so excited! This sounds so easy!!! We got a soil test two years ago and it was only $9 for the local ag coop to test. I was very helpful and the crops did great. We added lime and blood meal. I think I will get it tested next year, just in case. I will check out the meter that you are recommending also. Thanks again:)

  8. Heather says

    I know this is an old post, but do you know if you can do this in the fall using fresh manure (I can get it for free from a local stable) and let it sit until spring before planting? I hate to pass up free manure when it’s so pricey to buy it in quantity from the garden center, but I don’t want to kill my plants in the spring with too-hot manure. We have cold winters here and usually a fair amount of snow, if that matters.

    • Susan says

      Hi Heather! Fall is the perfect time to build a lasagna garden for exactly that reason. You may use fresh manure and it will be ready to plant in the spring. Just don’t overdo it. Too much nitrogen will cause a lot of green growth of plants, but little or no fruit.

      • Heather says

        Is there a particular amount I should shoot for, like 2″ or 3? My beds are raised like yours but my “topsoil” which we brought in a year ago has turned out to be very clayey and lacking in humus. Things have grown, but not very well, so I think it needs some nitrogen and I know it needs some humus to lighten everything up. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

        • Susan says

          Heather, do you have much room on the top of your raised beds? I don’t think that just adding manure is the solution to your problem. I would just build a lasagna garden right on top of the existing clay soil. So use the newspaper layer, then layers of manure, hay or straw, chopped leaves, etc. Go as high as you can without everything falling out of the bed.

  9. Stephanie says

    Great post! I know it’s a little bit older… but in case you still check- I just ordered raised beds this spring and they should be arriving soon. I think they’re only maybe 13 inches high. Do I need to dig down into the soil first to give my beds more depth? I’m worried that my plants won’t have anywhere to spread their roots (plus I plan on buying some starters). Any advice would be fantastic, thank you!

    • Susan Vinskofski says

      Hi Stephanie, Build the lasagna beds at least 18″ high. They will decompose to below your 13″ level. It will take a little time but the roots will be able to penetrate into the soil below the beds.

  10. says

    great publish, very informative. I’m wondering why the opposite experts of this
    sector don’t understand this. You should continue your writing.
    I’m sure, you’ve a huge readers’ base already!


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