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Lasagna Gardening

This is how any birthday related conversation goes in my house:

Troy: What do you want for your birthday?
Me: Nah, nothing.  I don’t want to spend money on a present.
Troy: Uh.  Huh.  Well.  Ok
Me:  Oh wait, I did think of something.  Can I give you some cash that I’ve saved in my gardening fund, and you take your truck and pick up some pavers for me?
Troy: Sure!

Five months later, Troy had no recollection that any such conversation took place.

Determined not to wait until my next birthday to get the present from my last birthday, I stole Troy’s truck on Friday, and went and picked up my own damn pavers.  Happy freakin’ birthday, eh?

We have this garden bed in the middle of our front yard.  It was created some time in the early 2000’s when my dad had a “gimp lane” put in for wheelchair access.  They poured a lovely pebble path to link up to the wheelchair ramp on the front porch.  It connected at one part with the old walkway, and a random “hole” was left in the middle.  The neighbor put in pavers to line it, and when we later moved in to the house as a rental, this became my biggest place to garden.

Shown in all its September glory
Another view of the bed.  Because this photo makes me smile every damn time.

You know what you get when you plant in the middle of concrete?  Really really happy plants (the sun sluts) like tomatoes and beans and cukes.  During the summer, the sun is on this section of the garden from 7:30 am – 7:30 pm.  Then, after the sun goes down around 9:30 pm (I adore the long Pacific Northwest summer days!), the rock starts pumping out heat to keep those plants warm all night.  We don’t have a long warm growing season in Seattle, but I’m convinced this “heat island” is what allows my tomatoes to thrive, when other gardeners can’t grow them.  I typically can’t harvest the long growing (100 day +) heirlooms until October, but I still have success, and for that I am thankful.

This planting bed is not very deep, and one side had crooked pavers that always kind of drove me a little nuts.

Friday, I was off from work.  Troy was off from work.  And it was sunny and “Washington late winter warm” (55 degrees).  The timing was perfect.

I started by laying the pavers on top of the existing ones.  Sorry about the photos.  When you can only get stuff done in the middle of the afternoon, the light is bright!

When I got to the part where the pavers were slanted and driving me nuts, I removed those and dug in to the soil a little bit, laid the old ones back on, and eyeballed it until they were more level.  Speaking of level, at one point, Troy said, do you want my level to make sure they’re even.

That husband of mine has high expectations for projects to look perfect, but since he has zero time to help me with them, he gets what he gets.  I’m not a perfectionist; I just want shit to get done.  Instead of the level, I simply stomped on the pavers until they “looked right”.  I then continued on until there was a second layer of pavers all the way around.

While digging, I found two carrots that had accidentally overwintered!

From there, I made a very late to the game “lasagna bed”.  The lasagna style of gardening is best done in winter, allowing everything to break down during the winter.  Since I didn’t get my pavers in fall (birthday sniffle), I’m doing one now.

While I was hard at work, Jack and Troy were enjoying the sunshine.  Initially, they wanted to go to the beach, but I convinced them to stay home so that we could spend time together as a family – a very rare occurrence.

Toy flute.  Not showing Jack how to smoke.

I also had the added help from the neighborhood peacocks.

Jack has named her “girl girl”
This one is “boy boy”

Lasagna Layer One
I spread shredded paper from work, and then wet it down.  The ladies in our office save huge bags of shredding for me.  I use a handful of paper in the compost every time it gets dumped.

Lasagna Layer Two
On top of the shredded paper, I laid three HUGE bags of icky wet fall leaves that have been living under our deck since November.  The grounds crew at work and I have an understanding.  They place bags of leaves by my car, and I place homemade goodies in their office.  It’s a good deal for all parties involved.

Lasagna Layer Three
I added cardboard on top of the leaves, and then soaked it with the hose.  The cardboard has also been living under my deck since fall, and I know Troy is happy to see it go!


