This backyard garden plot method is perfect for first time gardeners and homesteaders. Recycle free organic material to build a high yielding organic garden for cheap, and forget digging, tilling, weeding and removing sod!
What is a lasagne garden ?
A lasagne garden is a layered compost approach to building healthy soil for your vegetable, herb or flower garden. The idea was introduced by gardener, Patricia Lanza. I tried my first lasagne garden a few years ago after reading, The Zero Mile Diet, A must have book for homesteaders! It’s what we use to utilize our manure, compost and recycled materials to grow a large high yielding vegetable garden.
Why use the lasagne garden method?
This method for building highly organic healthy soil is easy to do with ingredients already found around the homestead. It requires no rotatilling between seasons. The secret to success is growing the soil while growing the plants. Using a layered approach of organic material – hense lasagne- helps retain moisture and nutrition for the plants.
Lasagne gardens are perfect for urban farmers and planting in vacant lots, and in unused spaces because they can be temporary.
Setting up a Lasagne Garden
Setting up a lasagne garden is easy! In fact, it’s easier than making a lasagne for dinner, take a read through and try it yourself! Your grocery bill will thank you.
Recipe for putting in a Lasagne Garden
Decide where to plant your garden. If planting a vegetable garden, southern facing is best. We planted our garden where we would have a good view from the kitchen window. Also plant next to a water source to make watering easier.
Start collecting your lasagne garden ingredients in the fall. Use what you have, and can get your hands on. If you miss a layer or two it’s not a big deal. Collect layers to add after the harvest. Keep an eye out for deals to add on top for next years garden. Just make sure each layer is 2 inches thick and the final garden bed is 12 inches in height. I’m still looking for the secret ingredient! More on that later.
Lasagne Layer 1: Fresh Manure
Your garden is essentially a lasagne of organic matter to provide healthy nutritious soil for your plants. Start building the soil with fresh manure from the pile or local farm. There’s often signs for free manure in the country. We used the fresh cow manure first. Using a wheel barrow or tractor, we basically moved the fresh manure from the pile and spread it out where we wanted the garden to be. 2 inches is recommended. We also cleaned our deep litter method compost from the chicken coops and added it to this layer. The manure will provide nitrogen to plants as it breaks down over time. Because it’s fresh, its a hot manure and can burn plants- that’s why the next ingredient is so important….
For a temporary garden skip the first layer of fresh manure and start with…
Lasagne Layer 2: Cardboard
The next step is to lay out a collection of cardboard the size of the bed you’d like. Overlaying edges and doing a double layer if possible. We use cardboard collected from the grocery store with minimal to no ink. This creates an organic barrier between the grass, fresh manure and your garden bed. As the manure and cardboard breaks down it will provide a natural nitrogen kick for plants and the cardboard prevents grass and weeds popping up in the garden.
Build your garden bed with the following layers, in any order.
Lasagne Layer 3: Compost
On top of the fresh manure, add your compost from your compost pile. We use a three bin composting system using pallets. It was super easy to put together and has made feeding our soil super beneficial with just three secret ingredients.
Lasagne Layer 4: Leaves
A Lasagne Garden is best built in the fall when leaves have freshly fallen. If you’ve saved your leaves for compost in the spring that works too. Layer on the leaves.
Lasagne Layer 5: Woodash
We save our woodash from the wood stove and layer it in the garden for a nitrogen boost.
Lasagne Layer 6: Topsoil
The gold! The top layer of screened aged Manure or top soil is where the plants will be planted and build their root systems.
Lasagne Layer 7: Wood Chips
The final topping of the garden is the best part- the gooey cheese! The wood chips! Cover the manure with 4-6 inches of wood chips. The wood chips seal in the moisture, requiring less watering. The also act as a mulch to keep weeds at bay. When planting seedlings, simply move wood chips aside and plant away. You can use sawdust and fine wood chips in any layer. Avoid chips from untreated wood and cedar.
Putting the garden to work
Now that you’ve worked hard building your lasagne garden, congratulations! It’s time to continue being smart and save money on your plants this spring. When it comes to seeds, plantings, caring for and harvesting your garden the ease will surprise you.
Simply water the garden bed well and direct seed or transplant into the top layer of the bed and wait for the magic to happen!
Lasagne Garden Review
This is a great way to build a healthy strong garden bed using the materials you already have on the homestead. If you don’t have them, you can easily access most of the layers required for free or at a small fraction of what you would pay for tons of top soil. See the ideal Lasagne Garden Shopping list below.
Ideal Shopping List
- Spoiled Hay
- Wood Ash
- Sawdust and fine wood chips
- Dolmite Lime
- Seaweed ** Secret Ingredient for West coast gardens!
At our suburb home before moving to the ranch we had a very small garden bed. It was my first attempt at planting a vegetable garden. We spent about $500 filling the raised bed with organic topsoil from the local nursery.
Our lasagne garden on the ranch put that raised garden bed to shame. Yes it was larger, but the health of the vegetable plants was remarkably different. The yields were too much to handle at first, then we got smart with the harvest!
We had enough vegetables to feed our cows, chickens and rabbits fresh produce daily along with ourselves and having to share with others!
We chose to build a very large garden bed surrounding the existing greenhouse. (Which I can’t wait to remodel!) The garden is fenced to keep deer out, and we plan to build our berry walk and orchard around it. We’ve kept it in the one place and each year we keep feeding and growing the soil with organic materials from the homestead. We have a healthy, abundant vegetable garden that we’ve learned to manage well when it comes time to harvest. Healthy recipes, canning, and preserving tips from mom, grandma and other homesteaders keep us busy and nothing goes to waste!
Tips for year round success with the Lasagne Garden Method
Tip 1: Use good seeds and starters
Use organic, non gmo seeds, heritage seeds are best. Be smart with what seeds you start at home and what you buy from the store. I was surprised though how well my dollar store marigolds from seeds did!
Tip 2: Keep weeds at bay
When cutting the grass around the bed, do your best to not shoot cuttings towards the garden. Grass won’t grow though the cardboard but a fresh seed planted on top will germinate like the rest of them.
Tip 3: Let the chickens in
At the end of the season, We let our chickens do the dirty work of cleaning up our garden mess after harvest. They eat what remains and stock up on goodness before the winter hits. They also do a light tilling of the soil and add manure at the same time.
Tip 4: Put the bed to rest
When the chickens finish in the fall we plant a cover crop on the lasagne garden. Cover crops or green manures such as fall rye to add more nutrients to the soil and keep weeds at bay. We leave a small section available for our winter garden.
Tip 5: Add a bit and plant again
In the spring the chickens come back in and feast on the rye and we add another layer of aged Manure and wood chips and plant again.
It takes one cycle of production for the garden bed to decompose by approx. 6 inches. With each new garden and season add a few layers to keep growing healthy soil for your plants. When the leaves fall, add them, when the compost pile is ready for turning, add a layer. You get the idea!
I wish you good luck, and happy gardening! Have fun getting your hands dirty and harvesting healthy plants to feed your soul and your family.