5 simple steps to follow |
Learning how to build a lasagna garden is an easy and practical way to start new beds through a layering system, and it’s the decomposition that takes place in the bed that results in a rich soil that plants will absolutely love.
Lasagna gardening is a no-dig, organic gardening method that allows you to create fertile beds from everyday materials like grass clippings, kitchen scraps, and yard waste.
Also known as leaf composting or leaf mulching, it is a truly eco-friendly method of gardening as many of the materials used to make the beds are often considered waste. But instead of throwing them in the landfill, turn them into compost-rich garden beds.
How to build a lasagna garden in 5 steps
Allison Vallin Kostovick (opens in new tab) is the creator of Finch + Folly and has created many garden beds using the lasagna gardening method over her 25 years of gardening. The organic gardening expert claims that such layered beds — similar to those seen in no-dig gardening, where compost is poured onto cardboard — are “easy to lay out.”
She says: “Over three-quarters of my garden was built using lasagna methods. Creating beds like this is a win-win approach to building a happy, healthy, and drought-resistant garden.”
Allison Vallin Kostovick (opens in new tab) is a veteran organic gardener with over 25 years of experience and the author of The Garden Maker’s Book of Wonder, to be published by Storey Publishing in August 2023. She is also the creator of Finch + Folly, an educational website with advice and articles for gardeners. Here she offers her five-step method for building a lasagna garden bed.
- Choose a lawn in a sunny spot and lay either newspaper or cardboard on it to make the base of your bed. Make sure you overlap the newspaper/cardboard so no grass is sticking out underneath. Give your base material a good soak with water. An alternative to creating beds on an existing lawn is to use the same method of filling a frame to create a raised bed.
- Your next layer will be a mix of twigs and small branches. Build up this layer so that it is about 8 inches high. You want your twigs and branches to be loosely layered on top of each other, don’t bag them as this layer will provide the necessary airflow for your bed.
- The third layer should be a 3- to 5-inch layer of “brown” ingredients such as dried leaves, shredded newspaper, wood ash, straw, and untreated wood shavings.
- On top of this layer, you should place a 3- to 5-inch thick layer of “green” ingredients such as grass clippings, kitchen scraps (compostable items only), and weed-free and disease-free yard waste. You can also add a portion of old crap.
- Next, repeat the process with another 3-5 inch layer of brown ingredients, then another layer of the green ingredients, and another layer of brown ingredients.
The layers built up will settle and reduce in height as they are mined in the coming months. Lasagna garden beds usually need to be left between six and 12 months before planting, giving them time to fully decompose and release all the nutrients in the material. However, you can cover the bed with about 10-14 inches of compost if you want to start planting in the bed right away.
In the fall, start again—without needing the initial cardboard base—by layering green and brown ingredients to fill in the beds. Alternatively, you can cover them with 6-8 inches of compost in the fall or spring.
When is the best time to build a lasagna garden bed?
Lasagna beds are a great way to start in gardens of any size, making them perfect for small vegetable garden ideas as well as larger backyard spaces. As previously mentioned, lasagne beds should be allowed 6-12 months to decompose before actually planting in the garden. This traditional time of decomposition helps determine what actually is the best time to make a lasagna bed.
Allison Vallin Kostovick (opens in new tab) says, “While they can be built any time of the year, fall is the ideal time to build a lasagna garden bed. Not only does this give you plenty of available material to work with, it also allows the bed to set and decay for several months before spring sowing.’
Fall is usually a time when gardens are cleaned up and cleared for the winter, and it can mean that lots of leaves, clippings and other debris are readily available to put in the bed.
Fall and winter also usually bring a lot of rain or snow which can keep the layers moist which in turn can speed up the breakdown process and starting the process in the fall means the lasagna bed can take up to six months to break down and be ready to to plant in spring.
frequently asked Questions
How many layers of cardboard do I need for a lasagna garden bed?
You only need the one cardboard pad at the bottom of the lasagne garden bed. This one layer is thick enough to prevent light from seeping through and ultimately suffocating the weeds underneath. If you cannot source cardboard, you can use newspapers as an alternative. In this situation, it would take at least four sheets of newspaper to be thick enough to block the light the way cardboard does.
If you are thinking of new potential vegetable garden ideas or greener ways to start a vegetable garden, then building a lasagna garden is a really interesting approach. No-dig, also known as no-till, gardening is a very popular organic growing technique around the world, and lasagna gardening ticks all of those boxes.
A bonus of learning to build a lasagna garden bed is that it reuses all of the items that so many people throw away, including kitchen scraps, lawn clippings, and other garden waste.