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Monday, February 27, 2012

Lasagna Gardening

I did not grow up with plants in my house. My mother says she has a black thumb meaning she can kill cacti. It is not as hard as you might think. I bought a tiny novelty one once. I put it on a high shelf in my house that my cat could not reach.

I watered him and thought of (it) him, the cactus, for a while but then…I forgot and he died. OUCH 

With this as a background it was 30 years before I decided to try my hand at gardening. Moving back home and having the largest backyard on the block helped spur on inspiration.

The backyard looked like a jungle all over grown and unkempt. My mother is allergic to grass so the front yard had rocks and a fountain…
What to do when you have no idea what to do or want a new solution to an age old problem? Get new information. I hit the web and then the library.

A fascinating concept met my searches. A garden with no weeding! The concept is simple:

Smother the weeds and grasses you 
would otherwise have to clear away.

Plant directly on top of the smothered material with potting soil or biodegradable containers that will disintegrate. 

Water and care for your plants as usual. 


Wow I was intrigued. The details made sense. You smother the existing plant material in wet layers of newspaper and or cardboard and paper bags. 

This general concept goes by many names: 

Layer Gardens
Sheet Composting
Container Garden

The latter processes are good for people living in cramped quarters like apartments with no yard.

When you layer properly you have enough material covering the existing plant growth so as to block out sun light. If you are covering a large area and do not sufficiently overlap the edges you will get weeds along the cracks just like weeds growing through cracks on the side walk.

Having yard space covered in lush unwanted foliage is a good indication that your yard gets adequate sun and water. It also lets you know a little about your soil quality. 

The more you know about gardening or specific you want to get about what you are planting there are soil tests and additives you can investigate and try out.

It felt good to know nothing in my yard need go to waste for me to create a produce center. It was the closest thing I have done to composting. The idea had been to organically plant a handful of things. My dreams were luscious. My results were a little less so. Well not according to the slugs and snails.

They loved the bushy heads I raised. My carrots looked weird. My beet and peas tasted nice. I think the corn got squashed and sadly the strawberries and tomatoes did not come out at all. 

Total farmer gardener ignorance and error there. The weather was nice and I cannot blame the former infested grounds. We would have tried again in subsequent years but things transpired...


  1. I have a gorgeous garden, but I fail miserably when it comes to produce. Think it may be the sandy soil here in north Florida. You really have to work at it to get anything that isn't native to grow.

  2. Oooh are there pictures on your blog? I would love to see what you have grown. I would definitely try a container or raised bed garden if I knew the soil would fight me.

    My mother being from the Bahamas I visited FL many times as a child. My aunts yard there seemed to consist of sand, gravel and crab grass.

    Now they both live in GA and my mom has a house with a more normal yard.

  3. I tried so hard to garden last year with my kids. We still had the most wonderful experience planting and tending it for months before the heat and humidity killed everything off. After 4 months of neglecting the garden and our compost pile, we found 3 gorgeous, perfect cantaloupe in the compost pile from compost seeds that took root. That was ridiculous. :)

  4. HAHAHAHA Is that a fun story at the end or what? Nature has a sense of humour. I have no idea what I might have to change to combat humidity in gardening. One idea might be to plant early harvest things.

    I would think melon, tomatoes and gourds might survive serious heat summers.

    I really want to compost but that has yet to happen. I tried to get a worm farm growing but I was all off balance...they tried to wiggle away it was too wet among other issues.

    My daughter and I set up a mini garden at my friends house with her two kids about the same age as her at the time. They were very excited to get their hands dirty doing something. They had a little dog who we tried to thwart with fencing.

    Can't recall if they got a harvest or not.

  5. I mix my own dirt for my recycle bins. Well I did to start with, I've added to it of course over the years. 1/3 of organic dirt/compost, 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 peat moss. One year I mixed in 6 year old cow manure (it was all dried out by then and didn't smell.)

    1. I needed a mentor or a buddy when I tried my hand at gardening. I had no idea what I was doing. Glad you found a system that worked for you!