Making a new 'lasagna bed' for perennials?

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

OK. Thanks so much, SalmonMe, I am making many notes on your discussion and will definitely keep those thoughts in mind. I suppose I will have to be patient for a bit. Boo hoo.

Today we tried to plant a few things in the new bed but it was literally too hot for the plants so we shall wait for a while. Maybe until next spring. And I'll keep adding chopped leaves as the autumn progresses. I am not going to be too particular about how high the bed is in the end--I have read that an 18 inch pile will sink down to 6 inches, which is pretty hard to believe, but probably the truth!

I just saw a video of the head horticulturalist at Strybing Arboretum in San Francisco receommending lasagna beds--he plants seeds, natives, and annuals in it the first year or so until it sinks then the permanent planting...he was making a butterfly garden, which is what I want to make, too. Used straight manure, leaaves and garden clippings in his, so nothing too composted to start. He loved the lasgana idea.

When I made my 'layered bed' for my hostas last year the landscape guy told me to use sphagnum, pine bark fines, and a little mushroom compost and layer in some osmocote or something to provide the trace nutrients and nitrogen. Seemed an odd recipe to me at the time, but I have seen that recommended elsewhere for acidic plants...I made up my own recipe and I wish I had followed his advice.

I want to make a lasagna bed this week for my new daffodil bulbs. I just received a sackful of bulbs to 'grow and show' from the Southwest Ohio Daffodil Society. This will be my first year for showing daffs and I want them to have the best growing medium possible....

Springboro, OH(Zone 6a)

LOL, I'm glad you could follow my scattered post :)

BTW, can we see some pics of the daff bed after you get it layered? Is it out front? I'd love to see what you are doing. It might give a nice visual for others reading the thread, too :)

Winchester, KY(Zone 6a)

t, you said you'd used your own recipe for your hosta bed, but later wished you'd used the landscaper's recipe. What did you use and what did you feel was wrong with it?

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

gem-- I skimped on the sphagnum moss. Then, I had read another article about adding gravel to your planting mix to deter voles and moles so I had the landscape materials company add some gravel (they thought I was nuts and I probably was).

Anyway, I think the gravel may have had a high alkaline content which wouldn't be so good for shade lovers I wouldn't think...

I was just in the mood to 'create' with my planting mix like I do in the kitchen when cooking and it wasn't the best result.

Winchester, KY(Zone 6a)

Gravel as a mole/vole deterant- what a great idea! I guess you would put it on the bottom? I suppose creek gravel would be a better choice than limestone gravel to keep the ph right?

Sterling, VA(Zone 6b)

Lots of good stuff about lasagna gardening has already been included in the thread...but it looked like a good chance for me to show off a bed I created lasagna-style. I was out digging in this bed a week or two ago to move a few plants around. I was very impressed at how nice the soil was.

For my recipe...I used a base layer of newspaper about 8 sheets thick. I then added a mix of compost, shredded leaves, misc organic matter and some alfalfa pellets. I then topped it off with a layer of shredded wood mulch.

- Brent

Thumbnail by Brent_In_NoVa
Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

Brent -- it looks like your plants love your lasagna recipe. And only one year later!

I wonder how high you built up your layers?

Gem-- don't ask me about the gravel! I'm quite ignorant but willing to try new things. That's what gets me into trouble sometimes!

I had the gravel mixed into the 'planting mix' I devised and had a truckload delivered.

Ffld County, CT(Zone 6b)

Last year I tried crushed oyster shells as a mole/vole deterrent. Since the beds were already done, I spread some over the top, and now I always throw a very generous handful in any planting hole.

I'm toying with the idea of spreading a nice layer of it in the new lasagna beds I'm building now. It might be worth the initial money and labor to do it now - even though I will probably continue to throw some in the planting holes.


Sterling, VA(Zone 6b)

The beds look pretty flat in the picture, but there is a good amount of organic matter. First you have to include the grass that was growing there in the first place, then the grass that I dug up from the edge and tossed into the bed. I added a 3 to 4" layer of organic matter and then another 3 to 4" layer of wood mulch.

- Brent

Winchester, KY(Zone 6a)

Something else I love about the lasanga method is that the sod that's covered over becomes great compost too. Stripping sod always bothered me, as the best topsoil is in that top inch, much of which was removed with the sod.

