Back in May, I received an email from fellow Canadian, Paul Letby, telling me about his experimentation with “Lasagna Gardening”. Paul had enjoyed reading about my vermicomposting trenches (link takes you to vermi-trench section of “Hot Topics” page), but was looking for something he could set up quickly and not have to fiddle with too much. He still hoped to get Red Worms involved, and wanted to get my opinion on adding them to a Lasagna garden.
Based on the first set of pictures Paul sent, and the fact that we just generally seemed like long lost “brothers from other mothers” (haha), I thought it would be GREAT if I could convince him to share his project with RWC readers. Thankfully, I managed to do so!
It all started with a desire to get my own vegetable garden in my backyard, balanced with a realization I had almost no time. I could spend an evening or two making my garden and that was about it. Plus I had almost no time for weeding so I was looking for a way to reduce that too. So I poked around the internet doing searches on different forms of gardening, and came across Lasagna gardening. This looked exactly like what I wanted, so I researched the heck out of it and learned all I could. All these ideas came from the internet, and are no way mine, but I should give credit to Patricia Lanza, author of the Lasagna Gardening Series. The idea is to layer organics in a bed with a base of cardboard to inhibit weed growth.
Enough history, here’s what I did. I first got all my ingredients on hand, and in the spirit of cheapness I tried to get all my ingredients free. Cardboard was easy, we throw out vast quantities at work. Straw was also free through a friend from out of city, he even hauled five square bales in for me. Grass, turned out easy too. I pulled over on the way home from work to talk to a fellow mowing a commercial property. 16 bags delivered… free. Now I don’t know anyone who owns horses, so I did pay for about 10 bags of rotted horse manure, about forty dollars. Then one evening in May I put the whole thing together.
First I laid out the cardboard after soaking it down. Oh and I learned something here. Cardboard is really easy to tear when it’s wet. Like for my worm bin. I had actually ripped a bin full by hand while it was dry. Sore fingers. Then I spread a layer of manure on top, then alternated straw and grass until I had used it all up, ending with straw on top as a mulch(over the mulch…). Done!
I let the whole thing sit for about five days before I started planting straight into the grass. Well, except for the peas. I thought I’d try a little strip of dirt on top to get them started. Bad move, they all rotted with massive rains this spring. In a normal year, it probably would have worked. Oh, before I go any farther; my back yard is very exposed and all the neighbors can see what’s going on. They all wanted to know what I was doing, and when they found out you could tell they weren’t that sure about my sanity anymore. I love it! Especially because it worked!
Now here’s where this is a vermi-post. I added redworms from my bin to one of these three beds. I simply pulled away the straw and dumped them in with their bedding so they could get used to the new conditions at their own pace. That left two other beds. One small and another very long. I added ‘compost ecosystem’ to the small one and left the big one for now.
I’ll wrap this up with a quick update of where we stand here at the end of June. Tomatoes have gone ballistic, they’re covered in flowers and setting fruit in the Vermi bed. Strawberries are thriving, yet most of the crop lost to black birds. Lettuce and beets almost all lost to birds, those that are left look good. The bigger bed didn’t do so well and I attribute that to the crazy rain we had this spring so far. Most seeds rotted or taken by birds, and some extra tomatoes I put there are small and less vigorous. I have to replant as time allows. Compost Ecosystem bed looks good with squash and beans interplanted. All in all, the small bed with the redworms (aka the Vermi Bed) has far outperformed the rest so far. We’ll have to wait and see if that continues.
That’s it for now, I’ll send in short updates as things progress.
I want to take this opportunity to thank Paul for sharing his lasagna gardening efforts with us. I am definitely looking forward to future updates!
If you are interested in sharing your vermicomposting / vermi-gardening projects with RWC readers, please be sure to drop me a line to let me know!