Making a new 'lasagna bed' for perennials?

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

Hi, everybody--

We got the idea that we needed more garden space in order to divide and plant our perennials this fall.

So I looked on the Internet for basic instructions for a 'lasagna bed' and found some lists of ingredients and suggestions for 'how to's'.

The thing is, we don't have all the 'kitchen scraps' and lawn cuttings etc. to make the layers so I got hold of some straw and 'mushroom compost' and pine bark nuggets and made some layers (12 inches high)...

Now, my question--does anyone here have experience with planting perennial divisions right into the new layered bed?

If so, how did your lasagna bed work out the next season?

Here is one of my main sources of info--she seemed to think her bed was a success...

Any advice would be appreciated. t.

Thumbnail by tabasco
Cordele, GA(Zone 8a)

For immediate use, I just mound up lots of bags of cow manure/humus and cheap top soil. I do have several beds that I started with the technique you are referring to in the link. The layering with cardboard, newspapers, clippings, kitchen scrapes will need to "cook" over the winter, then, in the spring, you'll have a no dig bed that's ready for planting.

Someone else may be able to correct me if I'm wrong.


Winchester, VA(Zone 6a)

A friend at work does this "lasagna" thing, Tabasco. She is layering newspaper this week. She does it over a few weeks time. So far, she can't think of a reason that everyone doesn't work new beds this way.

Good luck.

(Zone 5a)

I've never heard of "lasagna beds" but I'm liking this method of working new beds. I've been cutting the grass out first and then digging in compost and sand - It's really hard work and slow going - I think I'll give this a try! I'd like to know more about it - what is used in the layering and why the layers??

Good luck with your project tabasco!

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

I had some new raised beds built around the house many years ago - one of them was over a grassy area and I thought I would have to dig it up. But the guy who built the beds said no - we layered a couple inch or so of newspapers, wet them down and put a layer of topsoil - maybe 6 inchs (it is a low raised bed!) on top of the newspapers.This was in the fall - planted it in the spring - never saw a bit of grass or newspaper in that bed again!

(Zone 5a)

Fancyvan, you don't know how happy it makes me to hear that - I'm seeing my borders expanding as we speak ! My rose bed needs to double in size (at least) and it needs to be raised and I've been dreading having to cut all that grass - but now I don't! Oh, happy day! Yay! :-)

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

Thanks for your comments, everyone,

rannveig-- have a look at the link I posted above for more ideas of what to 'layer'. That gardener used all kinds of 'found' components for her lasagna bed. And this link is pretty good too.

I decided to try to make our new bed now because fall is coming and there will be lots of chopped leaves available to 'layer' into the beds (although I think this bed is pretty high right now with the straw and compost and the leaves I had left over from last fall)...

My 'landscaper' advisor told me to use pine bark fines and some shagnum moss in combination with other materials if I need more 'additives' and to keep it 'light' so the air/water could circulate in the soil. Not just straight 'top soil' from bags or in bulk--that's too heavy, he said.

I have researched the 'Soils' forum and there is lots of material there on creating raised beds and lasagna gardening FYI. But I posted here to hear some reports of how it worked for Perennial Flower gardeners.

I'm no expert but it's fun learning about these new ideas that seem to work for others. I have visions of all kinds of new beds around the yard (what yard?!!) too!

Minneapolis, MN(Zone 4b)


Most of my garden beds have been done in this manner.
1.Cut the grass very short,
2.layer newspaper on top, wet it down, Use 5-6 sheets of newspaper and overlap it
3.layer 3-4" of a well aged farm post (I use some from a horse track that is the manure and straw ground up and aged).
4. Plant into it by moving the farmpost back where you are going to plant cut through the newspaper, plant and tuck the plant in with the above layers.

In no time at all the grass will die and decompose and you will have a beautiful weed free bed. I doubled my rose bed that way this spring, plus added another bed. This fall i am going to expand one more. I decided to work this way because if I used the true lasagna method it would be years before I had enough scraps to add to it. I do compost and use that to supplement my gardens.

This message was edited Sep 12, 2006 6:22 AM

Lincoln, NE(Zone 5b)

I tried my first lasagna bed this summer. Layered 5-6 sheets of newpaper and then topped with about 4" of partly decomposed leaf/grass compost and some old Miracle Grow from some pots and barrels in the garage. Would have liked to have had more to pile on, but that was all I had available. I went ahead and planted the beds a couple weeks ago by cutting slits in the newspapers. So far the daylilies and Iris are growing fine and only a few weeds have germinated from the compost. Sure is easier than rmoving sod! Wish I would have learned this a few years ago before I removed all my sod.


