Building a Framed Layer “Lasagna” Garden
by Gary Pilarchik LCSW-C
Build the Frame and Set the Plot
The frame is 4 feet by 12 feet. The sides are 6 inches high. The lumber is pressure treated with the standard copper process that is now used over the old arsenic treatments. The frame was made by securing each end with 3 inch screws. Before the screws were set, pilot holes were drilled to prevent the frame from splitting. Each joint was secured with three screws.
The frame was placed were the garden will be permanately grown. The inside of the frame was outlined with spray paint to mark the grass that will be sprayed with grass killer and turned. The frame was moved to the right (as in the picture below). The outline was left in white. The outlined area was sprayed with a standard salt grass killer. You can skip the spraying process if you wish but I don’t recommend it.
Turn the Grass and Replace the Frame
The grass was turned to about four inches deep. Some grass was still exposed after turning. The exposed grass was sprayed a second time with grass killer. The frame was then placed over the turned earth. The picture below shows the permanent location of the raised layer “lasagna” garden.
Create a Layer of News Paper
The garden was completely covered with newspaper. Three to four layers were placed over the turned earth. This layer is complete.
Create a Layer of Garden Soil
Ten bags of premium top soil was placed in the garden. This was the minimum soil ammendment quality I would recommend. Premium top soil is sold by weight. These were 40 lb bags. If you buy premium top soil vs. garden soil make sure it is truly premium top soil. It should be blended with a good amount of organic matter. Do not buy basic top soil. It is full of clay and garbage.
I recommend ten bags of garden soil in the 2 cubic ft size. It will say garden soil. At this point you have the turned grass, a layer of news paper and a layer of good quality soil. We sprinkled four 8 oz cups of 10-10-10 feritilizer evenly across the garden.
Create a Layer of Green or Brown Organic Matter
We used fresh grass for this layer. We placed about 2 inches of grass evenly over the entire garden. You could use your home compost, straw or even a layer of brown leaves. Grass clippings are perfect.
Create a Layer of Spagnum Peat Moss
A large bail of spahgnum peat moss was used for this size garden (4 ft. x 12 ft.). A large bail is about 3.7 cubic ft. If you build a 4 ft. x 8 ft. garden of this type, the supplies are essentially the same. If you build a
4 ft. x 4 ft. garden , you will only need a small bail of peat moss. The peat moss was spread evenly across the garden.
Six 8 oz cups of pulverized lime was spread evenly across the peat moss. Peat moss is naturally acidic and lime is naturally alkaline. Mixing them together helps balance the PH of th soil. Lime also adds calcium and magnesium to your soil. Both important minerals for plants, especially tomato plants. Three addition 8 oz cups of 10-10-10 fertilizer was also spread evenly across the peat moss prior to mixing the peat moss and lime together. You should only mix the peat moss, lime and fertilizer together. Do not mix the layers of grass and premium top soil in with the peatmoss. Try and keep the layers intact. Your hand will work best for this.
Creating the Planting Layer
The beauty a raised bed layer “lasagna” garden is that you don’t have anything to remove and throw away. The plants will do extremely well in the first year and the will do even better the following year when the garden is turned. Eight more bags of 40 lb premium top soil were added to the garden and it was mixed in lightly with the peat moss. The basic garden is now set and it was completed in under three hours.
You will need to wait 24 hours before planting to allow the grass killer to be absorb by the turned grass and lose it’s potency. Many of the brands such as Round-Up use a salt that quickly becomes in active. It really isn’t an issue in my opinion. I have never had damage from this. However, 24 hours provides a period of saftey to protect your plants from accidently coming in contact with the chemical while planting.
We used two 40 lb bags of premium top soil to plant the vegetables pictured below. You will need to purchase 2 or 3 bags of soil for planting in addition to the soil that was used to build the layers of the garden. This soil is used to build up the planting areas so the seeds and plants sit more firmly in the ground. Peat moss is light and easily disturbed. This process will not be needed the following year when the entire garden is turned.
Planting is relatively simple. Dig a hole that meets the size of the plant that you are planting. Many plants won’t need to be planted deeply in the garden such as lettuce transplants. The hole can be dug with your hand (the soil is loose). An extra handful of soil should be placed in the hole from the bag of soil set aside for this purpose. Simply mix the plant hole area up with your hand. This mixes the peat moss and additional soil evenly together. Dig the hole again to fit the size of your plant. The plant can be tucked right into the hole. Use the soil in the garden to gently-back filled the space around the roots of your plant.
Larger plants such as tomatoes require a deeper hole. The hole should be deep enough to go through the newspaper layer and reach the turned grass. Clear out any chunks of grass that are in the planting hole. Fill the hole up with soil from the bag. Mix up the soil up by hand with the existing garden soil and clear the hole out again. The tomato should be placed into the hole and soil from the garden can be gently-back filled into the space around the roots and stem of the tomato.
If you are planting seeds, drop handfulls of soil (from the bag) in the line or square areas that you will be planting seeds. You are basically placing additional soil where ever the seeds will go. Gently mix the newly placed soil with the garden soil and plant your seeds. The additional soil gives some weight to the seed planting area.
Creating the Mulch Layer
The mulch layer that I use is grass clippings. I use 2 inches of green grass clippings as mulch to start. When the sun dries that layer out and the grass turns brown, I add another 2 inches of grass clippings and repeat. I usually stop when I have 2 or 3 inches of dried brown grass clippings. You need to do this in stages so the green grass can dry out.
The Following Year
You now have a planted garden that will do wonderfully. Next year, all you have to do is turn the garden. All the layers will mix and you will have excellent soil for planting a vegetable garden.
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