Lasagna Gardening

Lasagna Gardening

Part of Ep. 1806 The End of the Season is Just the Beginning

Lone Rock, Wisconsin master gardener volunteer Roger Reynolds teaches the fine art of lasagna gardening. No, it does not involve pasta, but your garden will thank you for it!

Premiere date: Aug 25, 2010

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley Ryan:
We are back in Lone Rock with Master Gardener Roger Reynolds. Now that we've mastered the fine art of composting we're moving to the next step, lasagna gardening. Roger, when I think "lasagna gardening" I'm starting to think "lunch."

(both laugh)

Noodles.

Roger Reynolds:
Right, no. Lasagna gardening is called lasagna gardening, because you're going to use dead plant material or livestock manures to build a lasagna-like garden.

Shelley Ryan:
That doesn't sound like lunch.

Roger Reynolds:
No, no. It's built in layers like building lasagna. So you build these layers 18 to 24 inches deep and then actually plant directly on top.

Shelley Ryan:
Why would we want to do that?

Roger Reynolds:
Well, it's not a lot of work. If you're doing it in the fall when you're raking leaves you don't have to dig up the soil. You don't have to dig up the sod. You lay down a smother layer, and then you build your layers on top of it. You let that go through the winter and then you plant directly into it. So you have no tilling, no digging, pretty much no weeding. Reduced watering. And then if you have sandy soil, which I have or rocky soil or clay soil...

Shelley Ryan:
I got that.

Roger Reynolds:
Or compacted soil, or even good soil, it doesn't matter, because we're going above the soil. So if you have bad soil problems, we alleviate that.

Shelley Ryan:
So it's a recipe for success no matter what kind of soil you've got.

Roger Reynolds:
Absolutely, absolutely. And you said we're doing it in the fall because we want leaves. That's part of the materials we're going to use.

Roger Reynolds:
An ingredient that people have a lot of. We need carbon and nitrogen, but people have a lot of leaves and also grass clippings. And you can build a lasagna garden with just those two things, or any other number of ingredients.

Shelley Ryan:
So that's the materials. Let's talk about how we do it.

Roger Reynolds:
We're building in the fall. If you build it in the summer, it may smell, because of the stuff rotting down.

Shelley Ryan:
So you can build it any time, but you recommend fall.

Roger Reynolds:
Fall takes it through the cool winter and you don't smell anything. So we're building on top of Creeping Charlie.

Shelley Ryan:
Oh, good, let's kill it.

Roger Reynolds:
Yes, we're going to kill it in one try. If it was turf grass, sod, weeds, or invasive species we're going to kill it. And how we do it, is you can use newspaper or you can use cardboard. I prefer cardboard. If you use newspaper, it should be 6 to 10 sheets thick. And if it's wet, it doesn't blow in the wind so easily.

Shelley Ryan:
I never thought of that. I'm always having it blow all over.

Roger Reynolds:
So the cardboard is a pizza box. We need to overlap the seams three to four inches so the Creeping Charlie doesn't creep through.

Shelley Ryan:
You've also got some really large appliance boxes. What a great way to recycle.

Roger Reynolds:
Yes, it recycles and you cover 10 to 15 square feet with one box.

Shelley Ryan:
So you've got down your smother layer your carbon layer. Now you've got garbage.

Roger Reynolds:
Right, some stuff from the garden, some plants that aren't going to make it to produce.

Shelley Ryan:
What could I use if I didn't have a crop of what is this, cauliflower?

Roger Reynolds:
Cauliflower. You could use grass clippings.

Shelley Ryan:
This is my nitrogen layer.

Roger Reynolds:
You could use house scraps.

Shelley Ryan:
Then I put something on top of this.

Roger Reynolds:
We'll put some carbon on. I have some sawdust.

Shelley Ryan:
Okay, so if I didn't have the sawdust this is where I'd use my fallen leaves from the trees.

Roger Reynolds:
Exactly, because they're a carbon component.

Shelley Ryan:
And it can be a very thin layer like this.

Roger Reynolds:
We're building a stew or a soup, not building a cake or souffle.

Shelley Ryan:
Okay, so it doesn't have to be dense. Now we move here and you've already got those two layers built. And now you've got, is this hay or straw?

Roger Reynolds:
This is hay. Remember, hay is the perfect mix already for composting. So we have hay there. I'm going to put some compost on top.

Shelley Ryan:
So we can also use compost that we've built on this to help it all break down, too.

Roger Reynolds:
Yes.

Shelley Ryan:
A few strange things appear in compost once in a while.

Roger Reynolds:
Yeah.

Shelley Ryan:
You've got two or three layers built already. Is this high enough?

Roger Reynolds:
No, it needs to be 18 to 24 inches and that overwhelms people. Yes, knee-high.

Shelley Ryan:
So what would you do now? I would probably just put some more hay and then some soybean meal on top. That's a nitrogen component. I have simplified this whole process. Hay is the perfect mix for growing, for composting it's the right carbon to nitrogen ratio. So right here, this is about the right depth, and I have just put cardboard down and just piled hay on top, and it's worked beautifully for two years.

Shelley Ryan:
So for those of us who have access to a lot of hay, we can just do that and no layering. But a lot of us don't, hence the layering.

Roger Reynolds:
Exactly.

Shelley Ryan:
Can we go look and see how it works in your garden?

Roger Reynolds:
Sure, I'd be happy to. Shelley, here's my finished lasagna garden.

Shelley Ryan:
It's really tall.

Roger Reynolds:
And here we have this year's growth that I'm burying.

Shelley Ryan:
So it's in process.

Roger Reynolds:
And here is what it will look like next spring.

Shelley Ryan:
So it really breaks down.

Roger Reynolds:
It does, it breaks down and compresses. To plant a plant, we would just dig a hole. It's pretty airy and loose, but transplants do great. You stick it in the hole, push it back around.

Shelley Ryan:
Okay.

Roger Reynolds:
To plant seeds, we dig a little trench, put some soil-like material in there compost, potting soil, your own soil.

Shelley Ryan:
Why?

Roger Reynolds:
Because it's so airy the seeds need good seed-to-soil contact. Then you put a little more on top, just like you were planting in any soil tuck it back around and you'll have almost no weeding.

Shelley Ryan:
My kind of garden. Thanks, Roger.

Roger Reynolds:
You’re welcome.

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