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    Lasagna Gardening - a no till method


    Posts : 191
    Join date : 2011-03-16
    Location : Idaho

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    Post  Arrowwind on Fri Sep 30, 2011 9:11 am

    flower So this is the second year of vegetable gardening for me. I do it for the joy of it and I do it to create self sustainablity in our increasingly unstable world. flower

    Because I am no longer a spring chicken when I approached the idea of gardening at first all I could think of was the annual pain that weed pulling brings on. If I was to garden and to really garden meaningfully I must find an easier way.

    So along came the idea of Lasagana gardening, also known as layered gardening. I quickly saw the benefit and reduced labor the concept presents.
    But of course the setting up stage is always the hardest.

    When we moved to the mountains 2 years ago we settled upon a fully undeveloped acreage. If we wanted anything done we had to do it. There was no house waiting for us, no warm retreat, no gardens waiting to be spaded.

    Once I determined the location of the garden to be I solicited the help of my dear husband, (dh) I explained to him the need for raised beds as I did not want to spend the next 20 on my knees, although I realize that in the long term this might be great for the body, in the short term it lends to quite a bit of pain... but recent life experience has shown me that the short term seems to have no limits or bounds... there is always pain and overdoing it can be a daily event.

    The raised bed were constructed to contain the lasagna beds. We purchased some cedar planks that were on special because they had too many faults in them. The 2 large beds are 18 inches high and 12 feet by 4 feet. The two smaller beds are 4x4.

    Becasuse we have a terrible problem with volls here who will dig up from the bottom and eat all your efforts we lined the bottom of the beds with 1/2 inch wire mesh, stapled onto the frame.

    A lasagna bed is self composting. Once you have it in place the process requires little physical work. You will never have to turn a compost pile again. Your plants will rise up out of fluffy mulch that absorbs water well and is refuge to the fattest worms.

    To start your bed you need the essential ingredients on hand.
    a pile of leaves
    a bale of straw
    a pile of goat, horse,steer or chicken maneur
    a pile of grass clipping
    a bale of alfalfa hay

    you will notice that I have green elements here and brown elements. You need at least one green element, one brown element and one maneur.

    It does not matter which order that you layer your bed, but always encase a green element between two brown elements. Your maneur should be placed on top of your green element. Most often I have had 4 elements to work with. Simply make layers in your bed about 2 inches thick and repeat the pattern until your bed is about 3 inches from the top of your frame. The one exception is in green grass and chicken maneur. Grass should only be one inch thick and chicken maneur should be scattered about no more than 1/2 inch thick and it does not need to cover every square inch. Both grass and chicken maneur can get very hot and the roots of your plants may not like it. For the other maneurs use stuff that has been sitting in the stall or in a pile for at least one year.

    Once your bed is filled it is time to creat your planting layer. For this I mix some top soil with an aged maneur to create a 2 inch top layer where my seeds will go. You can also used a purchased planting mix if you are inclined. I mixed a planting mix into the topsoil and maneur the first year but didn't bother the second year.

    Now your bed is ready for seed. The bed will be spongy feeling. As time goes by over the summer the bed will sink as it composts and turns into rich mulch and soil. You can add your favorite earth worms at any time. Buy the end of the season the soil will only be about 5 or 6 inches thick but stil thick enough to nourish all your plants.

    Once your layers are in you never till it or turn it. It is very easy to weed as the soil is so light the roots just of the weeds just come right out. Of course the framed beds are great because you can sit on the frame and do your work, and you don't have to bend down so far. It is also easy to cover the beds with plastic or netting if needed to protect from frost or sun or even insects like grasshoppers

    After your harvest you can rebuild your bed in the fall or wait till next spring. I also have a lasagna bed in a giant old tractor tire that holds my more sensitive eggplants. They like it warm and there is no guaranteed warm even in the summer around here. They are doing great.

    Building the frames for raised beds was great but a little spendy. Cedar or redwood is not cheap. Some people use plain old pine and line the bed walls with black plastic before filling it. The plastic keeps the wetness from working on the pine and composting that too. If you use a treated wood or OPC board you certainly want to line it to keep the chemicals out of your soil. The bottom of the bed does not need to be lined. Using lessor woods of course costs less but presents these other problems. Do not nail your bed frame together but use 2 or 3 inch wood screws for a tigher more durable hold.

