Lasagna gardening

Let me begin by saying I am one of the few people in North America who does not like lasagna. Add to that the fact I would never order spaghetti or any other pasta dish, and you also can include Europe in that statement.

But, I do love lasagna gardening.

This involves using the technique formally known as sheet composting to build a successful garden bed for flowers or vegetables in virtually any space.

The way a lasagna garden is made allows the gardener to take a rocky, infertile, stony or weed-covered space and turn it into a productive growing site with little effort.

If this sounds too good to be true, just give it a try.

Begin by covering the area with some of those corrugated cardboard boxes that contained your gifts from Santa, and which you have been meaning for weeks to flatten and take to the recycling center. Or, if you already got rid of them, you can use sheets of newspaper. Three layers of paper is about right, overlapped as needed.

When you have the area covered, wet it down really well. This will do a couple of things. The dark and dampness will attract earthworms, who will help you to mix the soil, and also will suffocate most of the weeds just hankering to burst through the ground.

I say most because it is unrealistic to expect 100 percent. Weeds with long taproots such as Queen Anne’s lace and thistles may call up their underground resources and tunnel through, but they will be easier to remove.

Now, on top of that layer, start to add biodegradable waste from your kitchen and garden. Use all the stuff you would otherwise put on the compost pile.

It is recommended you alternate brown and green layers, two parts of brown to one green, but unless you are a compulsive neat freak, allow yourself some leeway here. Just be sure to use both types of material.

Included in the brown layers are shredded newspaper, leaves, small twigs, worn-out potting soil, old mulch, tea or coffee leavings, peat moss or straw.

The green layers could be weeds, grass clippings (without herbicide), garden trimmings, fruit and vegetable peelings and other kitchen waste. Anything recommended for compost can go here.

Keep adding layers until you have built up about 18 inches. It will sink down as decomposition takes place through the summer, so you can keep adding more as you go. A covering of snow in the winter is really valuable because it insulates and keeps the space moist (I just knew there was some advantage to be gained from all the white stuff this winter).

Now, you are ready to plant. The soil you have created is loose and friable, so you can put in seedlings without even

using tools. Just be sure to keep the area damp.

Last year, I used this method on a strip along the side of the garage behind the bean trellis. It is hard to reach back there to weed, water and cultivate. It was a great success with minimal effort.

This winter, I have gone back to the compost bin but will start to build again in the spring and enjoy my lasagna.

Janet Del Turco is a local gardener and a graduate of the Ohio State University Master Gardener program.

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