Up until recently I’ve more or less stuck with raised garden beds for all of my veggie growing, but recently I’ve decided to take a different approach as a bit of an experiment. You may have heard of Lasagna Gardening or maybe sheet composting. Either way is basically the same thing. You take “green” and “brown” materials and layer them (like a lasagna — brilliant isn’t it?) anywhere from 8 to 12 inches deep. Over time the materials should decompose and give you some prime planting material.
One of the benefits of lasagna gardening is you don’t normally need to do a lot of hard labor. Just collect materials and stack ’em up. That said I chose to do a fair bit of labor to get my garden beds ready. The top 3 to 6 inches of my soil are filled with gravel and large rocks. It’s not exactly a prime planting material, so I decided to dig out a bit of a pan to cook the lasagna garden in. That was the hard part. Everything else? Cake.
You can see in the images below the progression of one of my beds, as well as sheet composted garden bed I completed about a month ago. The actual layering is the easiest thing ever. I started with a thin layer of steer manure, then topped that with sheets of wet newspaper (you can also use cardboard) to help block weeds. On top of that I put more manure (approx 2 inches) and then about 4-5 inches of straw followed by another thin layer of manure followed by 3-4 inches of leaves followed by another 1-2 inch layer of manure. Super easy. The hardest part (if you’re not digging and just stacking) is collecting the materials. Try asking neighbors or family if they have leaves, straw, stable bedding, grass clippings, manure, etc. to spare.
Once you’ve collected all of the materials just layer up and then wait around 4 – 6 months and you should have a beautiful new garden bed. You can also try covering the bed with plastic to help retain heat and speed up the composting process. If you don’t want to wait that long to plant in it you can top it up with 2-3 inches of topsoil or compost and plant directly in that.