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Lasagna Gardening: How To Do It?

The first time one of our kids heard us say we were going to make lasagna in the garden, he immediately imagined an amazing tree in which lasagna would grow directly ready to eat 🤩!!!

Imagine his disappointment when he saw us preparing part of the vegetable garden for lasagna farming, permaculture style! In the end, one of the things our lasagna garden did was provide the star ingredient for the famous Italian recipe: beautiful, juicy tomatoes to die for. 😋 !

So, for all the big kids still wondering, let’s take a closer look at what a lasagna crop is all about!

How to make a lasagna crop:
Making a lasagna is simply creating a temporary permaculture mound since it will usually only last for one season.

It is a support of culture easy and fast to set up which will be a concentrate of nutrients for your plants and to have an effect “booster” on your cultures. A lasagna is mainly made up of alternating layers of green organic matter (wet, with a tendency towards nitrogen) and brown (dry, with a tendency towards carbon). It is from this stacking of alternating layers that its name comes.

Lasagna Gardening: How To Do It?

Lasagna gardening, the basic recipe :
As always in permaculture, it is necessary to adapt to the context, there is thus not only one and single recipe to make a vegetable garden in lasagne, but well various recipes which will vary according to your needs, your environment, the surface and the resources available at home.

To simplify, we will give here a relatively general recipe for creating a lasagna-style mounded garden starting from a classic grassy soil such as a lawn or meadow.

Step 1: Choose and prepare the growing area

A lasagna is made on the ground, no need to dig, nor to remove the layer of grass present on the ground. If you have a particularly compact or heavy soil, it may be a good idea to simply swipe the area with a grelinette to aerate it a bit before covering it…but no weeding is required, which saves a lot of work 😉

If the soil is particularly dry, a little watering may be necessary.

If the grasses are high in the area chosen to establish the lasagna crop, simply run a mower over them.

Step 2: Determine the type of edging

When it comes to edging, which is not mandatory, there are several choices. They will affect the life of the lasagna and its ease of being moved later if necessary: wooden board formwork, log or stone borders, bales of straw or hay, etc.

Step 3: Shade the light from the original grassy soil

On the area chosen to make the lasagna, we will cover the ground with a layer of raw cardboard without ink from which we will have removed all plastic elements (adhesive tape, envelope containing the shipping documents…) and any possible accumulation of glue. Some people use layers of newspaper instead of cardboard, but if this can be avoided to minimize the amount of ink introduced into the work it is better.

Lasagna Gardening: How To Do It?

Once the layer of cardboard is uniform over the entire surface (stack the cardboard well to avoid leaving holes in this layer), all that remains is to moisten it.

Step 4: A layer of manure / compost

On top of the wet cardboard, it is recommended to put a thin layer of 1 to 3 cm of manure or mature compost to bring life and help the decomposition process of the lasagna to come.

Lasagna Gardening: How To Do It?

But this is optional, so don’t worry if you can’t put any in due to lack of available material.

Step 5: Alternate layers of green and brown materials while moistening the whole.

On top of the manure layer, we’ll start by putting a layer of about 5 cm of green organic material that will tend to be more nitrogenous than carbonaceous. This can be grass clippings, various vegetable waste, kitchen waste such as vegetable peelings, wild or cultivated plants that are particularly rich in nutrients (nettle, comfrey…), deciduous tree leaves that are still green…

Lasagna Gardening: How To Do It?

On top of this first “green” layer, we will add a layer of brown organic matter which will be more carbonaceous and slightly thicker than the previous layer (6 to 10 cm). It can be straw, hay, dead leaves, B.R.F. (Ramial Fragmented Wood), crushed wood, sawdust or bark (preferably mixed with other brown materials), we can even add to the mixture of brown materials shredded cardboard, if we have a lot of it…

And so we start again with alternating layers of green and brown materials. There is no set number of layers to form a lasagna, because it will depend largely on the amount of material you can get. In general, 3 layers of “green” alternating with 2 layers of “brown” is a good average. There is often one less layer of brown material than green material, because we will usually finish the stacking with a layer of green, even if it is not mandatory.