Rockton, PA

I have used the Lazangia method about 4 years now and all the above is great. I just want to add a resource that has been overlooked.
Shredded office paper. I collect from an office that started recycling through a state program and then I go diving at a place that has a dumpster strictly for paper. It's all bagged up and I throw it in my car or truck.
I love this method for any garden!!

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

Very creative about the Office Paper idea. So glad you mentioned that.

I noticed on my 'gravel added' beds that the gravel worked it's way up to the top level. And I did notice that I don't have so many critter tunnels and holes around that area.

(But I wonder if that's a result of my doses of 'Deer Scram' and other deer deterrents. I did notice that last year we had next to no squirrels at the bird feeders and I think that was because of the "Deer Scram" and 'Liquid Fence" applications through the year.)

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

tabasco I think you will be growing gravel for years!

I had something similar in my old veggie garden - the landscapers had left a small amount of gravel underneath the top soil and every year a whole bunch of them came to the surface.


Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

LOL well, it's OK with me if it discourages moles/voles!

Thomasville, GA(Zone 8b)

hmmmm, office paper...........I work in a bank and we shred EVERYTHING! I wonder if I can take some shredded paper home or if that would be some huge security breach......

Centennial, CO(Zone 5b)

I know people who put shredded bills and credit card offers in their worm bins.

Hey, I just made a deal to have 2-3 cu. yds. of shredded evergeens to add to my 2 cu. yards of stable litter and all our fall leaves in October. HA! Worm buffet anyone?

Ffld County, CT(Zone 6b)

I use shredded paper in my lasagna beds all the time. I tried ripped-up cardboard a few times, but found the shredded paper breaks down much more quickly. I shred all my mail, and the kids' school papers. I do put the glossy stuff in the recycling, now that the city takes junk mail, but everything else goes through the shredder. I always thank Capit*l One and Pr*vidian every time I make a lasagna bed, lol. They are great contributors to my stash of shredded paper, what with their credit card offers at least three times a week!


Cleveland Hts, OH(Zone 6a)

Does anyone know if this method could be used over/ to kill off Pachysandra? Bought a new house and the landscaping amounts to huge (6ft by 8ft) beds of the stuff and I just don't find it pretty or useful. Digging it out by hand is killing my back and don't want to use poisons in my yard as I also grow food plants as well. Any Ideas would be appreciated!

Ffld County, CT(Zone 6b)

sony, join up with your local, and offer the pachysandra to whoever wants to come dig it. I bet you would have lots of gardeners ready and willing with their shovels and spades to remove it for you.


Toone, TN(Zone 7a)

Good suggestion Dee. Heck I'd come get some if I were closer.
Sony you could sell it on ebay but you'd still have to dig it up a few pieces at a time.

If you're in a real hurry, mow it down (or use a weed whacker) and then use lots of newspaper or cardboard for the first layer. I must admit though that did not work out so well over my bermuda grass. I used cardboard and a thick layer of newspaper in June and I have blades peaking thru now.


Prattville, AL(Zone 8a)

A good book that relates to the above discussion is, "Weedless Gardening" by Lee Reich. He gives the best argument for what we do in creating beds as discussed above. It saves a great deal of work by eliminating tilling and the removal of sod, but do remember that the mulch must be replenished, because mulch is in a continual state of decomposition. This is especially true in hot, humid climates (central Alabama). Lasagna beds work great.

Cleveland Hts, OH(Zone 6a)

Thanks for the ideas all!

Spring City, TN(Zone 7b)

I am a novice and have taken on a HUGE project. I'm doing variations on lasagna beds.

1) Built a raised planter with landscape timbers. It was on compacted clay. Here's the link:
2) Am building 1000' of terraces in a red clay bank exposed by excavators. Here's that link:
And those are turning into lasagnaa beds.

Here's my take on the whole concept -- start with wet newspapers (I like at least 1/2 inch, or an entire fold). Use plenty of materials that allow air and water to penetrate (peat moss, mushroom compost, hardwood mulch with sandy loam). Use alfalfa for green if you don't have anything else. And you can mix or not.

