Guide to Lasagna Gardening for Beginners: Pros and Cons

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Do you want to weed, till, and water your garden? No? Then, lasagna gardening might be for you.

Sound too good to be true? Keep reading and learn about organic gardening using lasagna beds!

Lasagna Gardening

Lasagna Gardening – Perfect for Earth Friendly, Lazy Gardeners

No, we aren’t suggesting growing lasagna in your garden. But I do have a delicious lasagna recipe if you’re looking for one. Wouldn’t it be nice if it would grow in the garden? LOL.

Instead, we’re discussing building raised beds the cheap and easy way using whatever resources you have on hand or can source locally.  The no dig method or no till method uses layers of compostable materials to create fertile soil in your vegetable garden.

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Lasagna Gardening bed layers

What is Lasagna Gardening?

The Lasagna Gardening Method is a gardening style that layers organic materials. You do not till or dig the beds. Instead, give the new garden bed time to break down the organic materials into fluffy, rich soil full of nutrients and fewer weeds.  

How does Lasagna Gardening Work?

Lasagna gardening is a no-till, no-dig gardening system popularized in the late 1990s by Patricia Lanza.  Use common waste materials you may have in abundance around your homestead to create a rich garden.

Lasagna gardening takes just a bit of energy to lay down the layers. As the materials compost or break down they turn into soft, fluffy soil which allows you to plant easily in the soil next year.

lasagna garden beds full of vibrant green plants with woodchips in walkways

Pros and Cons of Lasagna Gardening

For beginner gardeners, lasagna gardening presents a host of advantages and a few disadvantages. It makes good use of organic material and eliminates the need for heavy tillage or digging.  

Pros of Lasagna Gardening

  1. No-Till, No-Dig Convenience: Lasagna gardening’s primary advantage lies in its no-till methods. This spares beginner gardeners from the physically demanding task of tilling or digging.
  2. Soil Enrichment and Nutrient Retention: By layering organic materials, lasagna gardening creates a nutrient-rich environment. This is great if you live in an area with poor soil, but it helps everyone. It provides nutrients for plants but also helps with moisture aeration and overall garden harvest.
  3. Fewer Weeds: Sheet composting acts as a natural weed barrier. Layers of cardboard and other materials reduces the need for serious weeding. If you have kids, ask them for help with weeding and other gardening activities.
  4. Sustainability: Lasagne gardening is essentially a compost pile that you keep adding layers to. Grass clippings, leaves, and food waste that normally goes in the landfill get used in your garden instead.
  5. Low Maintenance: For beginners especially, this method keeps gardening simple and reduces overwhelm. Beginners enjoy the results without feeling like they are drowning in their garden.

Cons of Lasagna Gardening

  1. Decomposition Process is Slow: These heavier layers do take time to make a rich compost. Patience is vital for a lasagna gardener.
  2. Initial Weed Control: While weeds are suppressed, it doesn’t entirely eliminate them. Some weeds still find their way through. Just like most things in life, there is no “magic cure” for a completely weed free garden.
  3. Space: Lasagna gardening uses lots of layers. Eventually, it looks like a raised garden bed. If you have limited room, make sure you add sides to prevent spillage and spread.
  4. Dependence on Available Organic Materials: The success of lasagna gardening relies on access to organic materials like leaves, straw, and kitchen scraps. Will you have access to all the material you need?
  5. Layering Technique: Lasagna gardening is generally considered beginner-friendly, but you do still need to learn how to layer the materials effectively. Decomposition is slowed further if you don’t have the right balance of carbon and nitrogen.
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adding a layer of kitchen vegetable and fruit scraps to brown layer of lasagna bed in a raised garden

What are Lasagna Gardening Layers?

A lasagna garden bed is essentially a lot of layers of materials including: thick brown materials, thinner green layers, soil, and straw, with a bottom of cardboard or newspapers to keep the weeds from growing. The goal is to create a rich biome full of earthworms and other beneficial creatures to help you in your garden endeavors.

To make lasagna garden beds, use any yard waste or excess you may have. Simply layer them where you want your bed to be.  

Don’t have your own materials for your lasagna garden beds? Try this list of places to find lots of mulch for free!

garlic growing through straw mulch layer in a no till garden bed

How to Make Lasagna Garden Beds?

  1. Decide on the layout of your garden beds and section them off using boards, rocks, string or the like.
  2. Next, lay black and white newspaper or cardboard down to kill the grass. Overlap the cardboard so weeds can’t sneak through. Water the paper or cardboard well.
  3. Then, add brown materials: peat moss, hay, straw, leaves, pine needles, wood chips, shredded newspaper etc. Brown layers should be dry and bulky. You want a thick layer of brown materials, like 5 inches. 
  4. On top of the brown, now add a thin layer of nitrogen materials such as rich greens. Green materials include manure, fruit and vegetable kitchen scraps, animal bedding, grass clippings, coffee grounds etc. Green materials are dense and moist. These materials will work with the brown material to break down into a nutrient rich soil.
  5. Top your beds with 5 inches of garden soil and come spring, you’ll be ready to plant with zero tilling!
  6. After planting, top your bed with 6 inches of straw. This will provide a lovely layer of mulch that will break down and enrich your garden beds even more.

Make sure to water each layer, especially the cardboard before adding another layer.  Also, remember to layer a thick brown layer with a thin green layer.  Honestly you’re basically composting in the shape of your garden bed.  Do not turn or till or dig when you’re building a lasagna gardening bed.  

I recommend putting wood chips down on walkways between your beds to keep weeds away. This also adds additional nutrient sources to the top of your bed and prevents walkways from becoming compacted. Add fresh mulch to the walkways in the spring.

When is the best time to start your lasagna garden?

While you can start your lasagna garden any time, you might want to consider the fall. The best way to start a lasagna bed is in the fall when leaves and other dried brown materials are plentiful, but you can start them anytime you want. 

If you start in the fall, you may be able to skip step 5 outlined above because your layers will have adequate time in the fall and winter to break down into rich soil before spring planting.

tomato garden

How Do You Use Lasagna Garden Beds

Once the layers have cooked down you will plant into the soil the same as any other soil.  You can often begin gardening earlier since it is a raised bed and as such will drain cold spring rains better. 

After planting your lasagna gardening bed cover it with dried grass clippings, straw bale or hay.  You can even use wood mulch or chips though I prefer them for my walkways if you don’t have easy access to them.

How Long Do Lasagna Garden Beds Last?

Your lasagna gardening beds will last as long as you use them. If you do not use something on the side to help hold the soil up in the raised bed style it will eventually fall into your walkway.  

You also do not want to walk on it as if you do it will compress the soil and counteract the whole point of that fluffy soil. Every fall, be sure to add another layer of compost, leaves, straw or hay, to your beds. Doing so will keep the soil rich and fertile and build the soil for successful garden seasons.

Do Lasagna Beds Look Messy?

Some people think lasagna gardening can look unkempt. Often there is hay or straw, some leaves, hanging out of the garden beds. 

If you have a Type A personality and want beautifully defined garden beds, build sides to maintain that ‘proper’ edging. Sides are good as they keep your lovely soil exactly where you want it and helps to prevent others from walking through the garden beds.

More Organic Gardening Posts You’ll Love

Have you ever used the Lasagna Gardening Method?  If you have what do you think about it?

About Michelle Marine

Michelle Marine is the author of How to Raise Chickens for Meat, a long-time green-living enthusiast, and rural Iowa mom of four. She empowers families to grow and eat seasonal, local foods; to reduce their ecological footprint; and to come together through impactful travel.

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