Forget your broad fork, turn off that tiller, and stop all that weeding! Layered garden beds, are a great option for simplifying gardening and solves some common gardening problems.
GARDEN PEST TIP:
Did you know that if slugs are a problem in your garden, manure will handle that?
No Dig, No Till Garden Method Helps Save Your Back
Digging takes a lot of work. Now we’re not afraid of hard work, and the exercise benefits are good for your body. But gardeners are also a frugal and practical bunch and there’s a whole slew of reasons why one would rather just get on with the planting.
Many people tell us they have back problems that get in the way of gardening. Also, as people age they may not want to spend so much energy digging, hoeing, raking and shoveling dirt. Whether for you it’s any of these reasons, or that you just want to save time, layered garden beds are a good way to garden.
You may have heard of the benefits of straw bale garden method, which we are in our second season implementing. There’s also the the layered garden method, also called lasagna garden because of the layering process.
Called by several names, whatever you call it, the principles and benefits are basically the same, and all save time, money and backaches!
Names for Layered Garden Beds
- Layered gardening
- layered garden beds
- Lasagna gardening
- lasagna garden beds
- Sheet layering gardening
- sheet gardening
Lasagna Layering Garden – No Dig, No Till
Hey… we’re all for saving time and labor! If there’s an easier way to get great results for thriving garden, then why not try it?
The no-dig gardening method is a combination of lasagna gardening, where you layer dirt and compost, and raised bed gardening, where you build a structure.
Is There a Difference Between Layered Gardening and Lasagna Gardening?
There’s minimal difference between layered garden beds and the lasagna method as they’re basically interchangeable. Where layered gardening layers non-dirt material (compost, peat moss, leaves, paper) as opposed to just dirt and compost with lasagna gardening, some lasagna beds include these as well.
So the main difference between lasagna garden beds and layered garden beds is often just the name. Just as the lasagna you make in your kitchen will vary from the one we make in ours, so too can the exact ingredients of layered gardening and lasagna gardening vary. The bottom line is you get the same good benefits and results in either approach.
You don’t have to build a raised bed to employ no-dig gardening, but for best results, it’s a good idea to have some sort of structure to contain the garden space. Raised beds also allow you to create mesh barriers to burrowing garden pests.
Pros and Cons of Lasagna Gardening and Layered Garden Beds
There are more benefits with lasagna gardening than disadvantages. Here are some of the pros and cons with the layered gardening method.
- Less work
- Saves labor time
- Saves money – less soil, fertilizers and amendments to buy
- No need to pull out most weeds or grass to build your layered garden beds*
- No digging or tilling, so no mattocks or hoes
- Uses natural soil amendments
- Good for areas of poor or obstructed soil, such as underground roots and wires.
- Easier to create critter barriers by starting off with a wire mesh barrier as your first layer.
- Easier on the body
- Good for people with back troubles or other physical limitations
- Layered nutrients last an entire seasons
- Can build it over time as materials become available
- Composting in place – you can make a garden bed space for spreading your natural plant refuse and compost materials, along with paper and build your garden over time by adding to it as you
- Reduces need for compost bins and compost tumbler space since you’re composting in the garden bed
*Remove invasive weeds such as bindweed, blackberries, crabgrass and morning glories before building a layered lasagna garden.
- Takes longer to be ready for planting; E.g., make a layered bed in spring to plant in fall
- Less physical exercise, which can be a healthy benefit to gardening, AKA, Garden therapy.
TIP: Prep your lasagna garden in fall to be ready to plant in spring, and prep one on spring to be ready for fall and winter plants.
Layered Gardening Beds
Yep, with layered gardening, you are actually creating your own garden soil from scratch. Think about it. When we make compost using organic materials like food scraps, nature scraps like leaves, grass clippings and weeds, and also paper, which is also a product from nature that composts well, we’re making soil.
Instead of tilling the ground and sprinkling amendments into the soil, you’re building it up with materials that will compost into rich soil for growing plants.
GARDEN ALCHEMY: In making compost, the gardener is an alchemist replicating nature to literally make the ground you walk on (and can grow on).
Sheet Mulching or Sheet Composting
Lasagna gardening, also called sheet composting or sheet mulching, mimics mother nature. This easy gardening method is similar to the permaculture or hugelkultur which replicates how nature layers materials in the woods.
With layered garden beds, we can speed up the process of composting while building fertile soil in layers. With this approach, plants choose the best layer medium to thrive in, while being nourished from all of them.
Lasagna Gardening Layers
There’s more than one way to make lasagna. Same thing with the lasagna garden bed.
