Master Gardener: Lasagna gardening | Local News – Milton Daily Standard

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Lasagna gardening is all about the layers. If you have been given poor, rocky soil or want the confidence of organic soil, this is an ideal solution. The beauty of it is that you can place these gardens anywhere flat and with enough sun. The space can be large or small, depending on your needs. High or low, it’s all about the layers. There are fewer weeds and less watering needed once a lasagna garden is established. Layers can be placed directly on the ground with or without sides. Fall is the best time to start a lasagna garden. In autumn, the material will be conveniently available: leaves and debris from garden cleanup. The layers will break down over the winter and be ready for spring plantings of vegetables or flowers.First, decide what you want to grow and map out the area. Lasagna gardening, also called sheet mulching, works well for flowers and vegetables. The lasagna garden needs a relatively flat space with a minimum of four to six hours of sun daily for vegetables. Any less sun and vegetables will not thrive. The first layer will provide a solid base and keep weeds down. Use a thick layer of cardboard or newspaper. If you prefer organic, use six to eight inches of straw, but not hay. Hay contains many seeds. If you are planning a deep raised bed, use a layer of logs as a base. Be sure to avoid tree logs that may give toxic chemicals to the soil, for example, walnut, butternut, cherry, or black locust. Wet this base layer very well. I like to purchase some peat moss and layer it in between the rich browns and greens. Peat is a light brown, airy product resembling soil formed by the partial decomposition of sphagnum moss in the wet, acidic conditions of bogs and marshes. It is often cut and dried for use as fuel and in gardening.Next, add a layer of brown compost made of leaves or straw. Plants will take advantage of the nutrients in well-aged manure. Fresh manure is considered nitrogen-heavy (also called “hot”) that could burn the plants. Water this layer well.The next layer will be green compost: veggie scraps, coffee grounds, eggshells, grass, green weeds, manure. Anything that is nitrogen — or protein-based will break down quickly and add nutrients to the soil.

I like to add peat between each layer for aeration. If desired, add red wriggler earthworms. They will aerate and fertilize as they go about their business in the underworld of the garden.Continue with alternating brown and green layers, each about two inches thick. Always wet down each layer. You can include layers of leaf mulch, a very light sprinkling of wood ash, manure, and mushroom compost. Keep adding layers until the future garden is at least two feet deep before decomposition occurs.For the top layer, the final layer, I use black compost. It should be well-aged compost or manure. I like to add commercial garden soil to finish it off. Make sure to wet down every layer. Let the newly layered garden sit for at least six months. Decomposition is complete when you cannot recognize any bits of the original ingredients. Be sure to allow for settling before planting.Now you are ready to plant! Keep in mind how plants grow when planning the garden. Don’t allow taller plants to shade the shorter understory plants. Consider succession planting as each crop is harvested. Remember to rotate the crop families from year to year. For example, beans or peas will help enrich soil after tomatoes. Crop rotation also reduces pests and diseases.

Paula Ream is a Penn State Extension Master Gardener of Columbia County from the 2017 class. She worked at the Press-Enterprise for 30 years and enjoys gardening, canning and creating new dishes for her family and friends from her raised gardens that are complimented by her pollinator flower beds.
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