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Into the Garden: It's time to make lasagna

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- This topic is always popular: the lasagna garden! A no-dig, no-till, organic gardening method that ends with great soil -- how could it get any better than that?

Basically, it's a layered garden that enables the easy incorporation of organic materials into a garden. Some call it sheet composting.

Remember, you don't need to dig or remove anything from the garden.

Here are the layers:

  • Brown corrugated cardboard or three layers of newspaper laid directly on top of the grass or weeds. This layer will smother the existing plants and provide a dark, moist area to attract earthworms that will make the soil even looser.
  • Alternate layers of browns and greens, with the brown layers twice as deep as the green layers. Browns include fall leaves, shredded newspaper, peat and pine needles. Greens are vegetable scraps, tea leaves and tea bags, coffee grounds, manure, garden trimmings and grass clippings.
  • I throw a layer of mulch on top just for appearance's sake.
  • All of the layers should add up to about 2 feet tall. Don't worry, it will shrink.

    Fall is the perfect time for creating a layered garden, as there are lots of fallen leaves and yard waste available. It has all winter to "cook," with autumn rain and winter snow making it break down faster.

    In the spring, just dig in! If you used cardboard, you'll probably have to cut a hole for planting, but newspaper will have disintegrated.

    Your soil will be fluffy, it will need less water than traditional garden soil, and you'll need less fertilizer.

    Make a scarecrow

    Valley Gardens will host the annual "Make a Scarecrow" family day 1 to 3 p.m. Oct. 23 at 1109 Piedmont Road. The fee is $20 per scarecrow. This year's event will benefit St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital.

    Call 304-342-4636.

    Congrats and thanks

    The Master Gardeners Association of West Virginia, along with all of the folks at WVU Extension, deserve a great round of applause for hosting the 2011 International Master Gardener convention last week in Charleston.

    As I walked around the Civic Center, I saw hundreds of happy faces learning about the plant industry, about eco-friendly gardening, about the latest tools and plants, and about West Virginia. So many people related stories about our state's scenic beauty, and many were taking one- and two-day trips around the state to see more.

    Gardeners are an interesting lot. They are not afraid to ask questions. Listening to a presentation about a newfangled (albeit pretty simple) composting bag, the men and women around me asked intelligent, to-the-point questions about how it worked and how it would work for them in their homes. It was fun to be in the crowd with these hands-on plant lovers.

    I got enough information from the experts at the convention to fill many columns during this long, cold winter. So much to learn, so much to see.

    The organizers of the event went above and beyond to feature our state in its best light. I know there are dozens of conventions in our state each year, and I hope they all do as well at promoting West Virginia.

    As one woman from Tennessee put it: "We thought our state was pretty fabulous, but y'all are amazing yourselves! We will bring our families back here soon."

    Reach Sara Busse at sara.busse@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1249.


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