I'm on a gardening roll here. Thought I'd talk to you about Lasagna Gardening. I found information about it eight years ago thanks to the 'Google Gods' and Youtube, awesome resources. It makes organic gardening from scratch so easy! We have two versions of it and both have worked very nicely, eliminating a lot of time and energy I used to spend on loosening and improving soil, turning it over and dealing with weeds.
I do my own cobbled together version of this. I usually start my beds in the Autumn and let them over Winter, but I've also put them in during the early Spring months too. We've chosen a spot on the east side of our barn where it doesn't get hayed and has become a spot for weeds if I don't mow it every week. It looks like a good place for Sunflowers and Echinacea (purple prairie cone flowers) . The Echinacea is a biannual that takes two years to get started. I'm putting the Sunflowers in to stabilize the hillside (we have no flat areas at all where we live) and to provide shade for the Echinacea while it establishes itself. The first year for the Echinacea will be low growing greens only. It will flower the next year and continue to grow, reseeding itself every year there after. Both are very good for the wild life as well as the horses, and they're pretty flowers that are native to this area to boot. It's a win-win for us.
We waited until the horses were taken off that field (they get to use it six hours a day for about six months of the year after it's been hayed) and then I scooped the multitude of poop they gift the Earth with and layered it directly on the well grazed, short grass back behind the barn. See my cat sitting on the blue barrel? Walk around that corner and the triangle area the tractor can't easily get back to is where we're putting in our new wild flower area. It will go back to the fence with enough space for me to easily mow around it. Lots less mowing for me to do!
On top of the nice, deep layer of poop we put layers of boxes we've saved. The poop underneath breaks down very nicely with the cardboard acting as the shade to help keep the weeds from coming back. On top of the cardboard we put hay left behind by the horses or moldy hay that wasn't good enough to feed them.
The next layer is the broken down compost that is at least a year old. We call it 'Black Gold'. On top of that we'll put soil and mix it with the 'Black Gold', making a very nice place to start wildflowers without weeds. The finished area is about ten to twelve inches high and will break down to being only about two to three inches high by the end of the Summer. While that's happening the sunflowers will push roots down through the cardboard, which breaks down rapidly, establishing a nice system to hold it all in place. The Echinacea will establish itself around the Sunflowers and will take over next year.
I had to add this video. The music and fast forward were a hoot to watch. I love the way they used hay bales to make the edging for the raised beds too. It, eventually, becomes part of the garden. We built beds using wood. They've been there for eight years now. The wood has warped some but it still is holding the shape. The soil, since we amend it every Autumn building another layered Lasagna style garden on top, has become a rich, loomy home for a multitude of worms. It smells good enough to eat! (I know. Some of you are making 'YUCK!' faces here. But really good dirt does smell delicious to someone who spends a lot of their time experimenting with ways to improve the soil. ) Even in years of drought, when most of the neighbors around here have given up on their gardens, ours is still producing. And the weeds are very easy to control.
In the raised container beds we use coffee grounds from some of the local coffee shops (they give it away free!), produce that is either too bruised or old to sell from the grocery stores, scraps from our kitchen as well as peed on bedding from the stalls and our own composted horse poop. If you check in your area you can usually find horse ranches as well as people who have chickens that are more than happy to share the bounty with you. It's very rich and breaks down quickly, giving you beds to grow in that will be the envy of your neighbors. And it's all organic! You know how much it costs to buy fresh organic produce in the grocery store. Whew! Takes your breath away.
I can't say enough good things about this style of gardening. It gives back to the Earth, eliminates or helps to cut down on the carbon 'footprint', and provides so much fresh produce you'll end up teaching yourself how to can and freeze to save the bounty for the rest of the year.
This is a no brainer style of gardening that saves time and money as well as the back breaking job of tilling the soil every Autumn. Throw some seeds in, tuck a few plants in and enjoy. I promise your gardens will DANCE with butterflies, bees and more tomatoes and peppers than you know what to do with!
I am, ever yours, Nancy, smiling because Spring is around the corner !