Lasagna Gardening: How To Do It?

In fact, the total number of layers should be adapted to your available resources: if you only have enough to form one layer of each, then start by putting the brown layer on top of the manure layer and finish with the green layer. A single layer of each lasagna will be less nutrient-rich and will not last as long, as it will be more quickly “consumed” by the soil and plants grown on this temporary medium.

An important point to remember is that each time you put down a layer of brown matter, water it generously so that the decomposition process starts more quickly.

Another interesting detail to enrich the nutrients in your lasagna: sprinkle, sparingly, a little wood ash (preferably from fires of twigs or branches rather than logs) between some of your layers of organic matter. This will provide potassium and phosphorus, essential nutrients for the fruiting and good health of your crops.

Lasagna Gardening: How To Do It?

Step 6: The final layer for your crops…

The creation of a lasagne generally ends with the layer in which you will plant your cultivated plants directly. This is a layer of soil mixed with mature compost or potting soil of about 5 to 10 cm. If you don’t plant your seedlings right away after finishing your lasagna, remember to cover it with mulch, so as not to leave the soil bare on top of your growing medium. And even if you plant right away, remember to mulch the remaining bare soil around your plants.

This last layer of soil is not mandatory if you want to use the lasagna mainly for transplanting young plants: in this case, you can stop at the last layer of green matter and when you install your young plants, you will simply make a poquet in the green layer, put a mixture of soil and compost in which you will then place your plant with the initial clod in which it will have grown. You will then cover with mulch.

However, this final layer of soil will be necessary if you wish to sow directly in your lasagna rather than transplanting young vegetable plants…

Why grow in a lasagna :
Lasagna gardening, OK, but for what purpose? The reasons for doing a lasagna garden will obviously vary from one gardener to another.

From the gardener’s perspective:
It’s a very easy and quick temporary growing medium to create, without a lot of physical effort, so even when you’re not very far into the vegetable season, a lasagna can allow you to “catch up,” which can be very helpful to gardeners with little foresight ;).

One has a great freedom in the choice of its location since one starts simply from a space of grassed ground.

You also have a great freedom of shapes, which gives lasagnas a very playful aspect: while keeping in mind the practical aspect of access to the crops (avoid lasagnas that are too wide and whose middle would not be accessible), you can let your creativity go and have fun by testing various shapes…

A lasagna-like mound can be planted/sown immediately after completion and thus made a little at the last moment if needed…

For the gardener who tries this type of culture for the first time, its reduced temporality has a reassuring side in the sense that the element can be changed of place the following year if needed contrary to a mound of permanent culture much more energy-consuming to create and which will not be able to be moved easily from one season to the other.

It is an ideal support for nutrient-intensive crops such as zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, spinach, broccoli…

Its rich composition makes it a support that boosts the crops giving generally superb vegetables.

It is a beautiful experiment with a very interesting pedagogical scope to be done, in particular with children (schools, leisure centers…) allowing to approach many pedagogical notions of observation of nature and understanding of the functioning of the soil and the life it shelters.

From the point of view of the soil ecosystem:
Making a lasagna means giving the soil a great diversity of food (organic matter) that will increase the life that can develop in it by offering shelter and food to many small animals, insects and micro-organisms.

Moreover, the soil will not be worked or trampled on during the entire life of the lasagna, thus avoiding the problems of compaction and destruction of soil life as we discussed in our article on the advantages and disadvantages of mounds…

And even when all the material brought in during the creation of the lasagne has been “digested” by the life of the soil (after one to two years in general, variable according to the height of the lasagne created and the type of borders chosen) and you will only have a space of earth slightly raised from the initial level of the soil, this space will be a real compost teeming with life, micro-organisms and useful micro-fauna that will make it easy to cultivate!

Lasagna Gardening: How To Do It?

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