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This isn't Garfield's lasagna

This past spring, my husband and I dug a new vegetable garden. The garden is not as large as I would like it to be. After completing two-thirds of the bed, we stopped. Removing all of that sod was too much work. So, to complete the garden this fall, I am going to create a lasagna garden.

Lasagna gardening is a no-dig, no-till gardening method that results in rich, fluffy soil with relatively little work from the gardener. The name lasagna gardening has nothing to do with what you'll be growing in this garden. It refers to the method of building the garden, which is, essentially, adding layers of organic materials that will compost over time, resulting in rich, fluffy soil that will help your plants thrive.

The first layer of your lasagna garden consists of either cardboard or a few layers of newspaper laid directly on top of the grass in the area you've selected for your garden. Wet this layer down to keep everything in place and start the decomposition process. The grass under the newspaper will break down fairly quickly as the newspaper and materials quickly smother the grass. The remaining layers will consist of anything you would put in a compost pile such as grass clippings, leaves, fruit and vegetable scraps, composted manure, and yard scraps.

Just as with an edible lasagna, there is some importance to the methods you use to build your lasagna garden. You'll want to alternate layers of brown materials such as fall leaves, shredded newspaper, peat, and pine needles with layers of greens materials such as vegetable scraps, garden trimmings, and grass clippings. What you want at the end of your layering process is a two-foot tall layered bed that will shrink in height over the next few weeks.

You can make a lasagna garden at any time of year, but we are entering the optimal time of the year. During the fall, there are large amounts of organic materials you can get for free thanks to fallen leaves and general yard waste from cleaning up the rest of the yard and garden. You can let the lasagna garden sit and break down all winter. By spring, it will be ready to plant in with a minimum of effort.

Anne Lenox Barlow has had experience in the agricultural field as a horticulture educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County. She can be reached by e-mail at a.lennox.barlow@gmail.com.

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