Gardening Guide for Beginners

For Moms
on August 19, 2011
Mark Boughton Photography

Gardening isn’t just one of those talents you pick up—so says the legions of cynical ex-gardeners across the nation. Those downtrodden, houseplant-murdering kinds of people who have succumbed to the belief they were born with brown thumbs and there is nothing that can be done about it.

If you are one of these people, or if nay-sayers have made you nervous, before you start getting glum and kicking your dreams of a personal back-yard grocery out the door, know this, you can start a garden and it CAN prosper—even if you’ve failed in the past. Just use a low maintenance gardening method that maintains the quality of your soil.

We highly recommend “lasagna gardening,” developed and popularized by Patricia Lanza, a busy innkeeper who had a need for a garden that tended itself. Designed to mimic Mother Nature’s composting patterns, Lanza’s raised bed method works in tough climates and places that are rocky and seemingly barren. True to its name, lasagna gardening is all about layering soils, compost and materials in order to nix the need for digging and excessive weeding.

Here’s how to build your own:

What You’ll Need:

  • Old Newspapers
  • Hay
  • Peat Moss
  • Mulch
  • Green Material (grass clippings, vegetable scraps and small garden trimmings)

Before you get started, think about where you want to place your garden. Try to use the best lit spot in your yard, but if you have a lot of unavoidable shade, just adapt what you grow to fit the setting. Asian Greens, arugula and scallions will grow well with only a couple hours of direct sunlight.

To get started, map out the borders of your garden and fill in the space with a layer of soaking wet newspaper. Use a thick pad, about ten layers thick. The newspaper will breakdown naturally over time, and kill any grass or plant growth beneath your garden

Sprinkle the green material over top of the newspapers, followed by peat moss and then several inches of mulch. The mulch will keep the garden moist and cut back on watering needs.

Then spread organic hay over the garden area, and continue the pattern of green material, mulch, peat moss and hay until the garden is one and a half to two feet tall.

When layering, remember to keep the ratio one part green to four parts brown (hay, peat moss, mulch). If you don’t have the brown materials we listed on hand, a mixture of dried leaves, manure and pine needles will also do the trick.

Once your bed is made, the real fun begins—planting your garden. Getting going isn’t nearly as intimidating when you set your sights small (save your Garden of Eden plans for next year…), but the possibilities are endless. Try your hand this April at herbs and lettuce. Later in the spring, graduate to simple vegetables such as squash.

To get the entire history of Lasagna Gardening and for more of the nitty-gritty details, Patricia Lanza’s piece on Lasagna Gardening in Mother Earth News is a must-read.

—By Emily Arno, Relish Multimedia Editor

Found in: For Moms