Thursday, August 6, 2009

More lasagna gardening - an update

Back in May I decided to try the lasagna gardening described in an article a friend sent me. Today I evaluated the areas I had mulched and am happy to report at least partial success. My greatest success was in the experimental area that was flat and empty except for a Black-Eyed Susan and a pin cushion, making it easy to cover the ground well with all the layers. Throughout the summer I've found that area has seemed to hold in moisture better than plain dirt areas. And the flowers are growing beautifully.

That was just an experimental plot I tried prior to moving into the myrtle patch. My earliest attempts in the myrtle patch are best. The weeds are more well controlled. In later areas, I got lazy about the layers and just did the newspaper then grass, then peat moss, only three layers. And I wasn't as careful about overlapping the newspaper. The result in those areas is weeds came back. Although the myrtle has also grown and filled in nicely. I think a late autumn weeding will be needed there.

In my experimental area, I've had very few weeds, and those that did manage to grow, are pulled up easily out of the moist ground. In this picture you can see how the weeds have grown like crazy at the back border of the plot but stopped right there.

Since doing my project, I found the website for the woman who wrote the book on lasagna gardening, and I found I was being too conservative about my layers. For one thing, she says at least 5 sheets of newspaper. I was doing less than that. She was also layering very deep--as much as 8 inches deep. At most, mine was about three inches deep.

Today I prepared a little area about 5 ft x 10 ft adjacent to my experimental plot, and then did some lasagna being a lot more liberal with all layers. I still think I only ended up with maybe 4 or 5 inches at the most, but I was sure to have the newspapers well-overlapped. It looks good and I will plant in it in September transplanting more volunteers from around the yard.

By the way, I learned a couple of tips about weed removal this time of year. A USU extension service worker on television said that you should not use chemical weed killers this time of year because the heat can cause the chemical to (did he say oxidize?) and get into the air and land on the plants you don't want to kill. You should use chemicals in the fall for perennial-type weeds, and in the spring you should use pre-emergent for the annual weeds.

The area where I'm working has the most amazing wild grass. It has long runner roots, though not very deep. Every inch or so both above ground and below, it has a node that sends down new roots. Every year I dig it up, I poison it, I dig it up again, and yet it comes back. Even though the lasagna gardening author says not to bother weeding or removing grass before putting down your layers, I am removing this persistent grass. Something tells me it will come up where nothing else will.

One last note. I got my water bill this week and it was $49. This time last year it was $81. The year before that it was over $100. I have truly been successful at conserving water with my drought-tolerant landscaping and tweaking the sprinkling system. I've maybe gone too far and could stand to put down a little more water on the lawn. But I am very pleased with this direction.

And a delightful item, my tiny little Mexican Lime tree growing in a pot on my patio, was covered with blooms a few weeks ago and now dozens of limes. Click to enlarge.
And a visitor last night on my porch rail. Praying mantis.


Jacqui Binford-Bell said...

My one lasagna area isn't as successful with the weed control. I think in part because I used some rich fill dirt I had in a pile from the excavation for my studio foundation. I am also much more satisfied with putting potting soil (garden mix) on top of the peat.

I have done more weeding than I had hoped but I have learned a lot. And I think once the plants in this area have grown up that wild grass and dandelions will not be as much an issues.

Am saving up newspapers for the next area I want to do. Hopefully this fall so it can lay farrow all winter and be ready for last layer and planting in the spring.

Anonymous said...

I envy you having a garden. but still my few little plants are braving the cold winter temperatures and lack of rain well enough. It's amazing how much difference even a humble pot plant can make when you live surrounded by concrete

bekkieann said...

Meredith, I think I have enough area I could share with 10 people. I'm always lagging.

Jacqui, would you believe the thing I'm lacking most is grass clippings? The hot July meant slow-growing grass and little mowing. I'm thinking of asking the neighbors for theirs. Will they think I've turned into one of those crazy old ladies . . .?

I do think the summer has helped to cook up all these ingredients, and the winter will give them all a chance to rest and gain vigor.

It seems with my garden I'm always thinking about next year.

heatherbelle said...

Since moving into this rental property all I have been doing is weeding. I doubt if the place has ever been looked after.
The back yard is mostly lawn which I am hoping to remove some before summer and replace with native garden. We have a total sprinkler ban now in the winter so one can only imagine how strict it will be during summer.

bekkieann said...

This trend toward native gardens makes so much more sense, doesn't it? Lawns are nice but they require so much water, and are not wise in areas of frequent drought. I do like some lawn in the front of the house but have reduced it substantially. Everywhere else in the yard seems to be forever a work in progress. As Meredith says, though, where you can't have a garden, you can often have pots. I have my most colorful annuals in pots on my patio where I can easily look after them.

Your spring is approaching as is our fall. I hope you'll keep us posted on your gardening adventures.

It's hard work fighting those weeds I know. The homeowner you are renting from should appreciate your efforts at beautifying the place.