Most lasagna garden enthusiasts will agree that—just like the lasagna you make in the kitchen—there are many variations on the familiar recipe that yield the same great results. What’s consistent is the layering concept and the basic elements that work.
To learn the specific layering process of the lasagna gardening method, we’ve pulled together several lasagna garden recipes from reputable sources.
What Are the Layered Garden Beds Layers?
Simplest Sheet Mulch Layers for a Lasagna Garden
- BASE: Cardboard or Newspaper, water down
- Browns – leaves, shredded paper
- Greens – vegetable scraps, grass clippings
- Repeat – Browns & Greens to about 3 feet high (this will settle down to ~2′ high)
- Newspaper & Cardboard: Good sources of cardboard include your local grocers. Ask them when they’re typically stocking shelves from big boxes like toilet paper and paper towels and try to visit on on those days and approximate times).
- cover the ground, grass or weeds with cardboard and/or newspaper. This dark moist space will attract earthworms which will loosen the soil and create worm castings. This plus the soil loosened which combine with the dying grass or weeds to decompose into soil.
- Water this to soften and anchor in place.
- Browns: Layer of browns (leaves, shredded paper) on top of the cardboard or newspaper. A good recycling/upcycling use for shredded office paper).
- Greens: Layer of greens (vegetable scraps, grass clippings) on top of the brown layer.
- Repeat Browns & Greens: Layer until your lasagna garden is about about 3-4 feet high.
LAYERED GARDEN BED TIP:
It works best for the “brown” layers of leaf mulch to be about twice as deep as your “green” layers of composting foods, vegetation and grass. Just like many kitchen recipes, garden recipes are approximate. If you work with this most basic foundation and layer browns and greens, you’ve got a lasagna garden bed.
Your end goal is a two-foot tall layered bed. The layers will compost down to approximately 2 feet high in just a few weeks, and your garden is ready to plant!https://greenthumbs.cedwvu.org/factsheets/lasagna.php
LAYERED GARDEN BED TIP:
Layer “green” layers to be half the height of “brown” layers.
You’ll find more on no-dig gardens, plus two video clips next.
Digging No-Dig Gardens
You can see how easy it is to build a Lasagna Garden and how quickly it comes together. It’s merely a matter of gathering the raw materials and layering them on top of each other.
We have a sunny spot in the yard and the soil might be workable but there are underground pipes and cables that would be a bear to move and even worse to tangle up in a tiller. That’s why we’re using more surface gardening methods, including lasagna, raised garden beds, straw bale and hugelkultur.
There are all kinds of references and resources on how to build your no-dig no-till low maintenance garden. Our favorite no-till gardening authors are listed below.
Layered Garden No Till Gardening Books
- Lasagna Gardening, is Patricia Lanza
- No Dig Gardening, by Charlie Nardozzi.
- No Till Organic Vegetable Farm, by Daniel Mays
No-dig, no-till gardens are perfect if you have unfavorable growing conditions in your soil.
Lasagna Gardening Method Video
Gardener and author, Patricia Lanza demonstrates her lasagna gardening method here for Volunteer Gardener, Julia Berbiglia.
You Will Dig No-Dig Gardening!
Digging takes a lot of work. While the exercise benefits are good for your body, there’s also a whole slew of reasons why one would rather just get on with the planting. Many people tell us they have back problems that get in the way of their gardening. Also, as people age they may not want to spend so much energy digging, hoeing, raking and shoveling dirt. Whether for you it’s any of these reasons, or that you just want to save time, this is good news.
You may have heard of the benefits of straw bale garden method, which we are currently implementing. There’s also the “no dig” method.https://gardensall.com/easier-gardening-method-straw-bale-gardening-how-to/
One of my favorite quotes sums it up.
“Just because it’s always been done this way, doesn’t mean it’s the best way.”
The “it”, in this case, is about digging and tilling the soil for gardening. We are now free to put away those mattocks, hoes and tiller!
Origin of No-Dig Gardening
Esther Dean, an Australian gardener and author, pioneered the no-dig gardening technique around 1977 and shared it with the world through her book, No-Dig Gardening / Leaves of Life.
Ruth Stout’s method was less methodical, yet still immensely successful and operating on similar principles of observing and mimicking nature and the natural process of creating rich soil.
Esther Dean designed a little more structure into her no-dig, no till gardens. They’re both highly effective, natural approaches to gardening that people fond of permaculture and Eden garden methods will appreciate, and others will be delighted to discover.
Layered gardening, AKA Lasagna gardening: More results for less work.
