Lasagna Gardening, Raised Beds and Square Foot Gardens


Lasagna Gardening, Raised Beds and Square Foot Gardening

What's the biggest gardening challenge you face?

Here at Oak Hill, my biggest challenge is definitely fighting the Bermuda grass. My attempts to garden in the ground have been less than stellar. Container gardening worked better, but it would take a lot of containers to hold all the plants I want need want.

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So last year I began building a new raised bed garden. While I was at it, I planned to double my garden space. And I also wanted to do it on the smallest possible budget - preferably a zero budget.

I'm still working on the expansion project, because it has to be fit in among everything else. I'm using reclaimed lumber to build the new beds, and I've found that the most difficult part is filling them. With my zero-dollar budget, I can't just go buy bags and bags of soil for each raised bed. So I'm composting like crazy and also scooping the black dirt from the old goat yard without making a big hole in the ground.

Last fall's leaves waiting to be added to the compost pile.
Last fall's leaves waiting to be added to the compost pile.

Some of the new beds are being filled using the "lasagna garden" method (affiliate link); these are the beds that will have time to compost and mellow before being planted. Simply put, I'm layering horse manure, garden debris, lawn clippings, leaves, kitchen waste, chicken/duck/goat manure, and spoiled hay in the new beds. This flat compost bed sort of resembles lasagna with its repeating layers. All this organic material will eventually decompose into wonderful garden soil.

Raised beds lend themselves well to square foot gardening. Mel Bartholomew's book Square Foot Gardening (affiliate link) explains it all. Since I'm using a defined rectangular area in each bed - usually 4 feet by 8 feet - it's a simple matter to divide that space into squares and plant each one according to the square foot gardening method.

Here you can see the cabbage I grew last year.

Cabbage in a raised bed garden.

This week I'm fixing a mistake I made last year. I'd dug out the spilled hay and goat manure under the goats' hay feeder, and dumped it into a new raised bed. I was hoping it was decomposed enough even though I could see hay layered in the strata. Some people call this "barn pack." Unfortunately it just hardened into dry clumps and in just a few weeks, before I covered it with more soil or compost ingredients, it grew a great crop of grass from the seeds that were still viable in the hay.

Digging out the weedy bed.

The only remedy was to shovel out the barn pack and compost it like I should have done in the first place. One fine morning last week I finished half of the 4'x8' bed. Under the barn pack clumps I'd lined the ground in the new raised bed with a thick layer of cardboard which has completely composted over the winter, leaving great soil underneath with a wonderful texture. Too bad the whole bed wasn't filled with this black gold!

The rest of the bed needs to be dug out, then I'll replace the cardboard and refill it with compost and soil. I'll bury the clumps of barn pack deep in my compost pile. This bed will hold my tomatoes and peppers this year.

Sprouting garlic.

In some of the beds I made last year, the garlic and comfrey are up and growing. The walking onions have greened up and look happy. It's time to plant spinach and other cold weather crops.

Do you use the square garden or lasagna garden methods? Or maybe both?




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