    Because I enjoyed my garden so much, over the winter I had fantasy of increasing my growing area but dh said no more money was to to to building frames with cedar and I just didn't want plastic lined beds... so guess I was to be forced to my knees. I decided that if a lasagna bed could be built in a frame it could also be built on plane old land. I had a low spot in the earth near the beds so I decided I could fill it up.

    Following the same procedure for the beds I built up the land with my layers. Eventually it raised about four inches above the surrounding land becasue the land a low spot. Right now I have a multitude of vegetables in there... 5 zuccini plants, 14 cabbage, 16 broccoli, 6 cauliflower 2 butternut, 2 cucumber, 3 borage, 2 acorn, and a few unknown squash and a row of giant sunflower. Since it took me so long to make this bed in the spring as it is fairly large, my planting was late and hence my harvest too. Butternuts are here now but Im not sure they will fully develop before the first frost which could be any day now.

    I did make some errors with this large bed. I put too many grass clippings in. We had such an abundance of grass and no place to keep it it all ended up in there and some plants really didn't like it. It took out almost all of my green cabbage and a couple of broccoli in areas where it was thickest. Red cabbage didnt seem to mind... so this is why I say only one inch of green grass per grass layer. Afer harvest I am considering running a the plow through it to mix all that grass in. We are fortunate to have a tractor but a small roto tiller or even by hand with a pitchfork could mend my error.

    I also used lasagna method for my potatoes. I have an 18 foot row of piled layers about 3 feet wide. The potatoes loved it last year. This year I learned about not watering potatoes from above too frequently. They got watered more than they should have because they are right next to my new bed. This caused potato blight, black spots on the leaves towards the end of the season. The potatoes are still good but should not be used for seed next year.

    This fall I will be constructing a new smaller lasagna bed... one designed specifically for garlic. This too will not be in a frame but flat on the land.

    So here's to my favorite time and place... sunset in the garden will my favorite wine, cats chasing the butterflies, husband working on the roof in the cool of the evening, dog asleep in the grass, neighbors bicycling by, rabbits scurrying though the sage, eagle calling in the distance, sky alive with clouds of fire Toast

    The Carol The Carol The Carol The Carol The Carol The Carol


    Posts : 19971
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    Post  mudra on Fri Sep 30, 2011 10:24 am

    What an awesome journey Arrowind Cheerful
    It is so inspiring to read you and wonderfull to hear you made it to the mountains and settled your camp there in the middle of nature .
    It would be great if you could post some photos of your eden garden.
    How precious it is now is knowing all the love you have put into it .
    Mother Earth blesses you no doubt.
    Bravo cheers .

    Love for You

    Posts : 24833
    Join date : 2010-04-07
    Location : Hawaii

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    Post  Carol on Thu Oct 13, 2011 3:15 pm

    This is great. I just bought the book on lasagna gardening for small spaces.

    Here is something for the winter garden.

    Up until the end of October there is a good range that can be sown to supplement the leeks, parsnips and sprouts that should already be settled in. Except for garlic, onion sets, asparagus and cabbages, I sow in modules in my cold frame or greenhouse and plant out as mini-plants a few weeks later. Alternatively, sow outside and cover with fleece or perforated polythene. And don't forget pests: slugs and snails are less of a threat now as they start to hibernate, but they can still ruin tender young seedlings.

I always autumn-sow broad beans. As well as having more time than I do in spring, it stops nutrients leaching through otherwise fallow soil, which allows its structure to deteriorate. They are ready a good month earlier than those sown in April, and they don't get black fly. If the beans are in an exposed position and grow too tall (above a foot ) over winter, they can wave around and split just above ground level, so put in canes or sticks and string if necessary. Good autumn varieties are Aquadulce Claudia (AGM) and Super Aquadulce. Don't forget, broad bean tops are delicious wilted with butter. If you pick out some tops to cook before the pods are formed you will delay pod production, which can help stagger your crop. Small pods are delicious cooked and eaten whole.

