Sunday, 14 April 2013

Lasagna composting

Along with most people, 2012 was a real wash out for my garden and allotment. Apart from a great garlic crop (which we are still getting through) and good autumn fruiting raspberries, everything else was either washed out or munched to oblivion by slugs and snails.
After the long and cold winter that we've just had, I am really looking forward to the coming growing year with a renewed enthusiasm. My greenhouse is full of seedling trays, to such an extent that I'm having to come up with creative ways of finding more space in there.
Last autumn we gave away some bikes to a couple of friends, who in return offered to make me some new raised beds at the allotment. This was done a couple of weeks ago. They're great and double height to minimise the amount of bending that I have to do.
I've always had the aim of getting to a 'no dig' system at the allotment which is what I have at home, but the pernicious weed problem has so far prevented this. We have a significant amount of mares' tail and bindweed as well as the other usual suspects (couch grass and dock). However, I was inspired by a talk given by Alys Fowler that I attended this week to give lasagna composting a go in my new beds. She used in it her back garden and effectively has eradicated mares' tail from her growing areas. This method involves gradually building up in layers and letting nature take care of developing a healthy balanced soil over time.
I've done a bit of research on the web and from a few, mainly American, sites have I think got an idea of how to do it. What I have realised after starting today is that this method takes a remarkable amount of material and I can tell that I will need to reserve my green waste over the next few weeks for this alone, rather than putting it out on the compost heap.
The bed that I've started on is 8' x 4' and is 12" deep, sitting on top of an existing 6" raised bed. I started off my trampling over the existing green growth in the bed, and then added a layer of newspaper (4-5 sheets thick) which I watered well.
I then added a layer of partially decomposed leaf mould
then some green waste
then another layer of wet paper and finally some well rotted compost and manure.
As you can see, I have got about half way up the bed so am anticipating that I am going to have to repeat all the layers again plus keep topping up as it settles.
I am hoping that I will be able to grow courgettes and squash in there this year and have a bed that is ready for full use by next spring.

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