OK. Time to start thinking about next year's garden. Here's a photo of a plot at the Belmont Victory Gardens where the gardener does "lasagna gardening". (That's a thick layer of horse manure and wood chips on the top.)
I'm starting to feel guilty about tilling my garden and this was a big discussion topic during my Thanksgiving travels.
Here's are highlights from my quick research on the topic.
"Lasagna gardening is method of layering organic materials and compost right in the garden and then planting directly in these layers. Its a time saving organic gardening method developed by gardener and writer, Patricia Lanza, which requires no digging." Lasagna Gardening by Colleen Vanderlinden. At Amazon.com: Lasagna Gardening: A New Layering System for Bountiful Gardens: No Digging, No Tilling, No Weeding, No Kidding! by Patricia Lanza.
"A Japanese guy named Masanobu Fukuoka started the idea of no-til gardening/farming with his book One Straw Revolution. There was also an American woman called Ruth Stout and an Australian woman named Ester Deans who both promoted the idea in their day." (from a comment Patrick left me)
"To make a lasagna garden: stake out your garden site and begin building beds layer by layer. First layer is something heavy like thick newspaper or flattened cardboard to kill the existing grass. Next layer is 2-3 inches of water absorbent material like peat moss or coir. Next a 4-8 inch layer of compost. Another layer of coir or peat, and then yet another layer of organic material, like grass clippings on top of the coir, and on and on until the beds reach 18-24 inches high. Finally, the tops of the piles may be sprinkled lightly with bone meal and wood ash for added phosphorus and potassium. One of the greatest advantages to lasagna gardening is that you can layer your beds and plant your crops all in the same day. When you're planting a lasagna garden, no digging is required. For transplants, simply pull back the layers of mulch, drop in the plant and pull some mulching materials back over the roots. Sowing seeds is easy, too. Sprinkle a little finished compost over the area you want to plant, sow the seed, and cover it with a little more of the finished compost. Press down on the bed to secure the seeds and water thoroughly." An Introduction to Lasagna Gardening by Ellen Brown
I've always used old-fashioned cover-crop-and-till gardening methods, but was thinking of setting up a lasagna bed for comparison this year. My concerns are:
- Where do you get all that fresh organic material? I'm not going to go out and buy plastic bags full of peat.
- Why compost in my garden? I have a nice compost pile. I collect it all year and it'll be really nice this spring. Plus I have access to composted yard waste from the town.
- Why not grow a cover crop? Growing a legume crop a very efficient way to generate nitrogen. Cover crops require tilling in the spring and aren't compatible with no till methods.
- Why try to save time in the garden? Its only a small plot and some exercise is good.
- What if you don't have enough worms to mix the soil and poke holes in the layers? Layering is a perfect method of preventing water from reaching the lowers levels. Layered soil has the poorest drainage rate.
- And if its important that worms mix the soil, why not help them by turning it myself?
- Newspaper lying around the garden is not very attractive.....
- No-till methods may be important to prevent erosion in large fields, but for a tiny home plot on flat land, erosion is not an issue.
- How can you do a soil test on a lasagna plot? Which layer would you sample?
I seem to be talking myself out of this method here. Maybe I'll stay pro-till another year.