Winchester, KY(Zone 6a)

t, I've been experimenting with a few variations of this method, all with success. The earthworm activity I've seen has been amazing! In some areas where the soil is already good, I've only put down cardboard and mulch over that and started planting a few weeks after.

Can't wait to see how your project progresses! Be sure to keep us posted :)

Winchester, VA(Zone 6a)

I am sure glad we can kill grass with newspaper. I dug up about 30' x 3' area of grass this past spring. Never again. At least it'll be good for something. There is nothing good to read in our papers lately. :)

This message was edited Sep 12, 2006 11:41 AM

Winchester, VA(Zone 6a)

Here's the "longbed" partially planted when it was new. It's much more full now.

Thumbnail by pegdog
(Zone 5a)

pegdog - that bed looks really good! I can't wait to try this out - if the wind and rain will ever let up! Haven't been out in the garden since last week - the grass needs mowing ......

Winchester, VA(Zone 6a)

howdy to Iceland from Virginia ... how cool is this site???? :)

Thanks for the kudos on the bed. I am in constant "grass kill" mode with this one. Newspapers and mulch go down this weekend.

Minneapolis, MN(Zone 4b)

Great, let us know how it goes.

Chapel Hill, NC(Zone 7b)

This is fascinating, and I will try this too. I was going to get the book from the Library, but of course it is out till Sept. 26.!! We can get newspapers easily - do you remove pages with color print? - and rotted leaves from the city compost pile. My own compost is not enough yet ( have been here only less than one year).

Winchester, VA(Zone 6a)

I put any newspaper down, or cardboard. Then soak that. Next, green stuff (lawn clippings, leaves, etc.) then brown, then water, then green, brown, water... until you get the size bed you want, or 3-4 layers. That's what I do. My neighbor imports manure and such from our surrounding farms. Whatever works, eh?

Centennial, CO(Zone 5b)

I have used everything except the newspaper and cardboard, and it works for me. I'm adding another 3000 sf of flower beds this way over the next few months.

Pile it as high as you can. The decomp and settling will reduce the height by half.

The is the reaised-bed rose garden I put in this year, all compost & stuff piled as high as I could make it. AFter it settled, we started in on the stonework.

Thumbnail by greenjay
Indianapolis, IN(Zone 5b)

Tobasco, I am right ahead of you on this, maybe by about 2 months? Except I'm not wanting to put perennials in mine. Yet. See the least 2 paragraphs.

I started with cardboard boxes and only put newspaper where the slits were or where the contour of the bed needed more than the square of the cardboard. Then I wet them down again and again...does cardboard repel water? Sure seemed to!

I used a mix of 1/3 fallen leaves from an unhappy tree, 1/3 fresh grass clippings and 1/3 Starbucks coffee grounds -- very heavy coffee grounds! Over all that I put about 2 inches or so of screened finished compost, so it looks really nice and could be used as a seed bed.

It has decreased in volume way more than I expected, and I suspect yours will, too, but I see you've mounded yours way up. I am not planting perennials in mine until I feel that the height I want has been achieved...maybe 2 years? I am going to put fall sown annuals and biennials in mine and WS jugs (ug, you know how I feel about *that*!) Hopefully next year I can add more stuff to it, especially the forest fines. IMHO your landscape advisor is right: Forest fines & spagnum is the way to go. AIR becomes critical, even in pure humus. I am going to add that next year.

Mine is in the backyard and I am literally having turf wars with my husband. We had a patch of grass which was hard to mow and I had to annex it before he changed his mind and tried to make the mower access to it wider (and my flowerbed narrower!) Sheesh!


Indianapolis, IN(Zone 5b)

Greenjay! Gorgeous! I love it!


Lake Toxaway, NC(Zone 7a)

A lot of people avoid the color pages because of all the strange chemicals in the newsprint. The regular newspaper with black print is safe, partly because they no longer use lead.

Thomasville, GA(Zone 8b)


Thanks for the laugh! We were having turf wars, too, my LH claimed that my plants were making it too difficult for him to mow around.

I pointed out that all he had to do was kill the grass around the plants and I would pine straw it, creating more of a "bed" look. That gave him the chance to use the Roundup and kill some fire ants, so he got to be macho...... LOL

I also started planting beds where the grass wasn't doing well and enlisting his help in getting rid of the grass.

Our new deal (his idea) is that if there is a place that's a pain to mow, it becomes my turf.
I love the lasagna idea because I am the digger here, and I spent WAY too much time this year creating beds instead of planting. I think he will like it, too- he likes to build raised beds because they are "neater" looking.


Winchester, VA(Zone 6a)

lol, plantnutga, i just replied to you on another thread about lasg. beds and here you are. funny....

Ffld County, CT(Zone 6b)

tabasco, I've planted perennials in my lasagna beds fairly soon (a week or two) after making them.

