Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Sat presentations--Reedsburg--Lasagna Gardens and Compost

I will be presenting twice at the Fermentation Fest this Saturday at Reedsburg, WI.  Each presentation is 2 hours, so I will talk a bit slower and have time for questions.

cost is $5 per session.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Mulch--How Deep? and Oak leaves and evergreen needles

Yes, I always say 18 to 24 inches deep, at installation.  The first year, this will be your growing medium, while the cardboard or newspaper is smothering the weeds below. 

After winter or a few weeks of watering the 18 to 24 inches will settle to less than HALF of the original height.

The goal, before planting, is 8 to 12 inches of moist, settled mulch materials, above the soil surface.

If you have 16 inches, fluffying it does not count.   When I use old hay, I do not fluff up the hay.  It will settle more.  The beginning height is not the point--it is the end height that is the goal.  Fluffed materials  will just settle in on itself as it gets wet.

I don't bother to chop leaves, unless you are picking them up with something that chops them.  We are not mulching the soil with leaves and then planting into the soil.  We are creating a mulch bed, that we will plant into.  Leaves that are matted together are just a place for roots to grow between.  This does not cause an air exchange problem for the lasagna/deep mulch garden.

Oak leaves are fine to use, up to about 25%.  If I you have evergreen needles, I suggest us using them as the very top layer.  They look nice, and are slow to break down.  They will be good as the top layer through next year's growing season.  Then next fall they will be on the bottom of the 12 to 18 inches of materials you add next fall.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

How Mulch is Too Mulch?

I am on vacation in northern WI this week, in Door County tonight.  Today, while in Appleton area, a landscaping company had dyed wood mulch out front, near the road.

It was ROYAL BLUE!!!  I am not a huge fan of dyed wood mulch--but much of the red, grey to black are dyed with iron oxide dyes.  These earth tones can look nice in the landscape, and some people really like the dyed mulch.

But for me, Royal Blue is going too far.  I immediately pictured it around a blue swimming pool or Culver's.

But, if Royal Blue mulch gets someone to stop having some lawn and put in some flowers or food plants--then it may be a gain.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Low-Maintenance, Sustainable Gardening with Edibles Workshop

There is a post down a bit about a day long workshop I am offering this winter.  I am starting to get request to schedule this. 

I need local co-sponsors to help me get to different locations with this day of great gardening info.  I suggest a $30 to 50 per attendee price.  With that price for the day--this will be a fundraiser for local gardens or garden clubs. 

Contact me soon to get me scheduled in your area.

Here is the basic roundown.



Low-Maintenance, Sustainable Gardening Including Edibles
Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Mulch! Mulch! Mulch!  Nature’s Weed (Control) and Feed
Nature abhors bare soil!  Learn how plant based mulches suppress weeds, retain moisture, moderate soil temperatures, feed and protect soil life—who feed and protect our plants.  Then learn how to use this info to the best advantage for you and your plants.  Reduce weeding, water and fertilizing.
You just wet layered Carbon and Nitrogen ingredients and let the microbes Break It Down.

Lasagna Gardening
Lasagna (deep mulch) Gardens recycle cardboard, and leaves or old hay into a deep mulch that you plant directly into.  Come learn how to have a garden that has no tilling, no digging, and little weeding and little watering--all season.  Plus, really healthy/productive plants.

Vegetables 101
Growing some of your own food is a great feeling, great eating and a great use of some of your yard.  How to choose what to grow, basics of planting, spacing, when to plant, mulching, watering, soil preparation and more will be covered.  

Tomato Blight—Prevention Is Worth a Pound A Year, Actually More
Having 8 foot tall tomatoes that have leaves to the ground until frost, starts with the seed starting medium.  And watering, mulching, plant spacing, air flow, available nutrients, plant support, fall clean up and LUCK!!

Lunch Break

Edible Landscaping
Combine edible and non-edible annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees in one landscape design and create a really beautiful yard that will be the envy of the neighborhood, not the scourge.

Organic By Design, Not Neglect
Learn many simple, practical and cost effective ways to have a more Organic garden, vegetables and flowers. Soil Health, Insect Control, Cultural and Physical techniques, Encouraging Natural Controls and more will be covered.

Putting the Lasagna Garden to Bed in Fall

Putting the Lasagna Garden to Bed in Fall

Yes, I just bury all old plant material--tomato blight, powdery mildew and ALL!!!!

