"Anyone that doesn't agree with leggings as pants can physically fight me.
And I'm going to win because I have a full range of motion due to the fact that I am wearing leggings as pants."

Monday, June 25, 2007

Lasagna Gardening

So for those of you who don't know this about me, I'm sort of a Mother Earth News, modern hippie sort of gal. I believe that we can live well, do the things we love and still take into consideration the importance of our actions, specifically how those actions affect others and the world around us.


Case in point, where have all the honey-bees gone? Many of you probably know this already, but honey-bees all over are disappearing. Just gone. Not leaving dead bodies, just leaving. And no one exactly knows why. There are many theories as to why this is happening, and people (especially farmers that rely on them for pollination of their crops) are panicking. Some people are actually stealing hives. Personally, I think it's a combination of pesticides, genetically engineered plants and loss of habitat. At our house, though, we seem to have plenty of bees. I took this top picture just this morning, as I sat in our front yard 'habitat', listening to the drone of at least 50 or so bees. It took me forever to get this picture; I'm working on improving my photo taking skills and bees are quick. But, I'll get to the story of our 'habitat' momentarily.

Here's my point about ecology... how in the world can we spray tons, literally tons, of pesticides on our crops, trees and landscapes, genetically engineer plants that actually produce their own pesticides, deplete the soil till the only way it can grow anything is with massive amounts of chemicals, cement over everything that's not precisely landscaped and then expect everything to be OK in our ecosystem? Um, duh. It just doesn't make any sense. Pesticides kill things. Why are we surprised?

So, here's what I've been doing for my part. I've been reading about Sheet Composting (also known as Lasagna gardening) lately. Really cool stuff. Basically, you just layer all the stuff that you normally would put in a compost bin on the ground. Worms and soil microorganisms work their way through it and eventually, you get beautiful black soil. I've done it in the back yard; it really works. And faster than any compost bin I've ever done too (I always forget to turn them). So, I finally got sick and tired of fighting against the crappy soil in our front yard, the grass wouldn't grow and it just looked awful. So, I took advantage of free labor (my kids- aged 8 to 17) and started sheet composting the entire front yard.

Our oldest was working off a massive punishment, so he got to spread last years pumpkins (which I collected from neighbors and have been frozen in several trash cans all winter) as one of the layers. It was bad, but no worse than one of the many awful diapers I've changed in my time. This is it...

We continued with the rest of the yard, laying down a quarter inch of soaked newspaper (to smother the grass), followed with manure and then hay. Once the hay goes down, you can't smell the stuff underneath, so we did it in batches. I found an excellent source of horse manure which is free of both antibiotics and de-wormer. Usually, you shouldn't use horse manure because almost all horses regularly get treated with the de-wormer, which, as the name implies, will kill worms, even the ones in your soil. Bad, bad, bad. So I found a lady that raises her horses organically (not that she's going to eat them- they just get treated with herbs instead). A very lucky find.

Here's a picture of all of us after we finished. The girls were volunteering; Sean was forced labor. I'm grateful either way. You can see that we ran out of shovels, and since I was the foreman, I took the snow shovel. Not so good for shoveling horse poo, though. I would also like to mention that we live in a non-covenant controlled community. And even with that, neighbors slowed down and pointed at us throughout the day. If you do this, I'd start in the backyard. Once you see how wonderful the soil is, you won't mind all the pointing. It's worth it.


After the last freeze date, we threw down a bunch of wildflower and cover crop seeds (mustard and radish mostly) A month after finishing the layers, we had this...


Those larger plants are sprouted pumpkin seeds. (And speaking of volunteer seeds, last year we harvested 3 pumpkins from plants that grew from compost. I can't even begin to tell you how great that was. Harvesting pumpkins that I didn't even plant.) This summer we should have a yard full of wildflowers and by fall our entire front yard should be one giant pumpkin patch (there's like 8 or 9 plants out there).

It started off as crappy, depleted soil and now it's a jungle. And full of bees. Yay!


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mushroommeadows said...

Wow. It sounds weird, but it's great that it worked! :)

Anonymous said...

That is fabulous just fabulous!
Of course i'm one of those mother earth organic gardening types myself :)

dig this chick said...

That is fab! Very inspiring. How will you keep the weed seeds from germinating in the spring? Will you do a cover crop?