Need heavy "brown" ideas for lasagna bed

North Richland Hills, TX(Zone 8a)

I recently started a lasagna bed in a corner of my yard. Started by covering the grass with wet newspaper. Layered in fresh grass clippings, some brown leaves, composted manure, coffee grounds, and topped it off with Sphagnum Peat Moss. I haven't touched it for a couple weeks, but want to add more materials to it as each "layer" wasn't very thick, so I feel like it needs more.

I have no problem coming up with "greens" as we have fresh grass clippings weekly, but I don't know what to put on top of the grass to help weight it down (so it doesn't dry and blow away) and to add a "brown" to the mix. I know I can tear up newspaper, wet it down, and add to the garden for a brown, but it seems this could just blow away too? Is there any type of compost, etc that I can purchase and add on top of the grass that will supply the needed carbon and also keep everything from blowing away? Thoughts? Suggestions?

Thumbnail by jenepat
Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

I think a cheap shredded mulch is the cheapest thing. When I use it for mulch it goes away pretty quickly. But it seems to me that when I use grass clippings they sort of mat togethe r and don't really blow.

North Richland Hills, TX(Zone 8a)

Thanks Sally. I'm really more concerned with adding something that could bring the necessary Carbon to the mix. I'm not sure cheap shredded mulch would do this, would it? I don't have access to any leaves yet, which seems like it would be the easiest to add - but it's too early in the season here for that.

Any other ideas?

North Ridgeville, OH(Zone 5b)

Cardboard is a great source of concentrated carbon. Check the dumpsters behind your local bookstore or supermarket for empty boxes. Soak them with water to soften them and make them heavy enough to resist being blown away by the wind, then tear them into sheets and lay them down on your lasagna bed.

North Richland Hills, TX(Zone 8a)

Ok - will do. Thanks! Also, is peat moss a source of carbon or nitrogen - or neither?

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

Hey Pirate- I have the utmost respect for you, but don't you think those pieces of cardbaord are going to dry out and get loose eventually? I haven't used it myself.. Well, I have used a big sheet here and there more as a lid, than trying to get it to decompose. Weighted down.
Shredded wood is a great source of carbon. Wood is very carbon, that's why we build things with it and they last a long time. ^_^
Peat moss is brown for good reason==carbon. Also very fluffy!

Brighton, MO(Zone 6a)

Bagged cotton burr compost would add C, weigh down the grass, and doesn't blow much at all. It will also kick start the composting process with its microorganisms.

Cincinnati, OH(Zone 6a)

A bale of straw is cheap and works well, goes a long way. (Make sure it's straw, not hay which is a "green". Shredded mulch is good too- very high C:N ratio to help raise carbon, and very little is needed. Both work well for me.

Karen

North Ridgeville, OH(Zone 5b)

Sally, you're right that the cardboard would blow away if it's the top layer. When I use it, I cover it with fresh grass clippings to keep it in place.

The wind I dislike is the kind that sweeps in when I'm half done laying the cardboard. As long as the cardboard is wet when I lay it down, it won't blow away before I cover it with grass clippings.

North Richland Hills, TX(Zone 8a)

thanks for all the ideas!

Danielsville, GA(Zone 7b)

I get the power company to dump shreaded limbs on my place, and then get it on my lasagna bed, right after I cover the bed with cardboard.The worms go wild over it.
Mike

North Ridgeville, OH(Zone 5b)

If you can get several gallons of spent coffee grounds from a coffee shop, then you've got the perfect material to weigh down cardboard and keep it from blowing away. Even better, worms love coffee grounds and cardboard. Plus, the grounds smell great!

North Richland Hills, TX(Zone 8a)

I was under the impression that coffee grounds are a source of nitrogen - is this true? I do have some and have added them a little, but if they supply carbon, I'll definitely be adding them more abundantly.

North Ridgeville, OH(Zone 5b)

Coffee grounds are definitely a source of nitrogen, but I like them more for other reasons: they attract worms, look and smell good, and when wet they do a great job of holding loose stuff in place.

Cincinnati, OH(Zone 6a)

jenepat: How deep is your lasagna now? It's hard to guess what your balance might be, but it does sound like you might be kind of nitrogen heavy. I wouldn't add coffee unless a fair amount of carbon is added, too. Is it slimy or stinky? Grass clippings can get really nasty without adequate carbon. As long as you get plenty of "browns" you can stack materials really deep, like several feet. I never have that much, but I think the deeper it is the better the finished product. I'd get some straw or wood mulch to add and then use more of those grass clippings and coffee grounds.

