The Edible Landscape team at Raincatcher’s has been sharing their progress over the past few months. Update #2 follows:
There’s a statistic out there (isn’t there always?!) that states 80% of all New Year’s resolutions are broken by February. …And since you haven’t seen another blog post from us since the first week of January, we bet you thought we belonged to that 80%, didn’t you?
Happily, that’s not the case, we’re still here. But with the New Year came some new regulations we had to work through which postponed our posts. Now, we think we’ve gotten them figured out and we hope there will be no more interruptions. So without further ado, here is our weekly post!
Munching on Lasagna
In our last post, we showed you a picture of one of our sleeping beauties, a bed quietly growing soil under its blanket of mulch. We cavalierly referred to it as “sheet mulching” or “lasagna gardening” and left it at that. We also mentioned having written, but not published, posts of our activities during the past year.
Lucky Reader, this is the week your patience is to be rewarded – with a bonus! Not only are we about to share with you the recipe for a gardener’s lasagna, but since we’ve waited a nearly a year, we’re going to show you the tasty results, too.
So what is a gardener’s lasagna? (It’s also known as sheet mulching, no-dig, and no-till gardening, but we’re using the lasagna term; it sounds so much tastier, and this is an edible landscape after all.) Unlike its culinary counterpart, it is not made up of layers of pasta, cheese, vegetables/meat and sauce. But it is made up of layers. Layers of carbon and nitrogen. In Compostese (the language of compost), carbon-rich items are ‘brown’ and include leaves, straw, paper, cardboard, (shredded) wood, and other similar materials. Nitrogen-rich items are ‘green’, and encompass vegetables and fruits, grass clippings, fresh manure, and coffee grounds.
To make lasagna, a cook repeats layers of pasta, sauce and cheese in a casserole until the pan is full. To create a lasagna bed, a gardener repeats two-inch layers of ‘brown’ with two-inch layers of ‘green’ until you have a two-foot-high bed (more or less). A cook bakes their lasagna in the oven at 350°F for an hour. They know it’s done because the top is bubbly and a little brown. A gardener covers their lasagna with a layer of mulch and waits…somewhere between a few months and a year, depending on how hot and wet the weather is (warmer and wetter = faster). They know it’s done because that two-foot-high bed has dropped to four to six inches, and when they peek under the mulch, they see rich, black soil, ready to feed seeds and seedlings, and build them into big, strong happy plants.
Building the bed
And that’s mostly how we’ve created our lasagna beds. We did one more thing to our bed: before the first layer of compost or mulch went down, we put down a double layer of overlapping cardboard. (You could use 6-8 sheets of newspaper instead, but the cardboard was free and faster than newspaper.) Our brown was free shredded tree mulch from tree-trimming companies*, and our green was partly-decomposed compost we had on site. We managed to get it about 18 inches high before we ran out of materials and muscle.
Newly finished bed
We built our first lasagna bed last April (2016), and by October, it had dropped to about six inches high and attracted a wayward seed. By December, that little traveler looked like this:
One butternut squash plant
It lived in the shade of the nearby oak trees, and never got watered by us. But the soil was so rich, it fed our butternut squash plant well. When we pushed aside the mulch, we saw nice, rich soil (black gold):
Our new soil
We’re looking forward to a good year.
That’s all for today – see you next week!