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Old 05-17-2013, 02:32 PM
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I searched the forum and did not find the same title although the concepts are familar to many, so I'd figure we can collectively consolidate our experience in this thread.

Here in Northen Alabama red clay country that is fused with limestone rocks, digging for a garden/ flower bed is incredible hard. Striking hard with a mattock and it sings like a doorbell with "ding" everytime it hits a limestone rock. An average dig for a hole (3~4 ft. diameter, 1 foot deep) can take 3~4 hours and it is hard on your back. Fortunately for vegetable gardens & flower beds, I can use the raised bed method. 4 yrs ago when I first moved in, I built two 4' X 8' raised bed but at the time I bought top soil and had to borrow a friend's truck to have it shipped in. Recently I have been reading about the sheet mulching/ lasagna gardening method so I built a flower bed based on this method.

I first lay out cardboards on the ground to suppress weed growth through the bed. Fortunately I have lots of packing boxes so it was not an issue. One could substitute newspaper for that. Then I spread wheat straws as the first "brown" layer, then grass clipping as the "green" layer, sprinkled some cow manures over it, repeat with straw, then grass clippings. I topped it off with compost then shredded wood chips as mulch.

I planted perenial right away and did not wait for the bed to "compost", but I surrounded the plants with potting soil so, as far as these plants are concerned, they might as well be in a container with the potting soil surrounding them. I did have to dig through the cardboard and dug a hole below to plant my peony. Due to the recent heavy rain, the cardboard broke apart easily and the ground was soft & soaking wet, so digging was not much of a problem. It has been ~ 2 weeks and the flowers are doing well, some are started to bloom actually. My peony had 3 little buds and it is beginning to bloom.

I am thinking to expand this "lasagna method" to add another raised bed to my vegetable garden and am curious if any of you have done this? If so, what was your experience? I am interested in hearing both pros & cons of this method, and if anything I should look out for?

Also, what are various no-dig methods that you have tried and what was your experience? TIA for your info.
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Old 05-17-2013, 06:01 PM
Location: SE Michigan
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Nice thread idea!

I've done the lasagna/no-dig garden before, I once had a large vegetable garden that I did that way. And my current two raised perennial beds were done this way too...I'm in Michigan so I prepped the area with cardboard, newspapers and some old carpet scraps and layered browns and greens and some compost (aged horse poop) in the fall, then planted in spring. Although where I currently live I have fabulous soil, I didn't want to do a whole ton of digging. My perennial beds are coming up very nicely again this year. The lasagna-no dig veggie garden I had was insanely productive and I had so many squash and tomatoes fall to the ground and rot that I had literally hundreds coming up the next year from the previous seeds.

I will say that particular garden (I did it for four years) was plagued with just about every plant-eating pest you could imagine. I tried non-chemical methods diligently but at one point went nuclear with chemical sprays and toxins. It was my first garden in Michigan so I don't know if it was just an upper-midwest thing or something with the gardening method. Even so and either way, it produced like crazy.

This year I'm doing my first straw bale garden, I have a thread here. Figured I'd update next week with pics (everything is looking good, I just planted on Tuesday.)


I must say, if this works it is absolutely the cheapest and easiest way I have found to grow vegetables and I am going to have one humungous vegetable garden next year! I'm already planning it.
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Old 05-17-2013, 09:50 PM
Location: Chapel Hill, N.C.
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I've used lasagna gardening for many years. A very old farmer friend suggested it to me in the 70's when we discovered a vein of Stone Mountain running through our Atlanta suburb yard. It was very successful for veggies more than perennials. Even with good mulch critters digging exposed the cardboard and I didn't like the look. I've given up on a compost pile cause it seemed to attract too much wildlife even though of course I never put meat in it. and the only place in our current home is in shade and it never did get to cooking like it should.
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Old 05-17-2013, 10:11 PM
Location: Aiken, South Carolina, US of A
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Last year I made a raised vegetable bed with cinderblocks. The blocks were
heavy, but once I got the rectangle shaped bed lined out, they sure never
moved. I put newspaper down first, then 6 big bags of Miracle Grow Garden
Soil. Then I added some well composted manure.
The veggys turned out pretty good. I had 9 big heads of brocolli, 3 green pepper plants,
the squash didn't turn out good, no room to roam, tomatoes turned out really good.
Then the cat made a litter box out of the bed over the winter and I refuse to use it anymore.
My soil is horrible. So, mabey next year I will buy buckets, we will see.
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Old 05-18-2013, 07:33 AM
Location: Oklahoma
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I use the lasagna method for all my beds. I found you really have to make the bed taller than you want it, as it tends to sink down as the layers decompose. Topping the beds with grass clippings after every mowing keeps the surface mulched, and continues to add to the bed as it decomposes. Everything I plant grows well in this type of bed, and there are very few weeds. I wouldn't go back to the old double digging, even if I was physically able to.
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Old 05-18-2013, 06:13 PM
Location: Land of Free Johnson-Weld-2016
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I have tried the following:
1. Created beds by piling leaves up in Fall. Works best for planting things like shrubs in the area. Mowing the grass low first is a good idea.

