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Author Topic: lasagna gardening  (Read 2129 times)
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Monkey All Star Jr.
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« on: July 03, 2006, 11:46:38 PM »

Soil getting you down?  Is it down to the earth’s crust and nothing but hard clay and rocks are ruling your world.

If so, take a couple seasons to get it right before breaking your back with a shovel whose handle breaks when you try to get through that soil.  Yes, before I learned about recycling, I was contemplating purchasing an auger, but I thought about what made soil pliable and got to work on it.

For those of you who do not know, I have a very large garden where I grow dozens of roses, as well as a vast amount of perennials, herbaceous and woody plants, deal with chemotherapy and maladies of multiple sclerosis, in addition to having a husband, grandchildren and a full-time job.  How did gardening turn from chiseling in hell to a pleasure for me?  I will share with you.

I learned to save everything I could to put in my garden up to and including peach peels, banana peels and every newspaper I could get from my friends and neighbors, and even at the local newspaper office from their archives, once they became outdated.

Since I love curvy beds, I like to design in mind and then use a water hose to outline the bed.  Once the water hose appears to be the shape I want a garden, I outline that area with chalk or lime.

Within that perimeter, I start placing newspapers and/or magazines in the designated area.  I apply them to about 3-4 inches deep.  Don’t worry about slick pages, they too will become a part of the soil, and the ink we use in this country will have no adverse effects on your garden, even the colored and slick pages, so not to worry about toxins.

Once I have that area covered with newspaper and magazine, (and I often have to use the help of a wheelbarrow load of purchased topsoil if it is an especially windy day I order to hold them down).  (I buy the cheapest topsoil Wal-Mart has to offer or order from the local sand and gravel people because it is all just dirt right now and will become soil later), I water the newspapers down.  Next I apply as much coffee grounds as I have collected over the previous weeks and months to the top of the newspaper.  (I get coffee grounds from offices of state workers, federal workers, Starbuck’s, Krystal Waffle House, myself and neighbors).  Spread the coffee grounds over the wet-down newspapers/magazines.  Then add another layer of newspapers/magazines.  (Yes, your house is burdened down with newspapers and magazines after collecting for a season, but you are making wise use of them).  Add a layer of topsoil, another layer of coffee grounds, and repeat until you have the bed about 15 inches higher than it was when you set out.  Water down.  You can add all your banana peels, leftover lettuce (make sure it is chopped) any vegetables, corn shucks, pea hulls, or other vegetable material from your kitchen to this.  (Make sure nothing you put in here has any dairy or meat products in it for several reasons, the least of which is snakes in your garden) and the worst is it will not break down as you want it and it will have a putrid odor.  If you live near a paper mill, they will let you have all the pine grit you can load in your truck as many times as you wish at no charge.  They need to get rid of it.  Pine grit is brown.  Coffee is green.  You need equal parts of browns and greens to accomplish this over the winter.  Vegetables are greens.  Leaves from your trees are greens, but sometimes become browns.  In fall, collect all the leaves you can from your neighbors or get them from the city.  Pile this in your proposed garden area.  Save coffee grounds all winter and continue replacing them.

As a child, I had a worm bed and my grandmother told me I had to keep feeding it coffee and/or tea to continue getting worms.  The proceeds from this worm bed were mine for the doing, so I liked to keep the worms growing and going.

Why are worms and coffee important?  Not to worry about coffee grounds having too much acid.  Most of the acid went in your stomach when you drank the coffee.  The grounds have very little.  Earthworms irrigate your soil, tunnel through it.  There are three different lengths and sizes of earthworms to create this, as there are three levels they go through to create 12 inches to 24 inches of friable soil.  Feed them and they will come.

Over fall, winter and early spring, if you persist in adding to your bed, you will have created beautiful, dark friable soil.  

How did I determine what byproducts I needed in my garden?  I live in an area where cotton was king and home to the first manufacturing cotton gin, the first manufacturing city in the south.  That industry was based on cotton, so cotton was grown for profit.  Cotton robbed the soil of nutrients in my area as pine trees now used in the paper industry are doing.

I use paper and paper products, or pine-grit to put that back into my soil but without the cotton, I lack the green.  I only have the brown.  Therefore, after the cotton has been ginned and allowed to slightly decompose, about six months after cotton picking time, I go to the cotton gin, load my truck with cotton gin trash several times (it cost $10 per truck load and that is for their labor to put it in your truck).  I spend approximately $50 for that white gold per year.  That is laid on top of my already created pile plus for $50, I have enough to mulch the rest of my beds with cotton gin trash.

When spring comes, I can take a hand shovel and run it through that bed.  Yes, there are still rocks there, but they have sunk sotaspeak and there is great pliable soil on the top where I will be planting.  If your pile has too much “brown,” (newspapers, pine grit, etc) it will not break down as quickly and you might have to stimulate it with something like a hand full of ammonium nitrate, but not to worry --- you are not going to use more than a couple handfuls for every 100-200 square feet.

Anytime you have leftover coffee in your pot and it has gotten too old to drink, fill the pot with water, take it out to your garden or patio and water your plants with it.  Never, never, never put anything that has dairy products in it and if it has refined sugar, you will have a bunch of ants.

Another way to arrive at getting more nitrogen is to add alfalfa meal to your garden that actually contains a growth hormone, the only plant in the world that contains this specific hormone.  Alfalfa meal can be purchased anywhere you purchase horse feed, but make sure you do not use the pellets or you will get critters in your yard to eat the pellets, but they do not like the meal.

Did you have any cornmeal left over from making Thankgiving cornbread dressing or any flour left over from those biscuits you never made after holding onto it for a year?  If so, please put them in your lasagna garden you are building.  Corn meal, such a good green!  

Tea leaves.  Did you buy them last year and never make tea, and now are afraid they have lost their flavor in the pantry over year?  Dump them in your garden you are working or any of the celery (of course, cut up) that you bought for hors douvres only to realize you had bought wayyyy too much and it turned yellow before those molded spots came on it.  Cut it up, throw it in the lasagna garden.  Tea grounds left over from teabags, throw them in there, bags and all.  Coffee filters can go in also as long as they are the brown ones.

In other words, what you are putting down your disposal and in your trash is a wonderful source for making your soil not hard, not packy, but friable.  Loose and lovely.  

By spring, the grass underneath should be dead and you should be able to work this soil with a hand shovel

There is always one more imbecile than you counted on
Monkey All Star Jr.
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Posts: 7018

« Reply #1 on: July 07, 2006, 09:32:46 PM »

This is amazing. I don't garden here, but when I did, we were seriously into composting and all that stuff. We have a different climate, but grass clippings, leaves in the fall and wood chipped Christmas trees always went in the bin. It was a big bin and my daughter ( the owner of the bin )
thought that it was unsightly after a while. but you did get " fluffy" compost.
People here who have front yards as gardens usually chemical it and then put black plastic on for a season. This is way better.
I used to love to work in the garden. Yes, you could go and buy vegetables at the store, but there was something about making
something out of nothing.
Your yard must be beautful on a summers night.
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