Quality control inspector

Lasagna Layer Four
The cheesy mozzarella topping of the whole thing was straw, that was also soaked with the hose to keep it from blowing away.

The idea of lasagna gardening is that the materials break down slowly creating a wonderful environment for worms, microbes, and other  beneficials while also acting as a type of mulch.  Mulch = less weeding and watering later in the summer.  Additionally, done properly, the lasagna bed can smoother weeds, and grass that is underneath.  My plan is to take a razor blade and cut through the layers when I’m ready to plant in May.

This “late to the game” lasagna bed could go one of two ways:

a) It could create an environment that is too “hot” for the plants that will later be put in there, and the plants won’t get any of the nutrients from the process as it breaks down.  So basically, my garden could poop out.

b) It could be awesome and reduce my weeding by a ton.

Only time will tell, but either way, I think the bed looks so much better with the second layer of pavers.

I spent $70 on this project, which is one third of my yearly gardening budget.  If I can afford it, I’d really like to add a third and final layer this fall.  I love the idea of a really deep bed for next year.  It will be perfect for root crops like carrots, beets, and potatoes.  Currently, it’s just too shallow, but tomatoes, bush beans, cucumbers, and herbs seem to love it.

My half-birthday is coming up in April.  I’ll tell Troy about the third layer of pavers then, and by October, they’ll be here!

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31 comments on “Lasagna Gardening”

  1. I am always impressed by your resourcefulness: shredded paper, cardboard and leaves, in exchange for cookies! Awesome.

    • My theory in life, is “it is worth asking others the question”. If the grounds crew were to say no, I’d be in the same position as if I didn’t ask! ;-D

  2. Try Freecycle or the free listings on Craigslist for more pavers. They get them on from time to time. Also check out at the library the book Square Foot gardening. Your garden would be perfect for it and utilize those stairs with pots and plant vegetables in those.

  3. The more I realize we may be in our current apartment for the next 3 years, the more I seriously think about asking my landlord if I can build a raised garden bed in our parking spot. Nothing big, about the size of our small car (what, 5X10 maybe?). I desperately want to grow some of our own food! The hubby is worried that others in our building will think we are weird and throw crap in it, making the food inedible. I like to think our neighbors will ask for free veggies, or to help.

    • When we moved in to our last place, Troy was annoyed that I put our folding laundry racks on the deck on a sunny day. He said “the neighbors are going to think we’re trashy”. Guess who had drying racks out the next sunny day The neighbors! They said I had inspired them to air dry their laundry too.

      Tell your husband you never know what is going to happen if you don’t take a chance!

    • If your neighbors were smart, they’d help you with it … or steal from the fruits of your labor.

  4. Haha, it totally looks like he is teaching him to smoke!

  5. I don’t know when you plan to plant, but you can speed up the breakdown of the mulch materials by a) adding a nitrogen fertilizer to it, which doesn’t sound like it’s in your budget, or (b) Having the boys pee in a bucket and dumping it on there, which is free and the guys may get a kick out of helping you like that. As long as the person is healthy, human urine is sterile until it hits the air, where almost immediately microbes in the environment start breaking it down into ammonia – the common name for nitrogen 🙂

  6. That is a very interesting concept. Hope it works well for you!

  7. It makes me happy to know I’m not the only one with layers of cardboard and wet leaves in their front yard!! Mine has bunny poo holding it down!

  8. Another good source of Nitrogen for your garden, as you already know, is coffee grounds! Most all coffee shops will gladly give them away!
    Love this post! Photos were great! Especially the boys “smoking” on the front porch! LOL

    • Troy’s cousin used to be the manager at Starbucks and would give me giant garbage bags full of the stuff. My FIL gets me a bag at least once a month from another coffee house.

      That is such a good idea to add it Connie; I wouldn’t have thought about it!

  9. That superman photo is ADORABLE!!!!!!!

  10. I wish I had HALF your skill at gardening and composing. Im hoping to get my garden to produce more this year. Wish me luck lol