I planted a 50'x3' terrace this morning in mums, gaura, and pansies -- cause that's what was on sale LOL.
1) Previously had dug out the red-clay terrace semi-level with a garden fork. This loosens the soil, although its still too heavy for direct planting. Roots have a chance now, and they didn't before. Re-dug this morning because of washing and settling.
2) Spread 1/2" or 1 fold of newspapers that have been sitting in a rubbermaid tote with water for 3 days. Soggy and starting to tear, so I don't separate layers, just grab a fold and flip it open and plop it down.
3) Add 1/2" of alfalfa cubes that have been sitting in a wheelbarrow with a little water for 3 days. They are not soggy, just separated into pieces.
4) Mix in the wading pool 1 part peat moss, 1 part mushroom compost, and 2 parts hardwood mulch with sandy loam. This is a casual mix at best with the garden fork.
5) Shovel mix into wheelbarrows until I've got 10"+ of mix on top of the alfalfa. Rake until there is a shallow trench on the uphill side of the terrace, mound the mix up to 12"+, and then it falls off gently towards the front.
6) Put a soaker hose on the uphill side of this and go to a late lunch with mom.
7) Come back to a moist bed.
8) Plant directly in the bed with osmocote -- activated by heat not water -- in each hole
9) Mulch another 3"

SO SIMPLE! And if it settles too much.... easy, dig plants, add more mix, or layers, and replant. Digging in THIS STUFF is no chore. I've planted in "ground" before and never want to again.

Toone, TN(Zone 7a)

Hats off to you Sid. You sure do have alot of energy!


Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

Wow! Excellent description of your bed making project! I'll have to study your links for more details. Sounds like you have an interesting project underway!

Spring City, TN(Zone 7b)

Also lost 32 lbs this summer Working through the heat in East Tennessee, stopped drinking carbonated drinks, stopped snacks except for fruit, otherwise eat when I'm hungry only. AND I am going to have a fabulous start to a gorgeous garden next year. LOL.

The more I play with different mixes of soil, the more I'm sure that it's not all that difficult -- because no matter what lame-brained idea I come up with, the plants seem to grow anyway...

Toone, TN(Zone 7a)

Wow 32 go girl! Growing good plants and good dogs seem to go together IMHO. At least around here they do. Sid, you have the nurturing spirit - also known as a green thumb.


Toone, TN(Zone 7a)

bumping up for those looking for a winter project (and personal inspiration)

La Salle, MI(Zone 5b)

thx Carol for the bump :o)

Winchester, KY(Zone 6a)

A winter project for me is layering cardboard then straw over what will be the extension to my tropical garden in spring. By spring it will be ripe for planting! The soil back there is already quite good, so once the vegetation is gone it will be good to go.

Chapel Hill, NC(Zone 7b)

What wonderful stories and descriptions of projects!!

I am also working on two lasagna beds at the same time, actually also another smaller one (3' x 4'). We had turned both beds and one of them (and the small one) got quite a bit of old cow barn stuff tilled in, the other one does not.

Here is how I am doing it and perhaps you will see some fault with it, I do have some questions:

1. layed cardboard
2. layed partially decomposed stuff from the municipal mulch pile (has a really odd smell, DH says like silage) - 5-6"
3. covered with maybe 3" of mixed older and newer horse manure
4. covered that with spoiled hay, fluffy, can't really tell the height
5. sprinkled with wood ashes
6. watered

Total height may be 1'.

Here are my questions:
1. Do you think this is high enough, i.e. enough material? I can get more of the leaf stuff (see above 2.) gemini_sage's project sounds a little like mine in that her soil is "already quite good", but she puts on much less material than I do.

2. I am afraid that perhaps the horse manure is too heavy on the leaves below and there won't be enough air circulation, what do you think?

I want to use these beds 1. for blueberries, 2. for vegetables 3. (the small one) for perennials.

Our dog, Freckles, likes to lie on the spoiled hay, either because it is warm or because it is (relatively) soft. Not for long, though!!!

Thanks for all the information and all the sharing in this thread, it is great.

Toone, TN(Zone 7a)

If you've got more to spare, I'd go ahead and add it. By spring the worms will have done their job and you will have heavenly place for whatever you want to plant. I'd decide ahead of time where the blueberries will go as they want a soil PH much lower (4.5 - 5) than the veggies and perrenials(6.1 - 6.9).

So you'll want to add sulfer to the future blueberry patch.

keep us posted!

Winchester, KY(Zone 6a)

You definitely can't go wrong with more leaf mulch. You'll have really happy plants in spring- your method sounds great! Oh, and I'm a 'he', but no problem as I'm used to it even in person; I have long hair, so from behind people are often mistaking me for a woman, a 6' Amazon perhaps...but nevertheless...LOL.

