How to Make a Raised Bed Lasagna Garden

Updated on April 30, 2020
rebeccamealey profile image

Rebecca is a retired special education teacher. She earned a master's degree at Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah, GA.

This guide will break down how to set up your own raised beds garden that doesn't require digging or tilling.
This guide will break down how to set up your own raised beds garden that doesn't require digging or tilling. | Source

No-Dig Container Gardening

After leaving the hustle and bustle of the city behind to enjoy the country lifestyle, I soon found myself contemplating having a garden. I began to explore my gardening options and decided that a no-dig garden method was definitively the way to go for me.

I learned that raised beds, lasagna gardening, and straw bale gardening were no-dig gardening plans that could work for me. Although I might not get to grow those tall stalks of corn like Mr. Farmer Up the Road, I decided that I could still grow quite a variety of tasty fresh veggies with a no-dig garden plan.

A huge factor in the decision to go with a no-dig garden design was the local soil: red clay soil. It is low in major nutrients, such as calcium and potassium, and difficult to dig and cultivate. Lime and other fertilizers have to be added for growing vegetables. A second factor was the fact that I didn’t own a tiller or tractor and didn’t really care to.

Raised beds—together with lasagna gardening, sometimes called sheet composting—is a way to grow vegetables, flowers, and herbs with no back-breaking digging. This guide will break down how to take advantage of this approach.

What Is Lasagna Gardening?

Lasagna gardening is a method of no-dig gardening and doesn't refer to the dish.

Raised beds eliminate digging in hardened soil.
Raised beds eliminate digging in hardened soil.

Benefits of a Raised Bed Garden

Here is a list of the primary benefits of setting up a raised bed garden:

  • Weed control is much easier.
  • The garden plot can be placed in the best location for sunlight.
  • The soil will be warmer.
  • It offers better drainage.
  • It requires less bending and stooping for planting and weeding.
  • Pathway weeds are avoided.
  • Cold air sinks down around the base of the box, making tender plants less susceptible to freeze.
  • It's easier to cover plants for late frost.
  • Kids and pets are less likely to run through the garden.

Building a Raised Bed Garden

The first good solution to gardening where the soil is rocky or of poor quality is a raised bed garden plot. A raised bed is a sort of bottomless box, making it different from a container garden. The most common materials used are plywood boards that are hinged together. However, there are other options.

Avoid the cost of lumber and hardware with whatever you have on hand. Bricks, concrete blocks, old logs, large rocks or boulders, and railroad ties are some suggestions. There are raised bed gardening kits available for ordering if building your own is just not possible for you.

Use 2 feet of soil in a raised bed garden.
Use 2 feet of soil in a raised bed garden.

Ingredients for Lasagna Gardening

Whatever you decide to use for your raised bed, there needs to be room for about 2 feet of soil or growing medium.

Lasagna gardening, also known as sheet composting, is a less expensive way to provide a rich, nutritious environment for vegetable garden planting. It involves layering carbon-rich (brown) and nitrogen-rich (green) materials. Just as there are different recipes for making a dish of lasagna, so can the ingredients for a lasagna garden vary. When combining greens and browns for your lasagna garden, use what you have on hand.

Browns
Greens
old leaves
grass clippings
pine straw
dead plants or flowers
shredded paper
fruit and vegetable leftovers
sawdust
egg shells
wood chips
coffee grounds
dryer lint
pruning clippings
animal hair
animal manure, vegetarian animals

Putting Your Lasagna Garden Together

Just as long and slow-baked dishes are tastier, your lasagna garden will do best if the “ingredients for cooking” are started in the fall before the following planting season. The lasagna ingredients can be used to form a garden bed without boards or a border, but I like to think of the raised box as a “pan” to hold the lasagna garden.

After you have a raised bed border (built in a good sunny location for “baking”), it will be time for the layering. Start by lining the bottom with a “crust” of newspaper or cardboard, wetting it well. There is no need for digging. Remember: this is a no-dig garden. The newspaper or cardboard will serve to suffocate any grass or weeds that might grow in the garden. The dark, damp environment will encourage earthworms to enter the garden. They will eat their way through the decomposing paper to become “little tillers” in the no-dig lasagna garden.

