Author: Sandy Vanno, Master Gardener Warren County CCE
Lasagna gardening, also known as sheet mulching is a no-till no-dig gardening method that turns materials like kitchen waste, straw, and newspapers into rich, healthy compost. Everything you use is pretty much the same things you would use to compost. Now you are just adding them directly to form an organic garden bed, and you don't have to move compost. It's already there!
You can start making your lasagna garden any time of the year, but you can layer it up in the fall as you are putting your beds to bed, cover it up with plastic, and when it comes time to take off the plastic, you have great new compost and plant on that!
To get started, cardboard or newspaper make an excellent bottom layer because they will smother grass and weeds. Water this bottom layer to hold it in place and encourage decomposition. This layer also provides a dark, moist environment to attract earthworms that will loosen the soil as they tunnel through it. Then add a 2-inch layer of a carbon-rich "brown" material on top of the cardboard or newspaper layer, such as leaves, straw, black and white newspaper, sawdust, tea bags, or wood ash. Then add a 2-inch layer of nitrogen-rich" green" material such as grass clippings, kitchen scraps from fruits and vegetables, well-rotted horse or cow manure, coffee grounds, or plant cuttings without seeds. Garden debris that contains weed seeds or diseased materials should not be used. Unlike traditional composting, during which weed seeds and disease organisms are killed as the pile heats up, sheet composting is a cold composting process and will not kill diseases or seeds. Alternate layers of carbon-rich and nitrogen-rich material until the mulch reaches approximately 3 feet. The pile continually shrinks as it turns into compost. It doesn't matter if green or brown material makes up the last layer. Unlike hot compost, you don't need to turn the pile. You can cover the pile to protect it from the rain with more mulch or black plastic, but do not cover it too tightly.
This method of composting is slow. It takes anywhere from several months to a year for finished compost to form. Sheet mulching is complete when the layers are indistinguishable, and the material has a fresh, sweet aroma. Once cured, the area is ready for planting and is weed-free.
Sheet mulching is a smart gardening technique that provides multiple benefits to the garden and gardener. This technique saves labor while enriching the soil and will save you time and aching muscles!
Last updated November 9, 2021