My first two lasagna beds were fairly high, so I did not have to even go through the newspaper at the bottom. The last two I did were not as tall, so I did go through the newspaper on the ground, but not very deeply.

I just dig a hole in the lasagna bed wider than I would normally dig, and fill with topsoil and composted manure, then plant the perennial in it. If I am digging through the paper into the soil, I mix some of that in with the topsoil/manure.

I was worried, especially the first year when the beds were so high, that I would have to replant the plants after the beds settled. But it turned out that the plants settled right along with all the decomposing materials, and it worked out great.

This is pretty much the only way I do beds now. This fall I will be adding on to some conventionally-dug beds by using the lasagna method, so I have to raise the level of the old beds somehow. Still easier than digging!

Good luck to everyone trying this for the first time!

Cincinnati, OH(Zone 6a)

Okay, I'm rubbing my hands together with anticipation and groaning at the same time. Something else I want to try! Woo hoo! Actually, this one may go near the top of my idea list, since I cut out sod this year. I agree, it's no fun.

Now....where can I do this??? :) Thinking...scanning....planning...


Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

Good information everyone--thanks for taking the time to advise -- you have definitely raised my confidence level!

I am going to the Daylily society meeting this weekend so I hope to come home with something new for the bed. I'll plant them then, and see if my compost is too 'hot' to do further plantings. A large percentage of my bed is 'mushroom' compost and I am worried that it's too strong....wish I had some chopped leaves to add...

Cincinnati, OH(Zone 6a)

I've been trying to talk my husband into helping me save some of our leaves this year instead of letting the city pick them up. I compost all that I can in the two bins I have, but I'd love to have a stash to mix with the grass clippings in the summer and to use as needed in other places.

Silly man, he thinks it's not practical. I'll find a spot.

Good luck with your bed, tabasco, and have fun at the show.


Cincinnati, OH(Zone 6a)

I've been trying to talk my husband into helping me save some of our leaves this year instead of letting the city pick them up. I compost all that I can in the two bins I have, but I'd love to have a stash to mix with the grass clippings in the summer and to use as needed in other places.

Silly man, he thinks it's not practical. I'll find a spot.

Good luck with your bed, tabasco, and have fun at the meeting.


Northern, NJ(Zone 6b)

Run over the leaves a few times with the lawnmower and your pile will shrink dramatically. It also helps the leaves decompose quickly.
I collect all my neighbors leaves too and after the lawnmower trick my mountains are down to a pile. I also collect everyones discarded Xmas trees and use the boughs to cover the garden after the ground freezes. Last year I cut up 12.

Cincinnati, OH(Zone 6a)

Wowsa, 12 trees?? That's a lot of work. If you ever get bored, I've got a brush pile I'm trying hard to shrink. :)

Actually, we have a leaf blower/shredder, thank goodness. Last year my husband filled 40-50 yard waste bags of shredded leaves. I shudder to think about how many we'd need for unshredded, not to mention all the raking. And then the aching.

I think there are few places in the way back yet still accessible part of the yard where we could put up some chicken wire or something to contain them.



Cincinnati, OH(Zone 6a)

Tabasco & Winging, I've bought a leaf shredder this year that's supposed to turn tons of leaves into shredded piles that will compost more easily. I'm planning to rob the neighbors of any leaves they don't want & start a serious compost pile. One of my neighbors (who has a yard that looks like it belongs in a magazine) has acquired three rabbits for additions to his compost pile. If you want to come & shred, let me know. I would love to have advice for my garden!

Winchester, KY(Zone 6a)

Shredded leaves made a huge difference in my beds this year. I put down a layer in spring and now it's a rich, black layer of worm castings. Last year we were given a leaf blower that also sucks them up like a vacuum cleaner, shreads and bags them. It was great- just had to empty them onto the garden. It made a pretty mulch too.

(Zone 5a)

pegdog howdy back to Virginia - this is a very cool site!!

Greenjay - those are some nice looking beds!

What is it with husbands and lawns anyway - I have one too that's always worrying that there won't be any lawn left when I'm done making my beds (which will be expanding at an almarming rate after this very educational thread!!!!!). And I'm the one that moves the lawn! I say it's too big! He almost had a heart attack last fall when I expanded one of them "a bit" (not nearly as much as I would have liked though! - it will be getting bigger) - but then when it started filling up this summer he had to admit that it looked pretty good (even better than the raggedy grass that was growing there before) LOL!

Wouldn't mind getting one of those leaf blower/shredder things - I'm all for things that make life easier!

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

LOL yes, we pile all of our shredded leaves along the back lot line where our property meets a county forest.

