Building Soil with Lasagna Gardening

Build Soil

One year ago, my garden looked like this:
Sheet Mulch garden raw materials

And with a lot of moving and shaping and layering, it became this:

Sheet mulch garden

Our land is steeply sloped, and when we began to plant into it, we noticed that much of the topsoil from the hilltop had washed down to the lowlands due to poor agricultural practices.  Our house and garden are situated near the top of the hill, and as such, the soil quality is poor.  To create a healthy, resilient garden with few pests and disease, I knew I had to greatly improve my soil.

Building Soil

Building soil is the key to growing nutrient dense food in your garden, and it is the subject of Susan Vinskofski’s new eBook, The Art of Gardening: Building your Soil.  For those of you active on the Homestead Honey Facebook page, you’ve seen my frequent shares from Susan’s blog Learning and Yearning.  I love her approach to gardening, and I was eager to read her new eBook to see how it might inform my own gardening.  She and I share similar philosophies of building up the soil without disturbing its layers.

Susan discusses several great ways to build soil, including the strategy that I used to create a new garden without tilling or plowing: Sheet Mulching or Lasagna Gardening.  Essentially, a lasagna garden is made up of layers and layers of organic material that compost in place to create rich garden beds. I wrote about the process of creating the beds in some detail here, and in even more detail here, but to summarize, I layered straw and composted horse manure in multiple layers, and then topped the garden with some top soil and compost.  I began the sheet mulch process in the early spring, and planted into it for a summer harvest.


As you can see, the results were pretty impressive!  Although I created a garden directly on top of a mat of invasive fescue, I had virtually no problems with weeds, and thanks to a heavy mulch, the garden thrived even in a two month drought.

As I put the garden to bed in the late Fall, I covered the entire garden with a layer of composted horse manure and then a thick layer of straw. It looked like this:

late fall garden covered in straw

I anticipated great future success, and wrote, “Next spring, we will have a garden replete with rich soil, earthworms, and microbial life, ready for another year’s bounty.”

Did it work?  Well, one year after creating my lasagna garden,  I have not examined the soil on a microbial level, but I can tell you that the soil quality is amazing!

When I pull back the layer of straw, and dig into the soil, here’s what it looks like:

soil in a sheet mulch garden

A bit of almost-composted straw still remains in the deeper layers, but the rest of the raised bed is beautiful, fluffy, dark and rich soil that works up for planting effortlessly.

For ultimate lasagna garden success:

  • Let it compost for a long time!  While I did plant into my garden last summer, it would have been even better for me to have started my sheet mulching project in the fall, and then planted in the spring.  If you need to plant right away, consider topping the beds with top soil and compost.
  • Add mulch each year.  At the end of the growing season, add a layer of organic material – manure, leaves, or straw.
  • Water occasionally!  I found that the beds in which I was direct sowing seeds (beans, corn, sunflowers, etc.) and thus kept them watered throughout the germination period, composted more rapidly.

If you are interested in learning more ways to build your soil using organic, non-disturbance techniques, I highly recommend Susan’s eBook, The Art of Gardening: Building your Soil. She also covers seed selection, starting, and saving, choosing a garden site, and has an entire A-Z Alphabetical guide to vegetables that features seasonal recipes. Plus, the book is downright gorgeous, featuring original paintings and illustrations.  You will love it.


This post was shared on From the Farm Blog Hop, Homestead Bloggers Network, Homestead Barn Hop, Simple Saturdays

* Proud to be an affiliate for this rocking eBook!  That means that if you purchase Susan’s eBook, you support her efforts and my blog – thank you!

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  1. Such a great post! We did this last year, but we are now in the process of a garden expansion, so back to square one for us! :)

    • Teri Page says:

      I’m in the same place, Mel. I just started a bunch of new beds since I’m sure I’ll run out of garden space this year!

  2. Reminds me of the Ruth Stout method.

    • Teri Page says:

      There is a lot of work at the outset, but then in subsequent seasons, it is almost effortless. Gathering and layering the materials can take a lot of hauling work, but the “no work” aspect of the mature garden is worth it!

  3. Ed Brown says:

    If you haven’t grown celery, try it in your straw garden. The best celery I ever ate was grown in the black sludge of decomposed hay. The flavor was notably salty and I am sure it had lots of potassium and calcium.

  4. What shape are your garden beds? I can’t quite make it out in the photos. I love working with building up organic matter instead of worrying about double digging and the like. This approach always seemed much more natural to me.

  5. Wow, things are looking great in your garden! I’ve been intrigued by lasagna gardening but haven’t really understood it until now. Thanks for all the information, it’s so helpful :)

  6. I love this post and of course I love your blog it’s beautiful! I did lasagna gardening for years so much fun and great results…we mostly changed gears living in Coastal NC the raised bed gardening and bucket gardening is just ideal for this area! Keep inspiring others I so enjoy what you have to share!

    • Teri Page says:

      Thanks Karen Lynn! We’ve enjoyed lots of different ways of building a garden, raised beds included. I am really loving this method right now, but who knows what will come next!!

  7. Great article and blog. Love reading about others who love lasagna gardening as much as I do. I do plant right away, not waiting until the layers decompose, but it’s always better the next year, like soup is better the next day. Just think if everyone used all the grass clippings and chopped leaves right on their gardens how much we would save from landfills and how much better our gardens would be.

    • Teri Page says:

      Hi Patricia, So nice to hear from you. I’m glad you enjoyed the blog.

      I am so excited to see how the garden just continues to improve over time. Next, I’ll be starting an herb garden, and recently enjoyed reading your Lasagna Herb Garden book!

      Thanks for creating such a wave of interest in this gardening method!

  8. Heather Kay says:

    I really like this idea-sort of like raised beds but without having to surround it with something. I have 7 house bunnies and lots of hay and what farmers refer to as gold soil from all the poop–it’s 99% hay in all those bunny poops. I wonder if I could add that into the mix. Heaven knows I have plenty!

    • Teri Page says:

      I think your rabbit manure would be amazing in a lasagna bed! Hay usually contains seeds, so you might want to add it to a deeper layer, and then cover it with straw, grass, topsoil, or leaves. Something that won’t sprout in your garden.

  9. I like the lazy aspect of lasagna gardening–just throw it down and let it decompose in place. We started our raised beds like that when we moved to Ohio. We used part of the old fence to make the beds, then just filled them with manure and kitchen scraps and leaf mulch and straw, threw some soil on top of it and let it go until Spring (it was pretty late to plant anything more than garlic when we got them together). Each Fall I add another layer of coffee grounds/leaf mulch/kitchen scraps/compost as I tuck the garden in for the winter, filling up the beds until they are a mound, and the soil is wonderful.

    Thanks for a lovely post!

    • Teri Page says:

      Yes! That just sounds so wonderful, Kirsten. What beautiful garden beds you must have!
      Thanks for writing.


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