Happy March! In Indiana, it feels like spring is already here. The weather has been strange and has me more than a little paranoid. But regardless, real spring is right around the corner. If you are planning on starting a garden for the first time this year or, like us, adding to your existing garden. I have an easy assignment for you this weekend to get a jump start on your garden bed. You will need the following: a plan, some cardboard and/or newspaper, and maybe some rocks or something else heavy enough to keep the cardboard/newspaper from flying around. Sounds easy enough, huh?
Grant and I both work outside the house full time, in addition to chasing around two crazies, so we are always partial to the methods that maximize results and minimize our efforts, which is what first attracted us to lasagna gardening. But the more we read about the benefits of not tilling and as we have learned more about permaculture, we realized this simpler method has hundreds of other benefits for the long-term health of our soil, in addition to fulfilling our desire to do the least amount of work as possible. Here are the details of our process:
- Put a plan down on paper. We are just expanding our garden size to the south of the existing garden, so our plan was pretty straight-forward (side note: we bought one of these landscaping measuring tapes, and it has been worth every penny for things like this). Then mark off your design in the future garden area. We typically just put stones or stakes in the corners.
- Gather up some cardboard and/or newspaper. We prefer cardboard as our base layer, and we had tons of it from our recent kitchen remodel. But newspaper works, as well, especially in smaller places. Or feel free to use a combination of the two. Layer the cardboard/newspaper in your future garden area. We have a large space, so Grant layered the cardboard while Jasper and I carried stones over to keep it weighted down.
- Water the cardboard/newspaper in if it isn’t supposed to rain in the next 24 hours.
The above three steps are what we do when we’re starting new paths over existing grass. The cardboard will kill the grass over the next few weeks, and then we will proceed with the final few steps listed below. If we’re layering over soil, we will proceed with the next steps immediately.
- Start collecting green and brown materials – all of the following will work:
- Grass clippings (green)
- Leaves (brown)
- Fruit and Vegetable Scraps (green)
- Coffee Grounds (green)
- Tea leaves and tea bags (green)
- Aged manure (green)
- Compost (green)
- Shredded newspaper or junk mail (brown)
- Pine needles (brown)
- Spent blooms, trimmings from the garden (green)
- Peat moss (brown)
- Additional information here.
- Over the cardboard base layer, alternative layering green and brown materials. This is not an exact science, so don’t get too stressed out about it. You just want to wind up with about two-feet tall worth of organic material. It will compost down in no time.
- If you’re making your bed in the later spring time, you may need to add more peat, compost, or top soil to the top layer to have enough soil to plant in. The best time to create new beds is the fall, so that the materials have all winter to break down and are ready for you by spring. But we have had great success in this method in the early spring, when we’re more likely to be garden planning anyway.
- When it’s time to plant, depending on how much the cardboard has broken down, you may need to create a little hole for your plants with your trowel. The cardboard typically tears easily after just a few weeks outside.
Now get (lazy) gardening!