Begin layering the green and brown ingredients for the lasagna garden. Make the brown layers a little thicker than the green. Top off the lasagna garden with a sprinkling of wood ashes from a fire or fireplace. The wood ashes will help condition the soil and act as an organic pesticide. Finally, a layer of mulch—like pine park or pine straw—will seal everything inside the “dish” and lock in moisture.

Plant marigolds to add color and deter wild animals.
Plant marigolds to add color and deter wild animals.

Planting the Lasagna Garden

To save money and enjoy the garden experience even more, it’s great to start seeds in seed starters three to four weeks before planting time. Peas, lettuce, green beans, beets, squash, peppers, carrots, radishes, and more will grow well.

Tomato seeds are so tiny it is best to buy the seedlings. Plant root veggies, like carrots and radishes, directly into the garden after the danger of frost has passed. Scattering in a few marigolds between the veggies adds color and beauty, and wild animals will also tend to avoid the garden as a result. They don’t like the smell.

A variety of vegetables and herbs grow well in container gardens
A variety of vegetables and herbs grow well in container gardens

Quick Method for Lasagna Gardening

Suppose spring planting time is near and you’ve just learned of the method (as I did). Just as there is a quick cook method for some dishes, there is one for a lasagna garden. Composting is an important process for introducing a variety of microbes to form rich, loamy soil. Collect green ingredients and begin a compost pile. If you add all of your green kitchen waste, it will build up quickly. Toss in last winter’s dead leaves, pine straw, or other brown ingredients. In one month, you will have a good composting matter built up.

Layer the composted material with a few thin layers of good black topsoil that you buy. I also added some of the local red soil. I figured that it must have at least some nutritional value. After all, it is iron that gives it the red color.

To make the lasagna garden even more nutritious, add in a couple of layers of animal manure (from grain-eating animals only). If you live near a farm this will be free, or a pet store will happily give you all the rabbit poop you want.

These quick cook methods will help jump-start a lasagna garden. Another option is to start in the early spring for early summer planting. Either way, you'll be rewarded with fresh vegetables and herbs without any back-breaking digging.

Fresh veggies and herbs with no back-breaking digging.
Fresh veggies and herbs with no back-breaking digging.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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    • rebeccamealey profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecca Mealey 

      2 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      That's true! I hope you are safe and well.

    • rebeccamealey profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecca Mealey 

      2 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Glad to be of help. Happy gardening!

    • rebeccamealey profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecca Mealey 

      2 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      I'm glad! Thanks!

    • rebeccamealey profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecca Mealey 

      2 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Yes, it's MUCH easier. Thanks, Pamela

    • rebeccamealey profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecca Mealey 

      2 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      You're welcome! Thanks for commenting.

    • rebeccamealey profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecca Mealey 

      2 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Glad to hear! thanks for reading and commenting.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      2 months ago from USA

      This is good motivation for people to get out there and start growing their own food. What else is there to do? Especially with the pandemic people need to be more self-sufficient with their food.

    • Pollyanna Jones profile image

      Pollyanna Jones 

      2 months ago from United Kingdom

      What a great and helpful read! I use no dig on my vegetable plot and it really does work well. Your chart on compost materials was particularly helpful. I shall try this.

    • Ruchira profile image

      Ruchira 

      2 months ago from United States

      That is on my agenda, and your article is giving me a sign as if it's the call of the Universe :)

      Thank you.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      2 months ago from Sunny Florida

      This looks like a very good way to have a garden. I have never heard the term lasagna gardening before but it sounds like it fits the look of this garden. I would think it might be easier to maintain this garden once the initial work is complete, Rebecca.

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 

      2 months ago from Chicago

      Neat. I like it. Never heard of it before. Thanks for the enlightenment.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      2 months ago from New Delhi, India

      This is a wonderful article, about how to make a raised bed or the lasagna garden. I was aware of this method of gardening, but had no idea about the name. Thanks for the education.

      I am sure this method will bring good yields, especially for the vegetables. I am going to try this at my home.

      Thank you for sharing this useful information.

    • rebeccamealey profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecca Mealey 

      2 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      That makes me very happy! Thanks. I hope it turns out well.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      2 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I had to read this article because I had never heard of lasagna gardening before. The garden that you describe would be ideal for my situation. I've already started thinking about how I could create it. Thank you very much for sharing the information, Rebecca.

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