There are many variations of how we can build a “no dig garden”, but they all use the same underlying principle, which is soil building. With this nutrient-rich humus you can grow a flourishing garden even in poor soil conditions.
This layered gardening approach has the added benefit of helping to build and restore soil throughout your garden or yard are over time. If you have poor soil now, your soil should flourish after a few years of building layered gardens.
Here is another good graphic on the layers of a lasagna style garden that use more ingredients and layers than the basic example above.
If you are a renter and not currently a homeowner, you will appreciate Angelo’s story of how he started his gardening endeavor while renting a home.
“Essentially the no-dig garden is constructed of alternating layers of carbon-rich and nitrogen-rich materials, just like a properly made compost heap.” Angelo of DeepGreenPermaculture.comhttps://deepgreenpermaculture.com/my-garden/how-it-all-started/
For more schematics and information, you can visit DeepGreenPermaculture.com.https://deepgreenpermaculture.com/diy-instructions/no-dig-gardening/
No-Dig Garden Ecology
What’s You Can Grow in Just One 5’x16′ Raised Bed?
Learn how to grow lots of food even in small yards and tiny lots.
In another video, (which we’ve lost somehow, but kept the calculations), an 80 square foot garden bed yielded around 232 pounds of produce at 2.9 pounds per square foot. That’s 31,584 pounds of food that could be grown in one season in just 1/4 acre of land!
You can grow 31,584 pounds of food on just 1/4 acre of land!
Don’t have a quarter acre? Well… if you have:
1/16 acre of land –
that’s 2,722.5 square feet
x 2.9 pounds per square foot
= 7,895 pounds of food
In one growing season.
That could feed a family, right?
Videos on Layered Garden Beds
Lasagna Gardening Method
We’ve hand picked two videos that illustrate how different folks use the same basic recipe. The first is Organic Gardener, Patricia Boudier, making a lasagna garden in her yard. The second video is…well…a bit of a different approach.
Followed by a fast-action reveal of how they do it down on the farm!
One Farmer is Grossing $100,000 per Acre Using No-Till Layered Gardening
If you’re a market gardener, or would like to be, tune into how one gardener turned his layered raised garden beds into a six figure revenue selling produce.
This is a one+ hour video that John Kohler of GrowingYourGreens shared on no till gardening featuring Paul Kaiser, who was able to make $100,000 gross revenue per acre per year on on his farm!!
Yep… that would serve well toward planting for retirement!
Charles Dowding – No Till Gardening Video – Living With the land
And lastly, for some lovely visuals and interesting information on how the soil and garden eco system work in another highly productive no-dig, no-till garden. We think you will enjoy this 6:44 minute video clip. Check out the beautiful gardens and greenhouse on a very small lot!
You can see Charles’ book here: No Dig Organic Home & Garden, by Charles Dowding
We love learning. In this article we’re learning about an ancient art of gardening made new again. Really, it’s a common sense approach. Working with the laws of nature rather than in spite of them. We love this quote:
“All of us can be scientists. What the true scientist were doing in the beginning is they were going out to observe nature and understand it better… so any gardener can be a scientist. True science is about learning as you observe nature. Try different things. See what works in your garden, your situation in your climate.”
~Jekka Mcvicar, English organic gardening expert, author, b.2/21/1951
Have you tried no-dig gardening? Let us know on Facebook or email. Let us know what you think, and if you’ve actually used this method, how it worked for you and what kind of adjustments you made, if any. We’d love to see any pictures you care to share too!
Other Raised Bed Gardening Methods
You may also want to peruse some of these other methods.
We’re doing rows, straw bale, lasagna gardening, and hugelkultur, and we’ll be sharing more over the seasons on which ones perform best. So far, we’re wishing we’d gone with more raised beds or straw bales as that would’ve solved the mole destruction problem. Chances are the lasagna garden method will help with moles and voles as well since there’s the extra cardboard/paper barrier in addition to adding wire mesh landscape fabric.
If you enjoyed this, you may enjoy this other articles on Ruth Stout, one of the pioneers of the no-till gardening method.
Let’s Keep on Growing!!!
G. Coleman Alderson is an entrepreneur, land manager, investor, gardener, and author of the novel, Mountain Whispers: Days Without Sun. Coleman holds an MS from Penn State where his thesis centered on horticulture, park planning, design, and maintenance. He’s a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and a licensed building contractor for 27 years. “But nothing surpasses my 40 years of lessons from the field and garden. And in the garden, as in life, it’s always interesting because those lessons never end!” Coleman Alderson