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Lasagna Gardening

QUESTION:  What do you think of "lasagna gardening?" I read about it recently. The author just places wet newspapers over weeds and grass and then covers that with peat moss. She layers garden matter on top of that and then more peat moss. It is a pretty informal system that allows a wonderful garden to emerge in a short amount of time. B.S., Dallas

ANSWER: I don't like the layers, and I sure don't like the peat moss. Here's what one of my listeners/readers reported about the technique:

I use a no-dig bed preparation that shares some things with the lasagna method but differs in several important ways. The reason the lasagna technique doesn't work in Texas, as described by Patricia Lanza in her book Lasagna Gardening, is that she uses peat as one of her layers and she doesn't wait long enough before planting.

My recipe is:

  • Scalp the grass at the lowest setting on the mower.
  • Lay out bed borders with steel edging.
  • Lay down cardboard.
  • Wet the cardboard with water.
  • Add 5 inches of straw.
  • Add an inch or so of finished compost.
  • Add 2 inches of shredded hardwood mulch.

This is a great project to start in early winter. During the winter, spring and fall, treat the bed as if it is already planted. Water it during prolonged drought. When grass and weeds pop up, remove them with a Japanese knife-style weeder. This gets easier as time goes by.

Near the end of the fall, the bed is ready to plant. I use all of the organic amendments and methods that you recommend, and I do not own or use a tiller. Worms are plentiful in this new soil, and the grass has disappeared.

This method has been an amazing tool for me and has been steadily transforming my all-clay soil into wonderful planting beds.

This is not a method for the impatient, but it works wonderfully. I have been able to plant eight months after setting up a bed.

I also have learned a lot about grub worms from this experience. Mainly, I've learned that they are mostly occupied with breaking down and processing organic matter in the soil. Before I planted anything in these new beds, they attracted a fair amount of grubs that I found while digging weeds. I haven't found any of them to harm plants I've planted in these beds. I also feed the grubs to the koi in my pond as a treat. They love eating organically fed grubs. I think promoting a method such as this one, done correctly, will encourage many people who want to begin landscaping but don't know where to start.

It's very easy to lay out beds like this when you move to a new house, and, as many people do, concentrate on getting the inside of the house the way they want it. Before you know it, a year has gone by and the beds are ready to plant.

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