Guest Blogger Leah Ingram: Lasagna Gardening

Leah Ingram is a lifestyle expert and seasoned spokesperson who appears frequently in the media to discuss shopping, gift buying, eco-friendly topics and frugal living.

Her forthcoming book “Suddenly Frugal,” will be published in the Fall. Leah is also the creator of the Suddenly Frugal blog and I’m delighted she’s guest blogging here today about building a lasagna garden in your backyard. This originally appeared in October 2008.

leahs-lasagna1-blog1I recently posted about our ability to become accidental pumpkin gardeners at our old house. In response to that post “Jen on the Edge” made a comment about lasagna gardening. Of course, my mind went immediately to that gooey Italian dish. But this isn’t what Jen meant.

“Instead of digging a garden, you build one by layer leaves, grass clippings, compost, dirt, etc. on top of layers of newspaper or cardboard. If you do it now, you’ll have a great garden and amazing dirt next spring,” Jen wrote.

I was intrigued, because this sounded relatively easy. Also, I have been making compost for over a year but haven’t been able to do anything with it. This seemed like the perfect opportunity.

Just to be sure I didn’t end up making a mess of my yard, first I did some additional research on the lasagna garden.

This article from Mother Earth News, though nearly 10 years old, offered a great primer on the lasagna garden.

Basically, you’re building up your own garden by using things you already own, in a spot that gets a decent amount of sun. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • newspapers or flattened sheets of cardboard
  • leaves or grass clippings
  • compost material, like coffee grounds

First, you lay down a layer of newspaper to choke out any grass or weeds below it. The Mother Earth News article recommends a couple of things–putting at least three layers of newspaper down, and then wetting the sheets. The wet newspaper won’t be as likely to blow away (good if you’re doing some lasagna gardening on a breezy day like I was), and it helps to start the “break down” process of the newspaper on the stuff underneath.

Next, you put down a layer of leaves on top of the newspaper. If you compost, you know that in order to get your organic matter to break down, you need to layer it brown, green, brown, green, etc. The lasagna garden, which is really a composting garden, is no different. So the first layer of leaves is your first layer of brown. (In the picture, right, I hadn’t fully covered the newspaper with leaves so you could see things a bit better. I did put on a pretty thick layer before moving on to the next step.)

So the next step is layering your “green”–weird, because it isn’t really the green part at all. It’s the compost, which is brown. I must admit that it was a bit challenging spreading moist compost around on leaves, since the leaves tended to move with the compost. But I gutted it out, and got the job done.
After that I did another layer of leaves for my “brown.” leahs-lasgana2-blog

Thankfully, I’ve got a ton of trees on my property and many of them had dropped their leaves. So I wasn’t wanting for any leaves for this project. If you have a yard without a lot of trees, you can dump the clippings from your lawn mower as your brown layer–again, weird since the clippings are actually green. FYI, you’re supposed to make your brown layer about twice as thick as the green layer. Oh and at this point? I was completely out of compost. I’ve got something like an 80-gallon compost bin, so this used up a lot of compost.

Because I was now out of compost, this layer of leaves had to be my last. This lasagna garden is supposed to be close to two-feet high when you’re done. Mine didn’t get quite that big. I stuck a yard stick in the pile to see that it got to about 16 inches. Not perfect but not bad for a couple of hours of work.


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Choking weeds! I’m going to try this lasagna gardening technique. We have tons of wire grass (i’ve recently heard this referred to as DEVIL GRASS – and it IS) in the garden. This year I dug it and planted plugs in our yard. This is working beautifully as it seems to be the only thing the dog cannot totally demolish.
Thanks for this great info!

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