Years ago, I tried my hand at creating a no dig lasagna garden using something called sheet mulching. It’s become top of mind again, now that we’ve moved to a new home and want to start a new vegetable garden here.
Turns out that making a lasagna garden has nothing to do with cooking an Italian pasta dish. On the other hand, it has everything to do with setting up a new place to put plants without killing your back.
What is a no dig lasagna garden
So, how do you make a no dig lasagna garden? Well, instead of digging a garden, you build one on top of the ground by creating layers.
What are those layers? Well, leaves, grass clippings, compost, dirt etc. that you layer on top of newspaper or cardboard. It’s a great way to help cardboard decompose.
Then, you let the whole thing sit for a season. Yeah, that involves some planning ahead. However, after a few months, you’ll have a great garden with amazing dirt.
You can do this method, called sheet mulching, in fall for a spring garden. Or, you can do sheet mulching in spring to plant in fall.
Truth is, fall is probably better since one of the key ingredients is fallen leaves. And when are you most likely to have an abundance of leaves? In fall. Or, during a drought. But you get the point.
How to start a no dig garden
I was intrigued, because this sounded relatively easy. Also, I have been making compost for over a year but haven’t been able to do anything with it. This seemed like the perfect opportunity.
Just to be sure I didn’t end up making a mess of my yard, first I did some additional research on the lasagna garden.
Here’s what I learned: basically, you’re building up your own garden by using things you already own. You want to do this in a spot that gets a decent amount of sun to help with decomposition.
Supplies for lasagna gardening
Here’s what you’ll need to get your lasagna garden started:
* newspapers or flattened sheets of cardboard
* leaves or grass clippings
* compost material, like coffee grounds
Steps for sheet mulching
One, you should lay down a layer of newspaper. You’re doing this to choke out any grass or weeds below it.
To ensure you’ve got enough coverage, put two to three sheets of newspaper down, one on top of the other. Then, wet it.
The wet newspaper won’t be as likely to blow away–helpful if you attempt some lasagna gardening on a breezy day like I did.
Also, it helps to start the “break down” process of the newspaper on the stuff underneath. Newspaper is great for making compost, as it is one of the fastest elements to decompose.
Lay down a layer of leaves
Two, you’ll put down a layer of leaves on top of the newspaper. If you compost, you know that in order to get your organic matter to break down, you need to layer it brown, green, brown, green, etc.
The lasagna garden, which is really a composting garden, is no different. So the first layer of leaves is your first layer of brown.
You can use whatever kind of leaves you have in your yard. So, this could be pine needles or other leaves.
Now it’s time for compost
Three, your next layer in lasagna gardening is the “green” one. We call it green because it’s the active organic matter that you’ll be using.
So, in this instance, it was the right time to empty out my composting pin. It felt so satisfying using a pitchfork and seeing all the great compost I’d made over the past year from composting our food scraps.
Then, I dumped the compost onto the leaves layer.
I must admit that it was a bit challenging spreading moist compost around on leaves. What made it challenging was the fact that the leaves tended to move with the compost.
However, I gutted it out. Then, in no time flat, I got the job done.
After that I did another layer of leaves for my “brown.” Thankfully, I’ve got a ton of trees on my property.
On the other hand, if you have a yard without a lot of trees, you can dump the clippings from your lawn mower as your brown layer–again, weird since the clippings are actually green.
FYI, you’re supposed to make your brown layer about twice as thick as the green layer. Oh and at this point? I was completely out of compost. I’ve got something like an 80-gallon compost bin, so this used up a lot of compost.
How big a lasagna garden should be
You can make your lasagna garden space as big as you want it to be. However, you should think about how high it ends up being.
Best practices for getting the best dirt next season say that you’re supposed to sheet mulch until it’s close to two-feet high when you’re done. Mine didn’t get quite that big.
When I was done, I stuck a yard stick in the pile. It showed me that I’d reached 16 inches tall. Sure, that’s not perfect, but it was good enough. And sometimes good enough is good enough.
Fast forward a season, and the lasagna garden was ready for planting. Check out how beautiful the dirt ended up being.
At this point, you’re ready to start planting whatever it is you hope to grow. Me? We used our lasagna garden to grow cucumbers, tomatoes, string beans and more.
Oh, and for kicks and giggles, we planted sunflowers. Check out how tall one of them got. My husband is six foot three for comparison’s sake.