Archived Story

Plant a lasagna garden

Published 9:56am Monday, September 24, 2012 Updated 11:58am Monday, September 24, 2012

Bunkey came tearing into the house, his hair on fire. ‘How many times have I told you not to leave the hose in the yard?

I’ll either run over it with the lawn mower or the sun will rot it.” Very calmly, Petunia asked, “are you done now?

I was using the hose to mark the shape of my new flower bed. Since you refuse to dig me one, I’m going to use the lasagna method and build my own.”

If you have ever made a new garden from scratch, you know how much work it is to dig up all the turf, kill off all the weeds and then till the area up, hoping all the time that the soil will be fit to grow something.

This method saves not only your back but ensures the soil is “good stuff”.

The first step naturally is siting. Depending on what you plant to grow, you will want full sun or part shade. Forget attempting to grow much in full shade.

Now that you know where you want the plot, Roundup the area. This will kill most of the plants.

You can eliminate this step if you want but it is helpful.

Now, using a hose, decide on the shape of the bed. If it is in an area you will be mowing around, mow around the hose to determine if you can actually maneuver the mower around the corners without either cutting some of the plants or leaving swaths of grass unmowed.

Next, cover the area with either two layers of wet cardboard or up to ten layers of wet newspaper. Don’t use the shiny stuff.

It has too many chemicals in it and doesn’t break down easily. Be sure to overlap the papers to eliminate any holes that grass or weeds could later sneak through.

Cover the paper with four to six inches of the best soil you can obtain. Cover this with four inches of mulch.

Leaves, weed free straw or rotted hay work very well. It will take two to three months of hot summer days for this cover to kill off any weeds or grass under it.

Keep the bed damp to hasten the activity. If you are doing this in the fall, you can add other organic matter to the bed to enrich it. Coffee grounds, chopped leaves, fruit or veggie peelings, tea bags and shredded newspaper all work well. Cover it well with mulch and by spring, it will be ready to till and plant.

Keep a close eye on all your gardens for diseased plants. Promptly remove them to prevent problems next spring. There has been a rash of aster yellows in many plants this year. The virus is spread by leaf hoppers.

If you discover a flower that should be colored but, instead is green and misshapen, pull it out and bag or burn it to prevent spread of the virus. The disease usually attacks flat flowers like cone flowers but, this year even destroyed garlic. Not much worse than digging up your garlic to discover — garlic snot. Yuk.


Bev Johnson is a master gardener with Otter Tail County Master Gardener

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