Indianapolis, IN(Zone 5b)

Clementine -- Sounds great. No, the horse manure isn't too heavy, you'll be glad you had the weight because it will ensure good contact between the leaves and the layer beneath.

This will fall by about 2/3, so your 12" high pile will only be about 4" next August. If I were planting anything permenent like blueberries, perennials, roses, trees, etc., I would give it until fall, otherwise the whole thing, including the bushes, will sink down. This has unexpected consequences because it doesn't necessarily sink evenly. Sometimes the middle sinks and the edges stay quite high and sometimes one (or both) of the ends sinks. You might have trouble with water settling in the low spots and rotting out your plants.


Chapel Hill, NC(Zone 7b)

Thank you all for your advice and encouragement. We can add more leaves, and we will determine where exactly the blueberries will be and acidify those spots. But I am really not happy about what you are telling me, Illoquin, about the sinking and holes, etc. and having to wait till fall. If I put the blueberries into holes in this lasagna, won't it just all sink around it and the plant will stay in place? I mean, could we not do that in the spring????

I have read the book, the GardenWeb site and of course -I think - all the posts on DG, and it seems to me that lots of people are planting in a few months, i.e. over the winter. Is it the berries that are the problem?

And I am hoping that I can plant and sow in my other bed (which is not even as far along as this one) in spring???????? Any idea how I can accelerate the decomposition?

Gemini_sage/Neal, thanks for your good humor.

Should all this be in a different thread?

Many thanks to all of you,

Indianapolis, IN(Zone 5b)


I was just advocating waiting until fall so the bed could be added to if you need to to keep it smooth and level and draining. Yes the whole thing will sink, and your bushes will sink too. If you can't wait until fall to plant, you need think ahead of time if this will be a problem in your particular situation.

A lot of people who lasagne garden are planting vegetables or even annual flowers and then presumably adding leaves &/or tilling in the fall, after those plants ae killed by frost, to get things a little smoother and then they can rake it out the way they want it and sort of fill in the dips and hollers.


Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

Clementine, your projects sound quite ambitious and fun. I can't wait to see pics next summer.

One thing my landscaper guy told me was that if I add high nitrogen ferilizer to my layers it would speed up the breakdown of the components. I don't exactly know why it would do that, but I thought I would throw that tidbit into the discussion. It would also add micro nutrients, I suppose, that may not be in my 'homemade' concoction.

I planted mine with perennials and some buddleias after a couple of months of settling, so we shall see how it 'emerges' in the spring. If I have to 'redo' the plants, it won't be such a big deal because the soil components are so friable.

Well, I'm excited about having a new (perennial/butterfly) garden. I received my new Bluestone plant catalog this week and I ordered seeds and am saving my gallon milk containers to get going on my 'Winter Sowing' project after the holidays. Fun, fun, fun!

I only wish I could lose 32 lbs. WayehMalamutes, I think you should write a book about your diet gardening method! I'm sure with those results (and a pretty garden next season) it would make the best seller lists.

Good luck to everybody!

Winchester, KY(Zone 6a)

Nitrogen also feeds the microbes that break down the organic matter, so decomposition is faster. This is especially important if using a lot of woody material, like mulched up branches from tree trimming or saw dust, as they can be slow to decompose and rob the soil of Nitrogen.

I'm getting in on the wintersowing fun this year too! The milk jugs may take over the house before I'm ready to sow, lol.

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

OK, that explanation makes perfect sense, gem, because the space where the landscaper guy told me to put the Nitrogen was where a tree had fallen and there were lots of wood chips/sawdust there. Now it's all green with grass.

Warm and sunny here today. Tulips are emergine. Oh, dear. A little early to be in angst over the bulb bloom issues! Oh, well!

Happy, happy gardening this week.

Winchester, KY(Zone 6a)

The spring bulbs will be fine; they know what they're doing :)

It feels so good to sit down- I just finished making 4 batches of fudge, 2 peanut butter rolls, and most importantly, a huge double recipe of egg nog! So now I'm enjoying the first glass...mmmmmm. A bit early in the day for something this boozy perhaps, but tis the season, lol. And heck, my arm feels like it could fall off from all the mixing.... I deserve it!

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