Asparagus varieties are now available for autumn planting, which helps them establish that bit quicker. Thompson & Morgan is offering Ariane, Guelph Millennium, Pacific 2000 and Purple Pacific. Although a common perception is that asparagus beds are hard work, in my experience if you get the bed weed-free, as with other perennial vegetables, they take far less work than annual vegetables. You do wait for two years before you can cut them, but it is a small price to pay for a gourmet extravaganza.

For a late spring crop, it's worth trying sowing seeds now, especially in mild areas. If you sow direct into the ground, plant them one inch deep and relatively closely at about one inch apart, to make up for a higher loss rate.
    Plant in groups of three lines all 12in apart to form thick rows, and make each thick row 18in apart. With peas, don't forget the pea shoots are tasty: just pick off the tips and add to stir fries and salads for that intense, delicious fresh pea flavour. Meteor is a first early variety and overwinters well. To speed up germination, put seeds on a wet kitchen towel on a plate and sow (in modules) when the root starts to develop.

 This is the easiest crop to grow. Plant the cloves individually to a depth of 2.5in deep on light soils and a lot less deep on heavy soils, but always a minimum of one inch below the surface. The distance should be about one foot apart each way. If you suffered from rust this year, in addition to rotation try hoeing in sulphate of potash in February/March.

    Otherwise, spraying with a sulphur-based compound helps. Solent Wight is a trusty variety (stores well and has large cloves), but this year I am putting in a new variety, Province. It is available from The Garlic Farm ( and has huge cloves.

 There are quite a few varieties of onions from sets that can go in now. This is the easiest way to grow onions, and they can be harvested earlier on in the year. Electric is a good red set, Radar a good yellow and Shakespeare is a highly reliable white. Sow some spring onions now: White Lisbon Winter Hardy (from T&M) is a good one. Many garden centres have shallots available for planting now, Jermor is out there already - normally I plant these in December or after Christmas, but I will pop some in and see. Shallots, with their sweet, subtle flavour, are becoming trendier, and they store well.

My cut-and-come again varieties, such as Niche Mixed, were sown a few weeks ago. But you can still sow a really hardy variety, Meraviglia d'Inverno San Martino, and plant it out under fleece or a perforated polythene sheet. I have picked it right through the winter in previous years, and in milder winters left it unprotected once it establishes. Winter Gem is a good new variety from T&M, and can be sown right through the winter till January in a cold frame.

This is a good filler: it's undemanding, easy to grow and useful for bulking out the salad bowl. It is useful in that it does not need high light levels and tolerates low temperatures, and so can be sown up until the end of October outside; it can be picked until December or into the new year with some fleece or milder weather. It can be a cut and come again or left as a singleton. If you are short of space, you could broadcast some in between your spring cabbage plants. Seeds of Italy ( offers Verte de Cambrai and D'Olanda; T&M offers Cavallo.

    8 SPINACH 
This is another vegetable that is very popular now. We pick it younger and just wilt the leaves rather than ruin it with overcooking. Great in salads, too. Useful varieties that will tolerate being sown now until the end of October are Riccio d'Asti and Merlo Nero (Seeds of Italy). The big advantage of autumn sowing is that there is no tendency to bolt.

Although not usually known for sowing now, if you choose a variety such as Snow Pea Gigante Svizzero (Seeds of Italy) you can get slow growth (as with all the peas) over winter to produce a crop of smallish, edible pods earlier next year. Sugarsnap peas are a firm favourite of mine: you get far more of that great fresh pea flavour than you do from just using the pea, and they are highly versatile.

If you ring around your local garden centres, you might well find some spring cabbage plants left. Plant 12in apart each way and earth up the soil around their stems after they have got going to help them against the cold. If it gets icy in colder areas, fleece or cloches can help. You can thin early plants for spring greens and leave the rest to heart up. Watch out for pigeons.

    What is life?
    It is the flash of a firefly in the night, the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.

    With deepest respect ~ Aloha & Mahalo, Carol

    Posts : 24833
    Join date : 2010-04-07
    Location : Hawaii

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    Post  Carol on Thu Oct 13, 2011 5:36 pm

    Arrowwind, it's recommended that the first layer is newspapers soaked in water laid down on the area to be gardened to provide a weed barrier. Horse manure has a good Ph and works well.

    What is life?
    It is the flash of a firefly in the night, the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.

    With deepest respect ~ Aloha & Mahalo, Carol

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