Gardening News

Compost using the lazy lasagna method

TO CREATE A new garden space or area for a hammock using the lazy lasagna method, cut the grass low and remove persistent weeds before laying cardboard over the area, wetting it and covering with pine bark mulch.  Photo by Jodi Larison

While doing your fall yard clean-up, envision and decide on an area for a new flower or vegetable garden or a space to relax.

For a garden, a sunny area close to a water source is best. As to size, for ease of maintenance, keep the width to no more than three feet.

Save the leaves that you rake up, small twigs you gather and healthy plant materials you remove. These materials can be used in creating your new garden.

A couple of years ago, I decided to develop two new grass-free areas in my yard, a garden using native plants that attract and support pollinators and a place for a hammock under a large tree.

To start these new areas, I used a method I call “lazy lasagna.” To implement this method, I cropped the grass in these areas as low as possible and removed persistent weeds. Then I laid cardboard over the areas, overlapping it so there were no gaps.

Next, I wet the cardboard and then covered it with pine bark mulch. As available, I added items that will not affect the look, such as eggshells, grass clippings and coffee grounds to the garden area.

Creating the hammock area entailed covering the entire space under the tree’s canopy. When mulching under a tree, never add more than four inches of mulch, less if poorly draining soil, and always keep the mulch away from the tree’s trunk.

I derived my lazy lasagna recipe by streamlining a more detailed practice called lasagna mulching, a form of composting. The benefits of lasagna mulching are that you build up the area, which is easier than digging down. The mulch also smothers grass and most weeds and improves soil health.

Most composting methods use heat, while lasagna mulching is a cold composting method. Therefore, it takes longer for the materials to decompose. Lasagna mulching can be done anytime, but fall is ideal, as the materials break down during winter, so the area is ready for spring planting.

The required ingredients in all composting, including lasagna mulching, are carbon, nitrogen, air and water. Just as there are many recipes for the lasagna you serve as a meal, the same is true for lasagna mulching. Think about materials you have on hand or can easily access that can be utilized.

Carbon is supplied through brown materials. Examples are cardboard, dry leaves, dead plants, twigs, bark, pinecones and pine needles. Nitrogen is obtained from green materials, which include grass clippings, eggshells and coffee grounds.

For composting, the common recommendation is three parts brown to one part green. Lasagna mulching alternates layers of greens and browns. In the mix, never include anything that might attract animals, such as meat. Do not use items that will not break down, such as plastics or anything that might be toxic, such as pet waste.

The pile will shrink as the materials decompose. You can start with materials you have and add additional layers as more materials become available. Stop layering about six months before you plan to plant in the new garden area.

Keep the pile moist, but do not let it get saturated. Consider covering with a tarp and removing it in the spring. If the cardboard has not fully disintegrated, by then, make holes in it to plant your plants.

This winter take time to figure out the perfect plants for your new garden. Happy gardening!

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