Lasagna Works in the Garden!

Anna Carpenter

Have you walked or driven by W. Avenue 37 lately? The boxes we planted following the experimental “lasagna” method really did fabulously well! You could almost watch those plants grow…

Now that the season is going to turn hotter it will be interesting to see how it will hold up throughout the summer. In the meantime, I have never seen such great heads of lettuce. This vegetable patch uses a no-dig method, borrowed from organic farms in rural Australia. The no-dig piles are fairly stable, but some gardeners prefer to build boxes to contain them. Various materials work, including 1-by-12 inch boards, bricks, concrete blocks, stacked stones or a staked frame of chicken wire.

For those of you who asked for the “recipe”, here it is:

To build a 4-by-8 foot raised bed you will need:

  • 2-3 pounds blood meal and bone meal
  • Newspapers
  • 1 bale of herbicide-free alfalfa hay
  • 1 bale of herbicide-free straw (use bedding straw, not feed straw, which will contain viable wheat seeds)
  • 10 cubic feet of compost (preferably homemade)
  1. Moisten the soil thoroughly with a hose and add a generous dusting of blood and/or bone meal. Wear a mask to avoid inhaling the dust. (Repeat the watering and dusting step after adding each layer to the pile.)
  2. Cover the ground with ½-inch of newspapers.
  3. Place 4-inch-deep pads of alfalfa hay on top of the newspaper.
  4. Add 8-inch-deep pads of straw on top of the alfalfa.
  5. Top with 4 inches of compost.
  6. Plant vegetable starts or sow seeds in the compost layer. Top-dress with more straw or grass clippings.
  7. Between crops, rejuvenate the top layer with 2 to 3 inches of straw and 3 to 4 inches of compost.

Other tips:

Don't skimp on compost.

Don't skip the bloodmeal and bonemeal (or a combination of the two). Bloodmeal adds nitrogen and bonemeal adds phosphorus to the layers, which is key to fostering decomposition of the hay and straw.

Start with shallow-rooted plants in the first month or two. Plant seedlings rather than seeds in the first crop.  Keep young seeds and seedlings moist. Watering can be cut back significantly after plants are 6-7 inches tall.

Happy plantings!

 

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