Thursday, October 24, 2013

Going Green With A Lasagna Garden : Sheet Composting Saves Time!

Lasagna is always best the day after you make it and like it's namesake a Lasagna Garden is an organic gardening option that requires a little effort this season and when left over until next Spring, the garden soil  is so much better!

Lasagna Gardens, also called Sheet Composting, is a super simple method of layering organic matter over the soil to decompose slowly and naturally. It is the most passive form of composting as the only real effort from the gardener involves the initial spreading of material. It also is the method that most closely mimics nature - the leaves on the forest floor fall where they may and slowly break down into that rich loam just below the crackly leaves. That's what we're going for here!
Sheet Composting is best done in two situations : creating a new garden bed and revitalizing annual beds over the course of winter.

In my garden, there is a small, less than one metre wide and about 10 metres long, strip of land between my garage and neighbors fence. It really doesn't serve any purpose and would be impractical to grow anything useful to me so it has sat fallow, save for some random weeds, for two years now. Then the idea struck that for next season that small bit of land would be turned into a bee and butterfly friendly haven, even if I don't get to see the garden.

I have learned, and will be able to confirm in the spring, that lasagna gardening also does wonders to break up hard, compacted soil, just like the kind alongside the garage. Enough of that, so how does one Lasagna Garden?

For this garden space the method was simple, using the electric weed wacker I cut down all the weeds and allowed their corpses to remain there and become my first layer. With autumn leaves falling I was about to rake some and toss them as the next layer but realized that the lawn could us a trim so quickly mowed the lawn, this time using the grass catcher to capture the combination of cut grass and shredded leaves that I mowed up. The mixture was a combination of nitrogen rich grass and carbon rich dead leaves. Next step : spread the leaf/grass mixture over the area.

Over the next several weeks, as more leaves fall, a few more layers will be added. Some of the dead annuals in the garden as well as some kitchen peelings will also be diverted from the regular compost to the sheet compost area. During the winter months the material will start to break down and enrich the soil.

My guess is that next Spring there will be some dried material at the top of the planting bed, not unlike the dried leaves on the forest floor. That material will find its way to the regular compost in April or May.

Sheet composting is also a great way to put your annual and garden beds to work for the winter. Once the last tomatoes have been harvested, and the last pansies have bloomed, sheet composting those garden areas will not only protect the soil from erosion, but will also add vital nutrients.

People who regulary compost might even consider spreading a layer of their "almost finished compost" over an existing bed, or even a new bed for that matter, then going wild will new sheets of lasagna. It's a fairly passive way to work your existing beds and will free up the regular compost container for all that new material you will be adding this winter.  The other benefit is that all of the leaf matter that may have found its way into a landfill will not be returned to the soil near where it fell.

A lasagna garden makes an ordinary garden extraordinary!