It makes wonderful 'organic mulch' but not enough for all the new beds I have in mind, so I'm going to ask all the 'mow and blow' fellas who work on our street to dump their chopped leaves in my front gardens. My neighbors are already concerned about my 'lasagna bed' project in the front and I wonder what they will think with my newest proposal?!!

Of course, the downside of this plan is that the chopped leaves make nice nests for the nasty critters that eat my spring bulbs...

Thomasville, GA(Zone 8b)


That's better than what lives in them here! I am not a girly girl by any means but I sure can jump fast when a roach (oh, I'm sorry, "Palmetto bug"- that sounds so much nicer) comes up out of the mulch!


La Salle, MI(Zone 5b)

Question, Do I put the L-bed in now and plant in the Spring or can I do both in the Spring?

Springboro, OH(Zone 6a)

Hi everyone :)

Tabasco, what fun for you! New beds are always so thrilling aren't they? I'm glad to see other people gt so excited about the idea of completely fresh, loose, dark soil. Sometimes I wonder if I just need to get out more ;) Y'all make me feel more normal, LOL.

I wanted to add my hearty "amen" to Suzy's earlier post. Sam and I have tried our hands at a couple of lasagna beds here, but my biggest one didn't turn out as I hoped. Basically, as Suzy suggested, the bed just settled entirely too much over the course of 18 months or so. I was really going for a raised, mounded "landscaped" bed look. I wanted the soil level to be noticeably higher than the lawn around it and I wanted it to have a nice crisp edge to offset the wildness of the cottagey plantings I was planning on. Anyway, I mounded so much that I didn't even need to cut into the newspaper to plant (this was in the fall also). I think we probably mounded about 18 inches. Long story short, about a year and a half later I was not at all happy with the soil line. My plants had settled along with the soil (someone else posted that, I agree) but the overall "mound" I was hoping for was only about 6" high. It's important to note that I used already composted materials. Everything was broken down when I layered it. I can't imagine how much my bed would have shrunk down if I had really fluffy, loose components like straw or uncomposted pine needles or leaves. We dug up all of the plants that fall (2 falls after intially lasagna-ing) and built up the bed again with more topsoil, composted leaf hummus, composted manure, and sphagnum peat, then replanted. I had all these poor plants sitting at the side of my house! LOL, I had to replant them asap. Otherwise, I might have waited until spring to see how much it settles again.

I do want to lasagna garden again. It's amazing how the grass just disapears (you have to keep it moist for best results). BUT, next time I'll do what Suzy said. I plan on building up the bed over the course of a couple of years, planting cottagey annual and wildflower seeds until I'm ready to really spend the money to plant my perennials and "keeper" plants. That way I'll know that my mound is where I want it. This whole post is pointless if you aren't even going for a mounded, raised bed to begin with, LOL. But, if that's what you want, immediately planting doesn't seem to be the way to go.

Whew! That was long! Sorry for rambling :) BTW, the soil is really, really nice to work in! :)


Hannibal, NY(Zone 6a)

Tabasco, your mushroom compost won't be too strong. It's already been well composted for the mushrooms.

However it does have a lot of lime in it. So if you are wanting to plant acid loving plants, you will need to work an acidifier in.

Since you're going out shopping, you might want to pick up some delphs if you like them, they love the mushroom compost.

Springboro, OH(Zone 6a)

And - the pine needles are pretty acidic - it might be a good idea to do a pH and nutrient test on your soil before you plant. Organic material is awesome, but the "wrong" blend can result in soil that is less than ideal for the average garden plant. Sphagnum peat changes the pH as well, come to think of it. Anyway, a soil test might be a good idea. But, I guess you can only do that after everything is broken down and "cooked".

LOL, do you like my random stream-of-consciousness posts? LOL, I'm so terribly helpful (blushing). LOL.

Chicago, IL(Zone 5b)

SalmonMe, I like your posts, they are very friendly and helpful. The best lasagna bed I did was a 3' high pile of leaves thrown on top of about 3" of organic peat and cow manure. It has settled at about 18". I just toss some of the peat/manure mixture and whatever else I have handy on it every once in a while (as you can tell my style of gardening is not the most organized or precision-like LOL) and my plants grow the best in this one section.

I am using this as my 'starter bed' to give my new plants a good start because I have such yucky soil here. It feels like I amend with every organic product known to man and I just can't seem to keep it from reverting to this horrible clay/cement/sand mixture that alternately waterlogs after a rain and then dries hard as a rock. My three lasagna beds are the only places where I have any real success. This year I splurged and bought a bag of Cotton Burr Compost that I am going to try in one area up front and see if it makes any difference. Otherwise I can see my future is filled with digging up everything, lasagna bedding the entire garden and replanting.

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