Learning the fine skill of lasagna gardening

Thursday, May 14, 2009

May 14, 2009

Dear Leslie,

Friends can't visualize me growing a garden. It's true, I don't much care for getting my hands dirty. So I wear gloves. Unlike DC, I'm not out in the yard pruning and weeding whenever I can. I'm not out weeding and pruning at all. That's why lasagna gardening sounded like it was made for me.

It's called lasagna gardening because the soil consists of layers of newspapers, compost, leaves, peat moss, grass clippings, manure and most any kind of yard waste available, all piled 1 1/2 to 2 feet on the ground. No tilling and no weeding are supposed to be required.

Everything I know about lasagna gardening and gardening of any kind comes from the book "Lasagna Gardening" by Patricia Lanza, winner of the Garden Writers Association of America's Quill & Trowel award. The title and the award were too much to resist.

The first step in lasagna gardening and any kind of gardening is to gather samples of your soil and have its pH tested. I did that and called Gerald Bryan, an agronomist with the University of Missouri Extension Service, to ask him to interpret my soil test results. He said our soil is good. I told him I intended to grow radishes, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, corn, beans and peas in a plot only 4 by 8 feet, "Lasagna Gardening"s starter garden.

There was a dry pause. "You're not overdoing it," he said.

Gerald suggested planting the corn somewhere else, since it would overshadow the other vegetables in such a small plot. Vegetables are like people. Everyone needs their own space and plenty of sunshine.

The lasagna layers went down Saturday afternoon. First newspapers to keep the weeds out. Then Aaron, a neighborhood man who helps DC with odd jobs, and I mixed manure with peat moss and leaves and layered it in with compost until the plot was not nearly as high as an elephant's eye. But high enough.

The result looks a bit like a fresh grave, surely no foreshadowing of my garden's fate.

DC wonders why I would buy a book about gardening instead of just ripping up some ground, dropping some seeds around and wetting it all down. But when I want to learn about something, I get a book. When I wanted to become a better swimmer I bought a book that purported to teach a new way to swim. Wanting to learn how to run I got a running book about using chi, the Chinese word for life force, to run. When I want to find out more about God, I look in books.

Guess how many golf instruction books I own. The answer is, DC is building me a big new bookcase to hold them all.

Why is she surprised by lasagna gardening?

I wonder if learning how to nurture living things might help me become a better teacher. At the end of one year of college teaching, a saying I've heard before but never connected with has become my motto. "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." I know it applies to students. The same might be true for vegetables.

Love, Sam

Sam Blackwell is a former reporter for the Southeast Missourian.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: