Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Lazy Person's Way To Build A Vegetable Garden

We were blessed to have several raised garden beds on our property when we purchased it.  Sure, they were full of weeds, but the foundations were there and that is the hardest job to do. 

We've been talking about adding onto the garden for a few years and planned to do it this past fall (the best time) but between our daughter's wedding (in our yard), the death of my sweet MIL, and an early onset of freezing weather, we never started the project.

A few weeks ago, we decided that we would put in a modified version of the raised bed - a concept called "Lasagna Gardening".  We've done this process several times around our yard when planting flower gardens.  It works very well and involves NO DIGGING!

Lasagna gardening basically layers compost ingredients and then covers them to enrich the soil, enabling you to plant through the cover and into the soil.  Usually, the process involves removing sod before doing the layering.  Because we're lazy creative, we use the sod to our advantage and simply layer over it.  The downside to this "advantage" is that it takes time, sometimes several months.

Here is the area where the new garden will be added.  You can see the old garden sections to the left.

You'll notice a strange figure lurking in the garden.  The previous owner was a welder and made many "odd" art projects.  We've kept several of them around  because they are unique and really add to the character of the property.  This fella is called "Chive Head" because he has chives growing out of the bucket that is his head.  He gets a haircut whenever I need chives for dinner.

Anyway, where was I?  Oh yeah, gardening. . .

You'll only need a few items to make this garden happen.  First, you'll need several rolls of  Landscape Fabric.  I bought this 3x50 foot roll for $5.00 at a small store in our area called "Roses".  The same size roll at Lowe's was $14.99.  I bought 4 rolls and still have almost a whole roll left over.  Some people use black plastic, but we've found that the landscape fabric lasts longer and allows rainwater to get down to the soil, making the layers compost quicker.

You'll also need garden staples.  We've tried to make our own with old metal hangers, but trust me, the hassle wasn't worth it.  Just buy the staples ($4.47/40) at a garden center.

You'll need a pair of scissors to cut the landscape fabric to the length you want.

You'll also need a large stack of newspaper or lots of cardboard boxes. Only use the black and white sections of the newspaper - not the glossy ads.   Our garden bed measured 3x50 plus a walkway between the existing bed and the new bed that measured 3x50.  You'll be putting down layers of paper or cardboard.  Some people use old carpet as the bottom of their walkways.  I think it would work well, but we've never tried it.

Lastly, you'll need yard clippings like chopped leaves and grass, and also some compost from your compost pile (you can purchase compost too, but that adds to the cost of your garden).

I marked out the measurements of the garden with bamboo plant stakes.  You could use a garden hose to lay out the design.  If you are making a curved garden bed, you'll want to use something flexible like a garden hose or length of rope.

Have the garden hose ready.  You'll be laying down layers of newspaper and then spraying them to keep them from blowing away.  Needless to say, this project should not be undertaken on a windy day!

I lay down a layer of 3 or 4 sheets horizontally, and then another layer of  3 or 4 sheets vertically to really cover the area.  If you're using cardboard, usually one or two layers is fine.  You don't want any gaps because the grass/weeds will grow up through them.

After the newspaper is down, add your first layer of yard clippings.  We added composting leaves.  If we had done this in the Fall, we would have also had grass clippings which is ideal.

I chose to work in sections, adding first the newspaper, and then the leaves. 

Here is the bed at the end of layering newspaper and leaves.  Notice I haven't worked on the walkway that will be between the old bed and the new bed.  I wasn't sure how my energy level would hold out and I didn't want to bite off more than I could chew.

After the leaf layer, Hubs brought several wheelbarrow's full of compost from the compost bin and topped the leaves with it.

Now it's time to cover the whole mess.  We layed one layer of landscape fabric over the bed.  Because the bed is several inches thick now, one layer will not be enough to cover the width.  I fastened the right side down with the staples (they are shaped like a large rounded staple that you simply push through the fabric and into the ground to secure).

After the right side was rolled out, I came back with another roll to finish the left side, overlapping in the middle.  I realized I still had plenty of daylight and energy, so I started newspapering (is that a word?) the walkway as well.  Using the staples to anchor the fabric, I continued in sections, overlapping the fabric.

Notice that I'm not adding any leaves or compost to the walkway.  The purpose of the leaves and compost is to enrich the soil.  Obviously, the walkway doesn't need to be enriched.  I'm just trying to kill the grass and make a path to walk through the garden.

I wet the papers down as I went to keep them from blowing around.

As you can see, the shadows are long which means my day was ending.  I got the whole bed and walkway done with a lot of help from Hubs.  All told, it took me 5 hours to complete the whole thing. (I had to take frequent rests)  We'll add straw to the walkway this weekend.

 Since we got a late start this year, we plan on laying bags of potting mix on top of the garden, slicing through the bags and planting our veggies directly into the bags.  Sounds weird, I know, but it works in a pinch.  If we waited until we had enough money, time, and energy to build proper beds, we would be missing out on a whole season (or two) of fresh veggies. 

After a long day, I was ready to put my feet up and rest.  My SIL gave me these cute garden clogs from LL Bean and I just love them.  They kept my feet nice and dry when using the garden hose.  I won't show you what the rest of me looked like - let's just say I really get into dirt when I garden.  I'm still cleaning dirt out of my fingernails because I refuse to wear garden gloves!

Happy Gardening!


  1. You almost had me at lazy...until you got to the FIVE hours of work LOL That is really cool though - I need to start composting so I don't have to buy it!

    I'm thinking about doing a worm compost with the boys as a school project...since their boys and are already attracted to dirt and worms LOL

  2. Hey Kelly,
    I like the idea of planting right into the bags of potting soil. That is a great idea!

  3. Make sure you post pictures to keep us updated. :)


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