Karen

North Richland Hills, TX(Zone 8a)

it's not that deep at all. the bed is very large, so any cut grass or other materials are spread pretty thin so that all areas get some. i'd say it's 2-3 inches thick at the most - the bottom layer is the grass we covered up with the wet newspaper. it doesn't seem stinky at all. do you know if i can get straw or wood mulch at Home Depot and/or Lowes? I've obviously seen wood mulch there before, but has their stuff been treated with something that will keep it from breaking down during composting? Is there something in particular I should be looking for on the package?

Citra, FL

Sawdust works well, or wood shavings.

Hugo (Vicki), OK(Zone 7b)

Jenepat,

I've created my first "lasgna garden" but I'm going to let it winter before I plant anything. You can even use kitchen scraps, same as compost pile. We put wood ashes on the top of ours You could also put builders sand, ages manure,compost, also alternate layers with 2inches of peat moss. I wet mine all down and covered it with a plastic tarp. When first created the bed it was about 20 inches tall, it will eventually breakdown and be about 6-10 inches. There really is no wrong way to create one. I could of planted in mine right away but I'm new to vegetable gardening, and wanted to wait until early spring to put plants in.
Happy gardening!
Vicki

Cincinnati, OH(Zone 6a)

I'm not sure whether Home Depot or Lowes sells straw, but I've not seen it at my local stores. I usually buy it at a garden center, I usually pay about $7 a bale. One bale goes far. Many, many places sell straw bales this time of year for fall decorating.

Jenepat, do you have many deciduous trees in your area? Leaves are by far my favorite carbon source for compost or lasagna. They will be plentiful here in a few weeks.

Three inches of materials on top of a bed is really more like a mulch than a lasagna bed. It will rot down to literally nothing. It should improve your soil, but not like a true lasagna. Try to get lots more material, like a foot deep. Even that will rot down to a couple of inches. You can continue to add those grass clippings but do come up with some carbon. Then the UCGs will be good too.

Also don't forget all those summer plants that you or your neighbors will be yanking, or perennials you will be cutting back. Those can be chopped small and added to your bed. Anything removed from a plant while it's alive and green is a "green" or N, anything dead or brown when removed from a plant is a "brown" or carbon source.

Karen

Port St Lucie (+ Wk , FL(Zone 9b)

I bought 6 bales of wheat straw from Lowes for $4 and change a bale, last month. HD also sells it. I have a small trailer (5'x7') so it was easy for me. It was clean and wouldn't be a problem to transport a couple of bales in an SUV. I used the straw as a compost bin enclosure to get me started, then next year it will be "part of the solution" as I build whatever I decide for a permanent enclosure. I'm waiting for leaf fall so I can drive around and pick up bagged leaves at the street. I plan to use my lawnmower on the leaves to chop them up so I will get more brown per inch of depth.
Paul

North Richland Hills, TX(Zone 8a)

Karen & Paul - great info! Yes, I'll be using leaves too from our deciduous trees, but those won't be falling for at least another 6 weeks or so down here (I think). Will probably try to get some straw from HD/Lowes or another garden center in the area. All great info though - thanks!

Cincinnati, OH(Zone 6a)

I transport a bale of straw in the trunk of my Honda Civic. It's a tight fit, and makes a mess of the trunk, but it fits.

Karen

Citra, FL

I really hate to see you people actually have to pay for straw or hay. Dont you have any local horse farms where you can go and get stall cleanings for free? I dont ever spend money on mulch/compost. All free, from horse farms, from feed stores that have bad bales. They'll just give them to you. Leaves, lawn clippings. No need to pay for that kind of stuff.

Citra, FL

Exactly where in Cincinnati are you...well not exactly, but roughly.

Cincinnati, OH(Zone 6a)

About 4 miles west of downtown

Citra, FL

River Downs Race Track is 7 miles from downtown Cincinnati, and I know there are feed stores right around there. Not to mention that you can probably get used straw for absolutely free, if you are so inclined.

Fredericksburg, VA(Zone 7b)

If you buy your straw from the big box stores, be sure and ask for "builder's straw". It has fewer weed seeds.

Cincinnati, OH(Zone 6a)

That is on the other side of downtown- east- 15.78 mi. or 26 min each way according to mapquest. I rarely go out to that area, no reason to, and again, One hour driving time alone and gas money. As opposed to next to 0 gas cost, 0 car emisions, and no time to drive a few blocks and pay $7.

On the rare occasions I go to a feed store, it's one 30 miles from here, only a short distance from a place where I work a couple of days a month. The place I usually work is much closer.

Stall cleanings --- So --- how would I get stall cleanings home? Just shovel this horse poop into the back seat of my Honda? Or my husband's Cadillac?

