Building the Soil: Part Two - Layering, Mulching and Vermicomposting

| 7/22/2014 12:00:00 PM

Acorn and ThistleLayering your beds (sometimes also referred to as “lasagna gardening”) in the late summer/early fall is a great way to prepare an area for planting in the spring while building the soil below. Like cold composting, you just let nature take its course over the winter while the worms, fungi and bacteria do all of the work for you. It’s a great way to reclaim gardens overrun with weeds, or to start a new garden over an existing lawn without the backbreaking work of digging out or turning over the sod.

Layering can be done inside a frame for a raised bed, or just in a pile for a more freeform approach. I particularly like raised beds for a number of reasons (here’s a link to yesterday’s post, where I talk about my setup) and I think that if you’re just getting started, layering in a raised bed or two is a great way to get your feet wet.

Potato plants - 


First, frame in your bed. I recommend starting with a 4-by-4-foot square; we used untreated 2-by-6-inch cedar boards for ours. Then, put down a layer of cardboard or several layers of newspaper. If you’re doing this over a lawn, make your cardboard/paper layer a little bit larger than 4-by-4 feet, and put your frame on top of it. This will help keep the grass from creeping back up under the edges. Pro tip: Wetting down the newspaper as you go will keep it from blowing around while you’re working.

Once you have your frame and base situated, start layering on your greens and browns, alternating even layers several times until the box is completely full. Things will settle as they break down, so don’t be afraid to mound it up just a little bit. End with a layer of mulch (weed-free straw works great for this) and let it be until spring – with just a little surface weeding, your beds will be ready to go!

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