You need to bring in at least 12" of new mulch and bury everything.  Think about fungi a bit and their life cycle.  Drying and UV light kill spores.  Moist and dark is good storage for fungi spores.  Till them into the ground this fall, for good storage and till them up in the spring for good inoculation--if you want that same fungi disease again!!!

Bury those MILLIONS of spores under 12 inches of mulch never to see the light of day again and in a rich microbial and bug world--they are more likely to get eaten and out competed in the mulch.  Plus, they will not be brought to the surface in the spring.

Read my Tomato Blight Prevention handout for more on Tomato Blight prevention and my ideas.

Yes, my fall clean up is that easy.  Knock it down and bury it all.  In the spring, it will be mostly moist.  Maybe water a few times and you are ready to plant into a weed free garden for the entire growing season.

Indian Summer Tomatoes

If your tomato plants did not get killed by the first few frost, you probably have some green and blushing tomatoes out in the garden.

Before the next hard frost, I pick the blushing tomatoes and green tomatoes with decent size.  Then I put them in cardboard boxes, one layer deep.  Put the boxes in the basement, or some not hot place.  Close the tops or put a few sheets of newspaper on top of the tomatoes.  They do not need light to ripen.  They need their own gas to help them ripen.

Check them every few days. They will ripen over the next month.  They will not taste as good as summer tomatoes--But they will taste better than store tomatoes--and you already have them for free.

Fresh eating, they are ok.  For cooking--they are great!!!

Smother layer over grass--prep for permanent bed

Kris asks:

I heard the show today and the concept for the second time, so am really ready to go!  I did a version of this with my ongoing compost in a tiny raised bed last year and my tomatoes reseeded themselves and are also 7 feet high.  Amazing.

My question, next year, we are planting a privacy break in the corner of a small lot.  If I do the lasagne technique in preparation, can it go right over the existing grass?  I assume so, but just wanted to know. 

Thanks for your work.


I agree, it is amazing and great fun to have such healthy plants!!!--with little work.

Yes, lasagna gardens can always go right over the existing vegetation.  That is the purpose of the smother layer, to kill what is below it.

I love to do a lasagna garden as prep for a perennial bed.  It kills all the weeds and enriches the soil.  After a few months of the growing season, when all plants below are dead, you can start to plant perennials and shrubs right into the ground.

With this technique, the lasagna mulch does not have to be as deep.  You can do a smother layer and 6" of wood mulch and after a few months start to plant down into the soil.

Good luck,


Mulching containers and using wet wood pellets

Dana asks:

What are your thoughts about wood pellets that got wet and are now sawdust, to mulch containers?
I only do container gardening and don't even know if they need to be mulched...I just got some twice crushed wood mulch from a local it makes me think wet wood pellets would work also. What do you think?
Loved the Larry Meillor show today..thanks Dana


You hit one of my favorite points.  Yes, I believe containers should be mulched!!!  Two big challenges with contains:  watering and high soil temps!

Mulch retains moisture and evens soil temps. 

I have a handout here about mulching.  The smaller the particles of mulch, the deeper the mulch needs to be, to slow the wicking process. 

Yes, sawdust and wood pellets that got wet, will work fine for mulching containers, just needs to be deep enough.   If  it is only 1 to 2" deep it could actually make drying happen faster, as it can work like a wick, then.

You could put the wet pellets down and then 1/2 to inch of shredded mulch on top, that is more course. 

Good thinking to reuse something that got "broken" for the intended purpose.

Happy Gardening,


Shredded paper in the lasagna garden

Caryl asks:

I really was inspired with your ideas on the Larry Meillor show this morning.  I have a question about shredded paper.  I have a good source for bags and bags of this stuff and I'm wondering what your opinion is for using this as a layer in the lasagne garden.


Shredded paper is a fine ingredient in a lasagna garden.  It comes from trees and would be a carbon ingredient.  It should not be the main ingredient.

Concerns:  glossy paper and print is not recommend.  Staples are fine, they will rust away.  Plastic windows from envelopes could be a mess.

2nd concern:  It takes a lot of work to refine wood to paper.  Paper can be easily recycled, so from a sustainability/resource use standpoint--I prefer to not add lots of paper to the lasagna garden, but to keep the paper being recycled in the already refined paper cycle. 

The cardboard from food is great o compost or bury in a lasagna garden, as it is not supposed to be put in the recyclables in most places.

There are lots of carbon materials around, that are raw, from nature and not already refined.  Read my handout on Composting for some more carbon ingredient ideas.

Final answer: shredded paper is fine, but there are other options that I prefer.