We city kids get along just fine. Sometimes one can get free bales of straw being discarded from fall decorating, but it can take some time to search for it. Soon, leaves will be plentiful here. My neighbors deliver them to me.

Really

Citra, FL

I certainly didnt mean to start an argument, I was just trying to be helpful. I know a lot of "city kids" who are very ingenious about finding items for their lasagna beds, and yes they bring stall cleanings home, they fill plastic bags or whatever else they need, or want. Its simply a matter of doing what you want.

Cincinnati, OH(Zone 6a)

No argument, just practicality. In an age of air pollution and $4/gallon gas, these things come into play. I'm not a horse racing fan, nor a gambler, and in 30 years in Cinti I think I've only been to River Downs once, maybe. Or maybe not. I have been to one or 2 in Ky. The Cinti flower and garden show has been in that area for the past few years, but I didn't even make it to that this year. I just have no reason to go there.

And I'm simply not inclined to transport horse poop in plastic bags in my car. If I had some old truck maybe, but that's not anywhere in the plan. I like my little compact car with it's good gas mileage. It meets my needs.

Karen

Brisbane, Australia(Zone 10b)

I use straw in my beds for mulching and as a C source, I find it breaks down alot quicker and more evenly than paper and cardboard.

If you havent already, I reccommend you check out the Strawbale Gardening Forum here at DG. I stumbled upon it just over a year ago, and it completely changed the way I look at strawbales, or gardening for that matter!
I plant my tomatoes directly into the straw bale in year one, then the following year I can use the decomposed bale as the first layer in a lasagna. Or spread it on other beds and start again with a fresh lot of bales.

Lena

North Richland Hills, TX(Zone 8a)

Lena - thanks for the tip about the Strawbale Gardening forum. I hadn't seen that one before. Very interesting!!!

Brisbane, Australia(Zone 10b)

Its very easy to do and so handy. Instant raised bed wherever you want it! Come join us in the Strawbale Gargening forum :-)

Lena

Bardstown, KY(Zone 6a)

I just started strawbale gardening this year and my bales have decomposed so much that I won't be able to use them for planting next year so they are either going into the compost pile or a lasagna bed. Best tomatoes I've ever grown!!!

Doug

North Richland Hills, TX(Zone 8a)

Wanted to update you all that I got a couple bales of wheat straw to add for my carbon. Lowes, Home Depot, and other garden centers didn't carry it at all, but I was able to buy some at a local feed store ($7-8 per bale). I loved how easily the straw separated into little sheets that I was able to put out on the bed. It ended up being 2-4" thick. So now it's time to add more "greens"! After that I may try some cotton burr compost or mushroom compost. Then I'm sure I'll have plenty of leaves on my hands to finish things off.

Thanks again for all the ideas!

Cincinnati, OH(Zone 6a)

Good for you, sounds like you are well on your way to a nice batch of lasagna. And when you end up with that nice, thick, bed, chock full of organic matter, $14 will seem like a small investment in retrospect. Good luck and please let us know how it turns out for you. I expect you will be pleased with the result.

Karen

Camden, AR(Zone 8a)

Well. I live in a rural area, but have NO TREES in my yard so I am struggling at coming up with "carbons" for a lasanaga bed. I want to make a new LARGE bed and I am flinching at what it will cost for compost, bags of manure, etc to establish it. My soil is very sandy and so I really need to improve it before planting. I have contacted a guy that has horse stables - and I can shovel out as much as I want - providing I can come up with a way to haul it....but he did warn me that a lot of people did not like using it because of all the grass and weed seeds...... Anyone have any experience with that? I do save all my cardboard and newspaper, but the bed I want to fix is large enough that I will never have enough of that to be 12" thick..... I would appreciate any and all suggestions....

We do have some lumber mills in the area ..........would raw sawdust work?? just a thought. Trying to do this as inexpensively as possible...


Genna

Brisbane, Australia(Zone 10b)

Strawbales. You can plant directly into them while you wait for your lasagna to compost, then ad them as a semi decomposed layer of Carbon. Check out the Strawbale Gardening Forum :-)

Cincinnati, OH(Zone 6a)

I have no experience with sawdust but it sounds to me like a good top layer. Hopefully someone will chime in who has tried it in lasagna. I've never tried strawbale gardening either, but I have read about it and it sounds intriguing, another thing I might have to experiment with someday.

But if you decide on a traditional lasagna garden, straw does make a great " brown". As I mentioned above, it's cheap (I pay $7) and a bale goes a long way. Remember straw is a brown or carbon source; hay is a green or nitrogen source. And you can use any organic matter in a lasagna bed. Don't discount what can be gathered in yard cleanup. (your yard and neighbor's too).

Karen

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