Thursday, October 28, 2010

Lasagna Time!

Do you ever say to yourself, “If I had all the money in the world, I’d hire a landscaper to come turn that part of my lawn in to a real garden?” OK, maybe you don’t. But if you didn’t have to dig up all that grass and till the heck out of it, wouldn’t you like more garden space? If for no any other reason than it’s less grass to mow? Organic fruits and vegetables are expensive – new gardens are not. A little work now can open up your options this spring.

Last weekend, my husband and I were on our way to visit vineyards in Virginia. I was boring him to death by reading about the vineyards aloud until he gently told me he’d rather I didn’t. So I kept the next gem to myself. He, being the chief grass cutter and weed whacker on our estate, would have appreciated the Italian vineyards philosophy on the grounds surrounding your home.

The literature stated the vineyard was designed in keeping with the Italian tradition of everyone having their own groves, vineyards, and gardens at home utilizing all available outdoor space (OK, maybe they left room for a Bocce Ball court). They thought a “lawn” was a waste of natural resources (I’d have to agree). My husband came home from our visit cautiously considering putting in our own vines, and I arrived motivated to begin reclaiming our lawn for more productive purposes.

So first thing Monday morning I made a lasagna garden. I know I’ve written about lasagna gardens before, but just in case it didn’t have the life-changing impact it should have had, I’m going to refresh your memory.
A lasagna garden begins with any patch of ground. This ground can be an old garden, an underachieving garden, or an absolutely unadulterated lawn. I’m generally in favor of staking your claim on the useless lawn, but that’s just me.

After envisioning the size and shape of your garden, cover the desired area with a thick layer of newspaper. Yep, newspaper. Be sure to leave out the shiny colored circulars. It’s best if the newspaper you choose uses vegetable inks (the York Daily Record does). Try to choose a day when the wind is not whipping around. After you lay out the newspaper, wet it thoroughly and then begin your lasagna.

Lasagna consists of layers of “green” (compost, manure, grass clippings, basically anything rotting) and “brown” (leaves, straw, peat moss, mulch, pine needles, wood ash). Continue adding layers at your whim for a month or two and then leave the whole thing to “cook” over the winter. If it’s a dry fall, you may want to wet it occasionally to move the process along.

It may not look too pretty (until the first snow hides it), but by spring you’ll have rich wonderful soil, ready to garden. And you didn't have to lift a spade because you turned your lovely lawn in to compost for your new garden! If you want more detailed, technical directions, I highly recommend the book Lasagna Gardening by Patricia Lanza. (buy it through the link below and you’ll make me 2 or 3 cents)

In my new lasagna garden this spring, I’ll add more blueberry bushes adjacent to our current blueberries – less hillside to mow and more blueberries to share with the birds (this year we’re going to buy a net….). I’m not finished adding lasagna gardens though, I’d love for this place to look like an Italian homestead.

I’m getting ready to harvest my fall peas and dig up the peanuts before setting the chickens loose to free range for the fall/winter (aerate the gardens and eat the pests – hopefully lots of stink bugs!). Maybe you’re getting ready to close up your gardens too, but before you do – don’t forget to start next year’s. October is time to plant your garlic, shallots, and spring onions. It’s also time to dream a little dream of all the wonders you can grow next year and get started on the lasagna.

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