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Beginner's Luck: The Lasagna Garden

 

Supplies:

Newspaper

Water source and hose

Organic materials: grass clippings, compost, hay, straw, chopped leaves, weeds, rotted manure

Clean straw, wood chips, or bark mulch for paths

 

 

Everybody loves lasagna. The layers of noodles, cheese and meat sauce are delicious! Well, with a Lasagna Garden, you don't eat the garden itself - but you sure will enjoy eating any vegetables you grow in this easy garden plan for beginners and experts alike.

 

The best thing about this garden plan is that you don't need a fancy tiller or a lot of muscle power to make a Lasagna Garden. It's easy enough for kids to do without complaining.

 

All you do is smother grass or weeds with layers of mulch and organic matter - just like making the layers of lasagna. By doing this, you're cutting off any unwanted plant growth, since the unwanted plants - grass and weeds - can't get any light.

 

Meanwhile, you've put the "ingredients" of your garden in position to encourage microorganisms in the soil to make it more fertile by gradually eating up the stuff in your "lasagna" and decomposing it into rich, garden soil.

 

Most Lasagna Gardeners let their garden beds decompose throughout the fall and winter, and plant the bed in spring. But you can plant in it right away in the spring. Just push aside a little pocket in the mulch on the top layer, throw in some rich compost, and place your seedling or seeds.

 

Note: Don't use grass clippings from lawns that have been treated with pesticides and herbicides. Those chemicals could find their way into any vegetable crops you're growing, and you wouldn't want that.

 

So here are the steps:

 

1.            Level existing vegetation. Mow the grass and weeds in the garden area really short, leaving clippings in place, or have the kids have a blast stomping tall grass and weeds flat to the ground.

 

2.            Define your beds. Use stakes with string or a garden hose to mark the edges of your bed. Beds should be 3 or 4 feet wide -- narrow enough that students can reach the center without straining. That way, they can work from the paths and stay off the beds, preventing compaction.

 

3.            Smother. Now, fill a tub with water and moisten 4 to 6 pages of newspaper at a time. Lay the damp paper over the defined area, overlapping the edges by at least two inches. If you create multiple beds, cover the pathways between them with newspaper topped with a thick layer of clean straw, bark mulch, or wood chips.

 

4.            Mulch. Spread layers of organic matter, alternating green layers that have a lot of nitrogen (fresh grass clippings or uncomposted livestock manure) with brown layers that have a lot of carbon (straw and brown chopped leaves). Keep off the bed as much as possible to reduce compaction. Spray dry materials with water, until they are as damp as a well-wrung sponge, before adding the next layer. If your organics might contain weed  seeds, such as hay, use them as lower layers in your lasagna to minimize weed growth.

 

5.            If you have time, you can actually "bake" your "lasagna." If you have about six weeks until you need to plant, you can hurry up the decomposition by covering the mulched area with black plastic and weight the edges with soil, rocks or timbers. The black plastic will absorb the sun's heat, even if it's cool springtime weather out, and hasten the decomposition process.

 

6.            Planting. To transplant a seedling, pull mulch away to form a hole, fill with compost, and then put plants in place. To sow seeds, lightly deposit an inch or two of compost or soil over the surface of the mulch, plant seeds, and cover with more compost. Keep the seedbed moist. When the seedlings emerge, gently push mulch around them. That will keep the moisture in the compost from evaporating. Check your plants every day to see if they need watering.

 

               The best thing about a lasagna garden is that it will be even LESS work next planting season! You can keep adding layers of organic materials and making your "lasagna" even more fertile. The topper is this: it's a LOT less calories than eating the real thing!

 

By Susan Darst Williams • www.KidsGardenClub.org • Planning 12 • © 2010

 

 

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