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'Lasagna' Gardening Eases Strain on Body E-mail
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Tuesday, 29 May 2007
Garden Recipes: 'Lasagna' Gardening Eases Strain on Body



The Beaumont Enterprise

Mar. 30--PORT ARTHUR -- Liz Segler doesn't believe a gardener has to be a slave to the shovel, tiller and hoe.

At the Thyme for Herbs Society's HerbFest this weekend, the 67-year-old garden enthusiast will teach others how to save a lot of wear and tear on the body with lasagna gardening.

No, lasagna gardening isn't growing basil, oregano, parsley and other herbs often used in making the popular Italian pasta dish. It's a method of gardening that maximizes nature and minimizes effort in creating a dig-free garden.

Dig free?

"Yes," said Segler. "I don't make lasagna. I don't eat lasagna. But I grow a lasagna garden."

Segler, a past officer with the Thyme for Herbs Society, which sponsors HerbFest, first became interested in gardening as a stressed-out teacher and coach.

"It helped me unwind. I'd come out here and dig and talk to the plants and then I'd be ready to go in and meet my family and fix dinner," the now retired Segler said.

Here's how Segler makes her garden:

Choose your spot and lay out the borders. You'll build the garden from level up, not down, so a border will help contain it.

Wet newspapers (Segler uses a wheelbarrow and a garden hose for this process), then layer them (at least 3 1/2 to 4 inches thick) over the ground to form the first layer. You don't need to dig up weeds or grass, just flatten them. The newspapers will block out sunlight and prevent them from sprouting or growing.

Top that with 4 inches of organic matter such as decomposed grass clippings or other organic matter. (Segler uses leaves.)

Add about 2 inches of compost (she uses aged cow manure) or "just until you can't see the leaves."

Add 3 inches or so of peat moss.

Top with more leaves (shredded leaves are best).

Wet everything down, cover with plastic, anchor with bricks or other heavy objects to hold in place, then sit back for six weeks or so and let nature take its course. (The newspapers eventually decompose and provide a perfect home for earthworms, which help aerate and enrich the soil.)

You can make as many layers as you want, with organic matter and compost topping each other. The heavy mulching keeps weeds down, retains moisture and decomposes to enrich the garden.

The finished beds are good for vegetables, herbs, flowers or whatever suits the gardener's fancy, Segler said.

You don't need to dig to plant; simply pull the layers aside to make a small hole, insert the young plant, then pull the layers back together and firm up soil to cover the roots.

"It only takes a couple of hours," Segler said. "I make my bed about four feet wide because I don't want to walk in it. I can reach across from either side."

The earth-friendly, organic lasagna gardening method is great for anyone 35 or older or with limited strength or mobility, Segler said.

"No hoeing, no raking, no roto-tilling."

Jefferson County Extension Agent Micah Meyers said he isn't well-versed on lasagna gardening, but that options like raised beds and container gardening -like lasagna gardening -- are "good for people who can't work a garden."

Accessibility is the key, he said, and gardeners might also want to pay attention to what they plant.

"Plant selection is important. You might want to choose plants that don't require a lot of maintenance," Meyers said.

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