2. Army Blankets and Mulch - I did this on my slope. The blankets are 70% wool and the rest I think is polyester, so while they do allow the grass underneath to die, they don't break down, but can be easily removed after the plants are established on the slope. I cut holes in between and planted daylilies, juniper etc etc. I put mulch on top as well. It worked pretty well.

3. My Homemade Lasagna - A layer of burlap and cardboard over cut grass and 3 or 4 inches of topsoil, then about 3 inches of mulch. I let this sit for a while...I think over the winter, and then I planted into it. Very little peek-through of weeds here and I like the more raised look of the beds.

4. Dirt and Mulch - For one Bed, I cut the grass low and had about 5/6 inches of topsoil dumped onto it. I covered it with mulch and then dug holes to plant shrubs and flowers. This worked because the place where I wanted the bed was close to the driveway, so I could have a big load of dirt delivered. Moving wheelbarrows full of dirt is hard work.

I did also try removing sod to create one bed...but as everyone has probably learned, it is not any easier or more effective than just smothering the turf. Plus the soil quality is better IMO as the decomposing grass and weeds provide nutrients to the soil.

In all of my beds, I still have to weed.
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Old 05-19-2013, 07:16 PM
Location: AL for now
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Thumbs up Agree that raised beds are the way to go in N. AL

I tried the "lasagna" method in a large area in my yard and found it incredibly expensive just to get 4" high. The info sheet that I received recommended going 18" high and letting it settle. What I did in the rest of my yard was to use landscape timbers to build 4' x 4' and 4' x 8' raised beds for perennials and vegetables. I started them only 2 timbers high, but I recommend going 4 timbers high, which is about 8". I used a combination of compost from the Botanical Garden, fallen leaves, compost from my garden, and purchased potting soil. What I planted in the raised beds grew much better than the plants in the (not high enough) lasagna bed or the plants in my amended clay. It seems like no matter how much I clay I dig out or good soil I mix in to the ground, it's still too mucky and heavy.
Attached Thumbnails
No Dig Gardening-img_0641.jpg  

Last edited by AnotherBravesFan; 05-19-2013 at 07:26 PM.. Reason: attach photo
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Old 05-19-2013, 08:53 PM
Location: In the Pearl of the Purchase, Ky
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HB2, I started a garden this year using pallets. Does the same as your raised bed but a LOT cheaper to build. My neighbor works construction and gave me a couple pallets. I covered the ground with ground cover, then filled the pallets with garden soil from Lowe's (that's just where I bought mine, but they have the same stuff at any hardware and garden store.) to keep the dirt from washing out the ends I screwed a 1 x 6 across the ends. Everything is growing fine! Plus, the potatoes I planted in a barrel are ready for another layer of dirt!
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Old 05-19-2013, 08:53 PM
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Hi AB Fan,

I don't understand why is your "lasagna bed" cost higher than your raised bed? From your post, it would seems that the difference is that you put purchased potting soil in your raised bed (which is expensive) but other than that it would seemed that composts are free. Perhaps it is the cost of landscape timber that is expensive?

My perenial bed is not high either. I used landscape bricks from HD as border, it is about 6 inches high so I probably stacked it a total of 8 inches high (including mulch). We had a 3-day rain right after I put the bed together so I am sure it is pretty well wetted down. I do get a bunch of tiny bugs flying right above the bed for several days, didn't know what it was but pretty sure it is from the composting.

My perenial flowers are doing well after ~2 weeks in the bed. Some are blooming even my peony that I bought from HD, except the flower is white instead of pink or red (like the picture in the label) but it seems happy in the bed.

Your garden looks lovely! I like the idea of putting pine needles to suppress the grass grow for walk paths.

Here's my peony with its first bloom. You can see the bricks in the background. (I am having trouble rotating the pic, sorry)

Last edited by HB2HSV; 05-19-2013 at 09:27 PM..
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Old 05-19-2013, 09:42 PM
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Thanks everyone for your post! It seems like there are many variations on how we do our raised beds and either finding top soil or via composting to get our rich soil.

I am curious as to the difference between "sheet composting" vs. just "mix it all up composting"? Does one need to do "sheet composting"? The reason I asked is that I have a compost bin and I mix my "browns" and "greens" and turn them once a while, I'd figure to use that instead of "sheet mulching".

BTW, I am becoming a believer that having "brown" material, such as cardboard, will attract worms. I used shredded wood mulch in my front flower bed and today when I pulled back the mulch I found several worms already!!! It is working!
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