By: Patricia Lanza
Pat Lanza’s No Till Method
About twenty years ago, while living in New York’s Catskill Mountains, I wanted to make a garden. Armed with my shovel I began to try and dig the soil. The shovel jumped back at me so I went back to the woodshed for a pic-axe and began again. This time the pic jumped back and almost took me down. It seemed the garden plans would have to wait.
During a walk through the woods I tripped over a root and sat down hard. While I was getting my breath I noticed the wonderful aroma, un-mistakenly humus. I brushed aside the
layer of leaves and scooped up a handful of nature-made soil. Over the seasons leaves had fallen to the forest floor and decomposed leaving rich black soil. Seeds had also fallen into the decomposing leaves and all around me were wildflowers and small trees that had rooted themselves. This was my inspiration to layer material directly on my garden space.
On the way home from my walk I saw the possibilities of organic material that would be easy to access: rows of tall grass left in our field after mowing, barn litter from my neighbor’s horse and piles of leaves left by the wind and trapped along the stone wall. In addition I had neighbors with spoiled hay, future grass clippings and hundreds of bags of leaves from the Methodist Church.
On a trip to the garden center I filled my truck with broken bags of all sorts of material; mulch, pine straw, potting soil, compost, humus and peat moss. It was free for the taking and all I had to do was load my truck and haul it away. It was a treasure trove of material.
In the place where I had tried to dig with no success I now layered organic material right on top of the ground. I covered the ground with rotted hay, composted horse manure, leaves and using my free bagged materials I added layers of each. It looked good and it was ready to plant instantly.
What I hadn’t planned for was the emergence of weeds through the rich ingredients. Every weed known to man grew with a vengeance and it wasn’t long before I lost sight of the vegetable and herb plants. One day I hacked my way through the weed jungle and found fruits of my labor including tomatoes, peppers and assorted herbs.
On another part of the property I left my trash for pickup. The bundles of papers were stacked and tied with string and left sitting on a grassy area. I went away and when I returned all the trash was gone except the stacks of paper. It had rained on the paper and the rules were you had to keep your paper dry. I began to lug it back to the trash bins when I realized that under the stacks the grass was dead and earth worms were right on top of the ground.
I thought, If I applied the wet paper to cover the weeds in my garden they would go away.
That’s how it all began: from the fall in the woods, to the stacks of wet newspaper and finally to the installation of my first lasagna garden.
Twenty years later I have personally made hundreds of lasagna gardens in the U.S., Canada and, while on vacation, Belfast, Ireland. I have also communicated with gardeners around the world; from Kosovo to Australia and from India to England encouraging them to use what they have to make a garden in less than ideal conditions.
The recipe is always simple: Mark the area, cover the area with a thick layer of wet newspaper, cover the paper with layers of organic material to a height of as many inches as the roots of the plants you want to plant (8 to 10 inches), pull the material back, down to the paper, set the plant on the paper, pull the material around the roots. Water. Continue placing organic material around the plants as they grow.
The most often asked question is about using lasagna gardening in existing gardens. The answer is easy: stomp down weeds, cover the area under and around the plants with wet newspaper, cover the paper with mulch. Weeds disappear and stay gone for years. No weeding and instant results.
In this quest to spread the word about this extremely effective and easy to do style of gardening, making brochures that list the steps and handing them out to friends and family would be a great idea. As the lasagna gardens blossom, so does earth and our spirits.
Lasagna Gardening is such an inspiration and so effective that everyone needs to know about it. You can help spread the word by making mugs.
Patricia Lanza is the author of How to Create Wonderful Gardens, Lasagna Gardening, Lasagna Gardening for Small Spaces and Lasagna Gardening with Herbs.
For more information see www.lasagnagardening.com
Check out Pat's latest book: My Garden Doctor
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