Friday, April 2, 2010

In the garden

There is nothing more earth friendly than maintaining a healthy organic garden.

Tuesday night my friend Scott stopped by to see what was on my art table. We also talked about my garden, had coffee, a late evening meal, then made plans to work on my garden the next day.

I tried to explain lasagna gardening to Scott, but he thought the soil needed to be turned. I wasn't about to argue with him, it would have done no good, anyway. I'm quite certain turning the soil didn't hurt anything, although it was one extra step that I wouldn't have gone through.

I thought I'd explained lasagna gardening before, but couldn't find any posts on it. Basically, if you want a weed free, maintenance free, pH neutral organic garden, lasagna gardening is the way to go.

For those of you new to my blog, here's what my garden looked like last fall when I put it to bed. I began by soaking a ton of newspapers I collected from my friends. If you don't have access to friends with newspapers, you can always find these at recycling centers, along with cardboard, which is equally good. The newspapers keep weeds to a minimum and adds organic matter to the soil as it decomposes. Be sure you get rid of any slick inserts or ads from your newspapers. These don't decompose well because there is some kind of plastic coating that prevents rapid decay.

Wet and soak, soak and wet. When dripping wet, you are ready to proceed. Although most people in the know lay down a layer of peat moss over the wet newspapers, I have never done that. I simply begin laying down organic materials over the newspapers. So what organic materials do I use? Whatever I have on hand, and that's what you should, too. Remember, this is an EARTH MONTH post and recycling is the key.

I layer grass clippings, leaves, and compost in that order. I water well after each layer. Then I begin again with very wet newspapers, grass clippings, leaves, and compost. I lay down whatever wood ash I have from my chiminea, too. If I have sawdust, it goes in between the grass clippings and the leaves. Be sure you water between all layers. If you live by the ocean, you can even use seaweed or kelp. Since I'm landlocked, I don't have access to that resource. All these organic materials are what create a neutral soil pH.

If the bed is new, I cover it with plastic to hold in the moisture and allow it to cook over the winter months. That's not to say you can't start a bed any time of the year. Just don't expect to grow anything the first year, unless you start in the fall, so your bed has a fighting chance in the spring. And, keep adding layer after layer throughout the year.

Even if your soil has nothing but rocks in it, you can still grow a lasagna garden. And you never have to dig or rototill the soil. Just be sure the place you choose gets full sun much of the day.

Scott is hard at work, turning the mixture. He removed all the newspapers that didn't break down over the winter.

Even though we lost light, Scott's enthusiasm didn't falter and you can see he's still working hard at turning the soil. After a thorough soaking, this was the second turning he did.

Yesterday was no April fooling around in the garden. You can tell the difference in the soil. The area he turned has fewer leaves and is much richer looking.

My new "soil" is now ready to plant.

The excess papers and leaves that didn't break down over the winter went into the compost containers. As they break down, I will add them on top of the mix over the summer. In fact, to maintain a healthy lasagna garden, you should continue to build up your garden even during the growing season. I tend to skip that, though, since I add mulch, in the form of shredded papers, mainly junk mail. Don't shred the envelopes with windows, though. The windows contain plastic that won't disintegrate. This acts as a mulch and weed killer, yet breaks down in the winter. I seldom have to weed anything because I take that extra step each year.

Just look at the lettuce that has started to grow already. Soon it will be so tall, I'll be able thin it out. After that, it won't be long until I can live on salad.

Yesterday was devoted to the soil and the earth. I was able to plant some of my spinach thanks to Scott's hard work. Scott came by late last night, too. He helped me plant my onions, the rest of the spinach, and more snow and sugar snap peas. All my spring crops are now planted, except the potatoes. We simply didn't have the light we needed to get them in. I hope to do that on Saturday, since I'll be spending the day with Dana tomorrow.

Even if you live in an apartment or condo, you can still plant a container garden. Grow herbs, lettuce, and tomatoes on your patio. Lettuce roots are shallow, so you don't need a very deep container of soil for your plants to grow in. Your food will taste better, will be organic, and will come from earth you "grew" from waste. To me, that's the ultimate in recycling.

Since today's post is about gardening, I wanted to share a blog I found early this morning, while looking for an appropriate blog for today. Hanna is the blog author to This Garden is Illegal. Hanna, who lives in Cleveland, OH, has so much information on her blog, it's almost sinful. Her wit and writing style are also easy to read and enjoy. If you are a gardener, want to be a gardener, or just want to feel close to the earth today, please visit Hanna's fun and extremely informative blog.

8 thoughtful remarks:

Stephanie Mealor Corder said...

Thanks SO much for the introduction to Lasagna Gardening! I also found a link:
But they don't have a whole lot more to say except how to plant it the same season you set it up....we'd been creating our own soil mix with top soil, sand and organic hen manure- this sounds ever so mulch better!

Healing Woman said...

I started lasagna gardening about 5 years ago. You are right. It is the only way to garden. The weeds are kept at bay and the soil is moist and beautiful each spring. The one thing I do worry about a bit is the leaching of the print from the newspapers into the soil. People have told me that this is not a problem because of the type of inks used but I'm still skeptical. Love to hear your take on this aspect of the lasagna gardening.

La Dolce Vita said...

oh, I can't wait to get out there and turn my soil, it is time to get the tomatoes out there in water wings! I garden organically too and Lasagne is a great description for this!!

Marie S said...

Great way to garden and I am sure it will help my granite and clay soil!!
Thanks for the link too!
Have a great weekend!

thekathrynwheel said...

Ooh I've never heard of lasagne gardening before - will have to investigate. Scott looks like a handy type of guy to have around - I think you need to send him over to my place LOL! Everything I plant in my garden gets walloped by a football *sigh*
Happy Easter to you :-) Kate

Terri Kahrs said...

This is an awesome post, Elizabeth! And after all of the hard work that Scott's put in, he deserves a lasagna meal with a nice salad on the side!!! He's absolutely correct. The garden DID need to be "turned". I remember my Grandmother gardening with compost l-o-n-g before it was "fashionable". She'd save her vegetable "trimmings" and grass clippings, etc. Her tomatoes were the B-e-s-t!!! My mouth waters 'til this day when I think of them. Hope you have a fabulous weekend and a Happy Easter! Hugs, Terri xoxo

Gaby Bee said...

I wish you a wonderful weekend, Elizabeth. Thanks for visiting and a Happy Easter to you too!
Hugs, Gaby

~*~Patty Szymkowicz said...

how exciting to get to play in the dirt!
your garden is already taking great shape!
Enjoy * Enjoy!