In recent years the term Lasagna Gardening has become a wildly popular catch phrase in the online gardening community. Promising simple and easy construction with very little work. But is it really a viable option for homeowners who want to start their own garden this year?
For those unfamiliar with this method, lasagna gardening is described as the layering of kitchen waste, organic materials such as leaves and grass, shredded paper and vegetable scraps.
One internet article states that it "creates rich fluffy soil for your garden without any work. Simply add what you would normally put into your compost pile and layer it with cardboard or newspaper." That should be a red flag right there. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Your vegetable garden needs rich fertile soil to grow - Not a compost pile.
There is a never ending supply of new ways that promise easier and faster ways to yield results. The basic fact that nature works on her own design, continues to elude some of the best intentioned. Remember that gardening is a process, not an event. There is no such thing as "instant" in Nature.
Lasagna Gardening is a merely another passing fad.
Unfortunately the promise of "easy" lures many people into believing that they can somehow achieve success without the effort. I am an organic gardener at heart for the simple reason that it is the way of nature. I view every new idea for gardening with a dubious and skeptical eye. When you are working in harmony with nature you can't help but be successful. Conversely, when you try to circumvent the process you are doomed to failure.
A classic example is the gardener who is obsessed with growing tomatoes. He wants the biggest, brightest fruit in the shortest amount of time so he decides to use a synthetic chemical to force the plant to mature at an unnatural speed. Yes, they can get some incredible results. Sometimes. The only thing miracle-like with these chemicals is that people continue to be suckered by all the deceptive marketing and pretty packaging. Unfortunately, there is precious little thought about all the chemicals that plant has absorbed and how much of it we are ingesting. Do NOT tell me that you care about the environment when you are using toxic chemicals. The cumulative effect of consuming food that is laced with toxins is evidenced today in most peoples health.
My experience watching others who have jumped into this has been entertaining at times and has provided a few teaching moments. What I typically see is a homeowner who has essentially built an anaerobic compost pile. The material becomes water logged and rots the roots and the kitchen waste begins to stink. While there is merit in using shredded organic materials around plantings in your gardens to control weeds and conserve moisture, it is folly to think that you can plant in this mixture of raw components with any degree of success. It is true that all these layers will decompose and contribute to the fertility of the soil, (eventually) but they do NOT create soil, they produce "organic matter"
What is soil made of?
Soil is a complex structure that is comprised mainly of crushed rock, organic matter, an array of minerals, humic and fulivc acids. Additionally there are natural elements such as calcium, magnesium and potassium. It also contains diverse populations of micro-organisms such as protozoa, fungi, bacteria, nematodes and earthworms. This is not going to be replaced by layering kitchen waste, cardboard, grass clippings, leaves and newspaper, no matter how well intentioned.
A better approach to gardening is the raised bed method that is constructed directly on the ground and filled with a correct soil mixture with a pH level balanced correctly for the intended crop. Then use only one layer of mulch, shredded paper or grass clippings around your plantings to conserve moisture and help smother weeds. If you have been planning on building a lasagna garden this year and have been saving newspapers and cardboard, use them in sparingly on top of your soil to help keep the weeds down. Shred the rest and mix in your compost pile with the correct amount of greens, being careful to keep a correct C:N ratio. Next season you can use it in with your existing raised beds to increase the nutrient and organic matter levels.
The bottom line? I recommend sticking with methods that are tried and true and save the lasagna experiments for Garfield.
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