How to Make a Raised Bed Lasagna Garden
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.
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.
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.
dead plants or flowers
fruit and vegetable leftovers
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.
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.
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.
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.