That’s Amore: Lasagna Gardening

When the moon hits your eye
Like a big pizza pie, that’s amore
That’s amore
When the world seems to shine
Like you’ve had too much wine, that’s amore . . .

Sing it, Dino.

Edible Lasagna

Edible Lasagna

 

Two of my favorites things are: (1)  food and (2) gardening, in that order.  And, one of my most favorite types of food is Italian. There is so much wonderful cheesy, carb-laden goodness in those pastas and sauces. Of course, there is more to Italian food than pasta. There are wonderful meat, grilled vegetables and seafood dishes too. But, for real comfort food, there is nothing quite like lasagna.

Now, I realize that there are those who would argue that good spaghetti with marina is hard to beat, but for me, Lasagna is più delizioso. Whereas, a spaghetti alla marinara can sometimes be too thin or too thick, leaving too much pasta and not enough sauce for each bite, lasagna provides wonderful layers of flavor in each and every bite.

Weird Al Yankovich even recorded a parody called “Lasagna”, which knocks “On Top of Spaghetti” out of the top ten songs about Italian food.  You can listen for yourself and decide.  But, I digress –

Lasagna:  

On Top of Spaghetti:

So, back to Lasagna: multiple layers of ingredients mixed together to create a wonderful dish containing flavors that compliment each other, in each and every bite. Each ingredient by itself is pretty good, but together, they create a flavor explosion in your mouth. Not only is it delicious, but also it’s also easy and inexpensive to make.

Arable Lasagna

Arable Lasagna

What does Lasagna have to do with cultivation you ask? Well, lasagna is the name of a no-till gardening technique that is gaining popularity here in the states. I first heard about Lasagna gardening a few years ago from my son, who wwoofed (http://www.wwoof.com.au) on farms in Australia, including the Food Forest in Gawer, South Australia. While there, he met, and took permaculture courses from, permaculture co-creator, David Holgrem. Then he came back, and shared those experiences with me.  At the time, I didn’t fully appreciate the information, but now  I do.

You don’t have to till your soil to create a healthy, supportive growing environment for your food crops. This is a big deal, because arable land is not always readily available, especially, if your yard is mostly lawn. Instead of pulling out lawn for a garden, or working long-term to amend the soil so it will support crops, you could just build the garden right on top of the lawn. Nice and Easy.

A lasagna garden is made by layering several different items one after the other, just as lasagna is done. The natural process of decomposition will break down the materials for you and “mix” it together.

Layering Example

Layering Example

To make a lasagna garden:

  • Begin by selecting your new garden area.
  • Don’t remove the sod or do any extra work, like removing weeds or rocks.
  • Mark the area for your garden using a water hose or a long rope to get the desired shape.
  • Moisten the soil thoroughly with a hose and add a generous dusting of bloodmeal and bonemeal. Wear a mask to avoid inhaling the dust.  Bloodmeal adds nitrogen and bonemeal adds phosphorus to the layers, which is key to fostering decomposition of the hay and straw
  • (Repeat the watering and dusting step after adding each layer to the pile.)
  • Cover the area with flattened cardboard or several layers of newspaper that have been soaked with water, overlapping the edges (5 or more sheets per layer).
  • Add a layer of “green”. This can include manure, vegetable scraps or lawn clippings.
  • Add a layer of “brown”. This includes shredded leaves, hay, shredded newspaper or other similar materials.
  • There are no hard and fast rules about what to use for your layers, just so long as it’s organic and doesn’t contain any protein (fat, meat, or bone).
  • Repeat steps 2 and 3 until the bed is between 1-1/2 feet and 2 feet tall.
  • Water until the garden is the consistency of a damp sponge.
  • Plant, plant, plant and mulch, mulch, mulch.

Here are a few examples of what the beds look like. The no-dig piles are fairly stable, but some gardeners prefer to build boxes to contain them. It’s up to you.
lasagna more
Lasagna-02

lasagne sample