Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Dystopian Gardening - Sheet Mulching

By Timothy Gamble

In a dystopian future, we aren't going to be able to rely on factory farms and grocery stores to provide our food for us. Growing our own food utilizing various permaculture methods will be one way to cope with the dystopian reality. One such method is "forest gardening" - see my Introduction to Forest Gardening article. Another method is sheet-mulch gardening, one style of which, lasagna gardening, is the focus of this article.

Sheet mulching is a type of no-till, no dig gardening that requires little weeding and retains moisture very well, thus reducing the amount of watering necessary. It also requires no artificial fertilizers. When combined with companion planting (which I will discuss in a future article), there is typically no need for pesticides.

Here is a simple explanation of the idea: Mark off a plot of land that you want to turn into a garden. It can be as large or as small as you want it to be. Cover the with a thick layer of newspaper or cardboard, which chokes out the grass and weeds. I get large pieces of used cardboard from my local Aldi's. Cover the newspaper and cardboard layer with a couple inches of compost. You can buy compost from your local gardening centers or, better yet, make your own. Then put a layer of organic material (leaves, grass clippings, etc) on top of the compost, then another layer of compost on top of that, and so forth until you reach the desired depth. You will build these layers up over the years, making for a rich, deep soil for your garden.These layers are like the layers of a lasagna, hence the name lasagna gardening. 

You can also incorporate kitchen scraps (no meat or fat), crushed egg shells, used coffee grounds, cow manure, rabbit manure, chicken manure, and other "ingredients" into your the lasagna garden, just keep alternating a layer of compost with a layer of organic material. The organic material will slowly compost over time, releasing nutrients into the soil, thus eliminating the need for artificial fertilizers.

In two areas of my yard, I use the lasagna gardening technique as described by Patricia Lanza in her book "Lasagna Gardening" - the areas immediately in front of and beside my front and back porches. Between them I have about 544 sq. ft. of garden space. I use these beds for my "salad crops" such as mixed lettuces, yellow squash, zucchini, tomatoes, garlic, onions, peppers, carrots, radishes and broccoli. The lasagna beds have proved to be very productive and low-maintenance. In over 10 years of having lasagna gardens, I have had few insect problems and very few weeds.

An added benefit to planting them beside my porches is that these are the plants that need to be watched, cared for, and picked the most frequently. Being right beside where I walk several times daily means it is very quick and easy to keep an eye on my salad crops.

Visible in this photo are garlic, onions, carrots, and looseleaf lettuce.

The above picture from several years ago is of one corner of my back yard lasagna garden (since then, I've wrapped the garden entirely around my back porch). In the upper left is garlic, below that is loose leaf lettuce. Onions are in the middle and carrots are last things visible on the right side of the photo. And, if you click on the photo to get a larger version, you may be able to notice two young doves sitting among the onions. :-)

Patricia Lanza has written several books on lasagna gardening. I own and recommend two of them: Lasagna Gardening, and Lasagna Gardening for Small Spaces.Both are available on Amazon- just click thr links or photos. 

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