Want to have a healthy raised bed but hate the idea of digging out all that grass? What if I told you there was a way to do it that is inexpensive, possibly even free? Well, there is. It’s called “lasagna gardening” — it’s a term and a garden system that’s been around for years and is surprisingly effective and easy. As you can imagine, lasagna gardening is a process of building up layers of carbon and nitrogen materials (just like the tasty tomato and pasta dish) that create an ideal ecosystem for your plants. While it’s not the fastest way to create a raised bed, it’s a great way to recycle materials, doesn’t cost a lot, and is perfect for those who might want a higher raised garden to avoid excessive bending and squatting.
If this is enough to grab your attention, follow these steps to start building rich garden soil for your edibles and flowers.
Carbon: newspaper (no shiny ad inserts, though), brown cardboard, mulch, leaves, untreated hay, straw, sawdust
Nitrogen: kitchen waste, coffee grounds, grass clippings, seaweed, lake plants, animal manure (excluding dog or cat feces)
1. Choose your area, mow the grass if necessary, and water the space thoroughly. It’s not necessary to dig out the grass before adding your layers — yippee!
2. Start with a layer of newspaper at least 10 pages thick. Overlap the edges and water the newspaper down so it stays put without blowing away.
3. Add several layers of cardboard and cover with a thick layer of mulch. I prefer shredded mulch because the bark chips tend to float or move out of place too easily.
4. Add an inch of nitrogen materials (also called “green” materials”).
5. Cover with 4″ of carbon material (“brown”) and water.
6. Add another layer of green materials.
7. Repeat Steps 4-6 for additional height, watering after each brown layer.
8. Cover with leaves and let it sit for a couple of months before planting.
*Keep the bed moist (not soggy wet, just moist) to help the decomposition along.
*Build the bed about 6″ higher than you think you want it, because it will settle down as it continues to decompose.
*Add a layer of soil and compost to the top if you want to plant right away, but be sure to use shallow-rooted plants like beans or lettuce until all the layers have had a chance to simmer over time.
*Build it over the winter, and plant in the spring!