Want bountiful soil? Try lasagna gardening

February 20, 2011 

For 30 years I've been trying to discover one particular name. It was the name of the member of a local garden club who won the contest to give a title to the newly formed organization.

Mystery solved. I learned last week that it was not a member but the husband of member Mary Anne Baehr. Her husband, Jim Baehr, gave this active and interesting garden club name: The Island Transplants. A fitting name indeed, as all were residents of Hilton Head Island, newly arrived and carrying their garden baggage with them.

The Island Transplants have grown in number over the years; there are serious gardeners within their membership, many of them well known locally for their plant expertise. Meeting with them last week was reunion time. Present were many longtime friends and charter members Nita Furner and Kit Steffan.

The focus was on herbs; hostess Judy Walker provided small plates of food prepared using herbs and little salt.

In today's world, eating healthy means growing healthy food. As more gardeners grow organically, we look forward to the day when organic foods are priced no differently then those grown with chemicals.

LASAGNA GARDENING

Grassy lawns are taking a hit. In many cases, it's the expense of maintaining a carpet of weedless green that has led to creating more garden and less lawn. But how to get rid of the grass without the use of killer chemicals?

There is a way; it's a system of layering that suffocates grass and weeds while creating a garden with rich soil that will provide all the nutrients you'll need to grow a bountiful vegetable crop. It's called lasagna gardening and once you've completed the initial preparation, it will require no digging, tilling or weeding.

Start with wet newspaper, the thicker the better. Wet the newspaper by soaking in a bucket of water. While it's soaking, mark the outline of the garden -- in full sun if you're growing vegetables -- with stakes or string (I use a garden hose). Now lay thick pads of wet newspaper close together, so the edges overlap to keep grass or weeds from sneaking through.

Next, add a 2- to 3-inch layer of peat moss to cover the paper. Spread a 5- to 7-inch layer of organic mulch material such as compost, mulched leaves, 4 inches of grass clippings, another 2-inch layer of peat moss, horse manure if you can get it or buy processed manure, and 2 more inches of peat moss.

I finish with a dusting of wood ashes and sawdust. I don't layer lime in my lasagna gardens, as there's been lime added to the compost bin. A layer of pine needles goes on last, for the looks of it and to serve as mulch after the garden is planted.

To break down the materials in the lasagna garden and have rich, crumbly soil in six weeks or less (it depends on the time of year; less time is required if it's summer), cover the bed with black plastic and weigh down the edges with bricks.

Now you're ready to plant. Don't bother digging: just pull back the layers with your hands, pop in the plant and pull the mulch materials back around the roots.

This works for seeds too; scatter the seeds but don't replace the mulch materials. If you're planting herbs, remember to let a few plants "go to seed." The seeds will sprout, and seedlings will emerge through the mulch.

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