Being the quasi-pseudo-farmer that I like to pretend I am, I’ve been busy the past few weeks pulling diseased plants, planting garlic cloves, raking leaves to use as mulch, sowing cover crops such as hairy vetch and fall rye, fermenting tomato seeds and gathering seed heads to fill my windowsill with little plates of dried bits and pieces.
What is lasagna gardening, you may ask? Well it’s not about laying layers of tomato sauce, ricotta cheese and eggplant on the ground, as the hubby worried.
Lasagna gardening is a no-dig method of preparing a plot of land, weeds, grass, what-have-you for a garden in the next growing season. As I disdainfully eyed the woeful brown grass behind my house during this past dry summer, my mind was preoccupied with finding a better use of this valuable bit of earth, than boring old lawn.
“A smooth, closely shaven surface of grass is by far the most essential element of beauty on the grounds of a suburban house. Let your lawn be your home’s velvet robe, and your flowers not too promiscuous decorations. ~ Landscape designer, Frank J. Scott, 1870
In today’s world with water and land at a premium, there’s not much justification for extensive lawns. There are however a multitude of reasons to convert grass to garden, not the least of which is the shocking amount of clean, fresh residential water used for landscaping, most of it to water lawns, as well as the ingredients in pesticides and fertilizers applied to suburban lawns each year that increase polluted runoff, affecting aquifers, our iconic lakes, rivers and streams, wildlife and human health.
So as not to disturb the vital microorganisms already in the soil, lasagne gardens avoid toiling and tilling. Simply alternating carbon-rich ‘brown’ items (such as newspaper, sawdust or dried leaves) with nitrogen-rich ‘green’ items (kitchen vegetable scraps, eggshells, coffee grounds, etc) gives these micro organisms all that they require (warmth, moisture and extra nutrients) to create compost in no time. I started gathering said items: collecting out-dated newspapers from work, raking fallen crimson-coloured maple leaves, shoveling the horse manure left on the path behind my house (what’s that they say about lemonade?), mushroom compost and a big bag of soil.
I started with a light weeding and raking of all the stones and pebbles from the lucky piece of land. Added a triple layer of newspapers. Old horse manure. Mushroom compost. Some dried leaves and a final topping up of soil. Boom! Ready to decompose.
Now this is my kind of gardening.