Lasagna Layering. Does it Really Work?

Reader Contribution by Esther Coco Boe
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Does lasagna layering really work?

Weeds are a big issue for me and I’m always on a mission to find ways to reduce and kill them without the use of chemicals.  Weeds can take over a garden bed in a week and the zeal and growth potential will make your head spin. 

One method that has been featured in journals and on social media is lasagna layering.  Lasagna layering has been a hot topic over the years.  The concept is a little more involved than weed control, but that’s one of the benefits of the method.

So lasagna layering is the process of making layers on top of the garden soil to add compost, retain moisture, provide good soil amendments, increase worm habitat, regulate temperature, and control weeds.  So this mysterious layering technique had caught my attention.  But does it work?

The first summer I tried cardboard and grass clippings from my yard.  This was a bad beginning because the green grass clippings attracted ants and weren’t composted so they went through a heat cycle.  Also, there was a moisture buildup between the cardboard and grass that was s fantastic mold habitat.  But……no weeds!  That’s right, the weeds never came through the barriers and so I decided to check out other resources in my environment.

The second summer I visited my local tourism office and asked them for all of the expired newsprint publications.  Jackpot!  I had a nice supply of non-glossy or plastic coated newspaper in tidy bundles.  The garden was prepped by cleaning the top of the soil layer and sprinkling a little rabbit compost.  Layers of newsprint (10 sheets thick) and pine straw (4 inches) were added.  Then plants were planted among the layers.  Needless to say, the process worked out and again I had very few, if any, weeds.  Nice!

So I’m sold.  I’ll forever keep my eyes on the lookout for newsprint to add to my soil and pine straw to keep the newsprint from blowing away.  Actually, the pine straw is aesthetically pleasing to my eyes so that’s kind of a bonus.

Now about the other claims that have been suggested by lasagna layering, does it retain moisture and help with temperature control?  I’m still not confident that this is true.  Living in central Louisiana, it’s hot and I have to water frequently and consistently.  However, even if this helps in a minimal way, it’s still worth the effort.

And does lasagna layering add amendments to the soil and provide a nice habitat for earthworms?  Yes, I can say with conviction that I’ve noticed an increase in worm life and so I take this as a sign that they have a comfy habitat with good nutrition.  The newspaper layers do compost within 6-9 months.  The pine straw lasted a lot longer.  In fact, it didn’t compost very well and I consider that a positive.  Less collection of pine straw in the woods.  And I feel better knowing that the acid from the pine straw isn’t “in” my soil since I didn’t fold it into the bed.

Now that I’ve attacked my weed problem head on I’m happy to report that I also have had better yields and less problems with “volunteers”.  You know, all of the seeds that drop to earth and take over the next season?  Become a weed warrior too, use the lasagna layering method in your garden today.

Esther Coco Boelives in Louisiana, where she works to enhance pollinator habitats, plants herbs in her home garden, grows heirloom tomatoes, and exposes children to gardening. Connect with Esther onFacebook, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS postshere.


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