Tuesday, March 25, 2008

My New Lasagna Garden Bed

Have I mentioned before that I garden in heavy clay? Maybe just a time or two? Through the years, I have added huge amounts of organic matter to the beds - cotton gin trash, hay, mulch, compost, corn trash, cattle manure - anything I could get my hands on. Plants have grown but the soil is still as hard as a rock. Now my plan has been updated to include raised beds and yet more organic matter.

The first area to be tackled is large and unstructured. Four years ago I planted this sloping area solid with mondo grass. What a mistake that was! After much digging, I now have a clean slate. Laying limestone blocks has broken the area into three distinct beds. My original plan was to purchase compost and topsoil and plant the area immediately. Since I need more time to decide what I want to plant, I've decided to try a little lasagna gardening!

Here is the area I'm dealing with. Picture this planted with solid mondo grass - it was every bit as ugly as you are imagining.


The first step is to lay wet newspaper (six layers thick) over the entire area. Not having enough newspaper, I grabbed my old phone books. Their small size made soaking them in water a bit easier. To wet newspaper, I fill a wheelbarrow with water and soak the papers in it.




The next layer was old hay.



Now came bags and bags of leaves.

And finally, top everything off with wood chips. It looks so nice that you have no idea what is going on underneath. According to those who have made lasagna garden beds, you just wait for a number of months while things begin to break down. When you've decided it's time to plant, just push the mulch to the sides, dig a hole and plop your plant right in. Not tilling, no digging, no sweating. Sounds easy, doesn't it? God grant me patience . . . .

21 comments:

Melanie said...

Good photos to show exactly how this works. I have an area that I will be lasagna gardening.

The ingredients I'll have here are grass clippings, leaves, wood chips and manure. Hopefully the grass clippings will heat it up quickly and it will be ready faster.

Gina said...

These look great! I can't wait to see how they work for you. I d id something similar in my front gardens last summer. Good Luck!

ourfriendben said...

Looking good, Mary Beth!

Nancy J. Bond said...

What a wonderful way to amend your heavy soil. I used to garden in heavy clay at one time and I know how stubborn and unforgiving it is.

Jan said...

This is how I make new beds in my clay soil. I have the added pleasure of having a ton of pine tree roots to deal with, too. It does work well, and often, I will put garden soil on top before the mulch and plant small things and then top with mulch. The plants get a head start and do very well.

Jan Always Growing

Dee/reddirtramblings said...

Love the line at the end. Great photos showing exactly how to do it.~~Dee

CJ said...

Patience is my weak point as well...If only we could grow it in the garden along side of the petunias. Sigh.

Trudi said...

Hi Mary Beth, I have heavy clay soil. I use Gypsum, it doesn't alter the acidity of the soil. Gypsum breaks up the clay, and it becomes crumbly and more workable. I use like you, everything organic
to spread on the garden beds. That helps a lot.

Mary Beth said...

Melanie - I was wishing I had some manure (or kitchen scraps) to include for added fertility. But the nice thing is you can use what you have!

Gina - Were you pleased with the results in your front gardens?

Jan - whenever I'm feeling sorry for myself, I'll think of you and your pine tree roots! That's a double wammy . . . I like your soil idea as I am not the most patient person.

CJ's got a point - If only we could grow patience as easily as we grow plants.

Thanks Ben & Dee for stopping by.

Nancy - "Gardening in clay" seems to be a very common theme - How lucky for you to have escaped it!

Trudi - I don't think I've ever added gypsum - lots and lots of spagnum moss . . . but never gypsum. Do you have to add more periodically?

Meems said...

MaryBeth: I think Blogger just ate my entire comment. I'll check back later to see if you have it or if it is lost in cyberspace. You don't have to post this - just wanted you to know.
Meems@Hoe&Shovel

Mary Beth said...

Meems - I think its Lost in CyberSpace. MB

Meems said...

As I was saying...
My hat is off to anyone who gardens in clay.All the amendments it takes to make it usable is astounding.Florida typically has very sandy soil but mine is rich and loamy- due to all the oak leaves over the years.

You have been working hard on your new bed. I know what it's like to get one ready and it isn't a job for whimps.Big hurrahs for you and I'll be watching for the progression and new planitings. What fun to design/decide what you will be planting... my favorite part!
Meems @Hoe&Shovel

Sue Swift said...

And there was me thinking I was going to read a post about growing herbs for pasta sauce ... :)

It's sort of on-the spot composting and mulching at the same time, isn't it? Great idea - if, as you say, you have the patience. But then, lasagna does take a while to cook. Now if someone could invent a nice quick way to tagliatelle garden, it would keep you occupied while you're waiting ...

Sue Swift said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Marie said...

Very interesting post!

Trudi said...

Mary Beth, Gypsum is very good for heavy clay it breaks up huge chunks quickly. Lime is good too but it alters the acidity of your soil. If you plant alkaline soil loving plants it wouldn't matter. The best is to have neutral soil. And yes I have added from time to time Gypsum.

Vanillalotus said...

Nice photos showing the process. I balcony garden for now but if I do get a house with a yard this will help. I believe that San Antonio has alkaline clay soil also. I'm not sure but I think that is what I have heard. I don't pay attention very much because I don't garden in the ground and I probably won't get to, but you never know. I'll be looking to see how your bed comes out after all the waiting. Patience my dear.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

Using old phone book pages is a great idea, thanks! I've struggled with newspaper sections & had to resort to trimming them with scissors. It's too bad I already sent all my old phone books to the recycle center. I'll try to remember that tip next year.

Desiree of plantgurus said...

okay, so here's the truth...I clicked on your post because my mouth started watering when I read the title, and I honestly thought is was a post about growing herbs and veggies for making fresh lasagna...(we have done theme gardens in the past, for clients, example, 'salsa' veggie gardens). So anyway, turns out your post was about the other kind of 'lasagna'...pretty funny! Great info and visuals. Good luck with your garden!

garden girl said...

I think it's a great idea, and I hope to try a lasagna garden bed as soon as I wrestle some of DH's prime lawn real estate away from him.

Mary Beth said...

Sue & Desiree - I'll never look at my "lasagna" bed again without thinking of Italian food! A sister-in-law is clearing out last year's basil crop - I think I'll have to ask her for the trimmings to include in a layer. It's only right that I include a bit of basil in my next "lasagna".

Mr. McGregor's daughter - are you wetting your newspapers BEFORE you place them down? Mine are so very moldable after they've been in a water-filled wheelbarrow for a minute or so. The other plus to wetting the newspaper before placing them in the bed is that they stay put - no matter how windy it is!

Trudi - Gypsum will be going into another bed that needs some "lightening". We'll see which does a better job here!

Plant girl, Vanillalotus, and Marie - glad you liked the post!