Gardening In Layers

Mulch is nothing new to me. I’ve used it for years. I never thought of it as gardening in layers until I came across a book on gardening called “Lasagna Gardening” by Patricia Lanza.

It isn’t that I don’t have lots of books on gardening. I do. The library display of gardening books was too tempting. Besides, I like lasagna.

Except “Lasagna Gardening” isn’t about growing lasagna ingredients. It’s about gardening in layers as lasagna is assembled in layers. This is right up my alley.

"Lasagna Gardening" is gardening in layers
Few if any gardeners enjoy days and days of weeding. Tilling is hard work. “Lasagna Gardening” explains one method of eliminating both. It also goes over different vegetables, herbs and flowers grown using this method. The best part is the way this method enriches the soil to improve gardening success.


The first layer in a lasagna garden is newspaper. Those were the days when people subscribed to a daily newspaper. A good substitute is cardboard.

The purpose of the paper or cardboard is to block grasses or weeds from growing up into the garden. No weeding!

Does it work? Yes, it does. I’ve done this for years. The problems involved include obtaining enough cardboard (The local feed stores get a supply regularly on the pallets of feed.) and weeds creeping up between overlapping pieces or at the edges. As the paper breaks down, some strong weeds like tree seedlings can grow up through it.

serious gardening in layers begins with newspaper or cardboard
Serious mulching to prevent weeds begins with a weed barrier. “Lasagna Gardening” suggests newspaper. I have easier access to and prefer cardboard. In the past I’ve topped this with mulch hay. After reading this book, I will be adding more manure etc. to the garden beds every fall.

Building the Layers

My normal next step is to dump on the mulch. My goats are happy to keep me supplied with any hay not meeting their exacting standards.

In “Lasagna Gardening” the next layers are peat moss, grass cuttings, chopped fall leaves, compost, manure and other organic matter. These are piled on to eighteen to twenty-four inches deep before adding the mulch.

I no longer use peat moss. It is touted as natural, which it is, and sustainable, which it is not. It is being dug out of peat bogs (destroying the bog ecosystems) faster than the new peat can be created.

The other ingredients are subject to preference and availability. Compost and manure are easy for me to come by. Grass clippings require raking. Fall leaves require asking around town for the maple and sweet gum leaves which will probably require raking.

Oak leaves are problematic. They are thick and more acidic. They are slow to decay. If chopped up with a mower, they do work fine. Chopped leaves don’t blow away as readily.

mulched pepper plant
My usual method is mulch hay. This stops most weeds and keeps moisture available during dry spells. Deep mulch helped protect this pepper plant from low temperatures. A handful of hay over the top will keep the plant safe from light frosts.

Trying It Out

The difficulty with reading gardening books in the spring is that my garden is already underway. The potatoes are up. The cabbage is delighted with this cool, wet spring weather. The other beds are prepared for summer crops.

I will definitely adjust this new method of gardening in layers. It is an extension and improvement of my methods. Over the summer I will stockpile cardboard for this fall. Manure is not a problem as the goats produce a new supply daily. Mulch will need to be stockpiled.

Over the summer I can do some of it on a small scale as various crops finish up and the beds are prepared and planted with another crop.

Gardening in layers? Cutting back on weeding? Cutting back on garden drudgery? I’m all for it.