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Good Gardening: Lasagna Compost

John Fischer


Corn stalks and tomatoes, covered with split fruits.
Zucchini and peppers, even the dead roots.

Scraggly bean plants help up with strings,
These are your garden soils favorite things.

  When the frost and rain finally end your gardens productive time, don't drag the old plants off to the compost pile.  All that leftover organic matter is perfect material for building a lasagna compost that will provide a weed free planting spot for next year.
  This is also a great time to lasagna compost, or sheet mulch a new area - including your lawn- so that your spring garden can be bigger and more bountiful than ever.
  The technique is simple, and can be done now - or as late as January (for you procrastinators).
  Put cardboard on the lawn, or a layer of newspapers on the old weedy garden areas.  Then throw all the garden scraps, weeds, and household kitchen waste you can get a hold of on top of the cardboard or paper.  You cannot have too much organic "garbage"- orange peels, carrot tops, moldy bread, rotten cheese, cantaloupe rinds- the more the better.  
  A good way to get enough is to bring a few friends five gallon buckets, and have them save their kitchen scraps- aka garden gold - for you.
  If your garden leftovers include a lot of cornstalks, or broccoli trunks, scatter some soybean meal, or other organic fertilizer on top- say one pound per hundred square feet.
  Finally, top the whole thing with 12 to 18 inches of leaves-- and wait.  Over the winter, worms will do the work, and come spring, you will have a great place to plant corn, squash, tomatoes, peppers- things that are planted every 12 to 24 inches.  I'll remind you in the spring, but planting is done by brushing the leaves aside, loosening the soil, putting the plant or seed in the ground, and putting the leaves back around the start or seedling once it sprouts.
  Your lasagna composted area will be fertilized, pre-mulched to save water, and largely weed free.  To plant carrots and lettuce- other bed crops, you will still need to turn the soil over, but most of what we grow here in the northwest will do well in a lasagna composted area.
  OK- the questions.
  Yes, the cardboard will disappear.
  Any leaves are ok- but just like most lasagnas, a mixture is best.
  What happened to the grass?  It turned into soil.  Don't mow it anymore.
  Where do I get that many leaves?
    Use you own, ask the neighbors, or if you live in Eugene, contact the city this fall.  They will bring you a truckload for free- and if you are a gardener,  you cannot have too many leaves.
  Check out my website recycle-weather.com for pictures of sheet mulching- and the amazing results.


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