Dylan from Sugarloaf Permaculture recently cut out a new garden bed, in the lawn out the front of our Bridget Bunchy shop, in The Summit. This new garden bed is built on permaculture principles and will now lie dormant for the next two months, while the soil naturally prepares itself. In the spring a display botanical herb garden will be planted.
For those planning on cutting new garden beds where there is currently lawn, here is a recipe for creating healthy soil with substance and longevity. It is a process, but once in place, you will reap bountiful rewards. Healthy, rich soil gives your plants the best start to life and continued support for lush growth.
Do this now during winter and plant in spring.
It is called a lasagna mulch garden bed – many layers all working together to stop the grass re-growing and enrich the soil.
Step 1: Dig up the grass
Lay out your garden bed edging (Dylan has used old roofing tiles) and dig up the grass with the tools you have – shovel, pitchfork etc..
Correction to original post courtesy of Dylan: “One note though, in this photo I was not digging up the grass. This is an unnecessary step and is extra work – leave the grass as is – it will decay and feed the soil once the light is excluded. I was however, loosening the soil with the fork – this I thought was necessary because it was extremely compacted and I wanted to help nature a bit😉 i.e. when plants are planted, their roots will have an easier task in getting their roots down deeper…”
So there you go – you don’t even need to dig up the grass! Move to Step 2.
STEP 2: Add some chunky organic matter
Cover the garden bed with whatever organic matter you can get your hands on – leaves (green and dried), sticks, bark, ash, charcoal, a few small rocks.
STEP 3: Add a few handfuls of compost worms
Compost worms live in the very top layers of soil and assist with breaking down the organic matter.
STEP 4: Cover the garden with wet cardboard
This is the pasta in your lasagna garden. It might be an idea to leave the cardboard outside for a while before hand – let it get nice and soft. The cardboard will block out sunlight, killing any grass before it can sprout through.
STEP 5: Cover the cardboard with wet newspaper
Lay out newspaper on top of the cardboard. It can be 15 sheets thick or so. It is easy to just open up the newspaper in the middle and use the whole paper. Approach your local newsagent to get the unsold papers, if you do not have a big collection at home.
Once the newspaper is laid out, sprinkle it with water. This helps the decomposition and also stops it from flying away in the wind.
STEP 6: Add rock mineral dust
Australian soil, especially under lawn or near buildings and houses is severely mineral deficient, especially in selenium. Rock Mineral Dust will replenish the earths natural minerals, particularly essential if you plan to grow vegetables and edibles.
STEP 7: Add compost top soil
Fill the garden bed with a thick layer of compost top soil. This soil contains organic composting matter, mushroom compost and soil. For smaller garden beds, a good quality potting mix will work.
STEP 8: Add another layer of newspaper
Repeat step 5.
STEP 9: Add a thick layer of hay/mulch
Add a thick layer of mulch. Lawn clipping will work but they need to be old and dry not green. For best results use love grass hay or sugar cane mulch. Spread it out thick.
STEP 10: Let your new bed rest for 2 months
All the hard work on your end is done, now nature needs time to do its part. The lasagna layers in the bed should prevent weeds and grass growing through. If you do get weeds, pull them out and add more newspaper and mulch.
So there you have it. Winter is the best time to lay the foundations for a flourishing spring/summer garden. Go on, brave the cold and get digging.
Stay tuned – I will post updates in a few months time.
Thank you so much Dylan – I am looking forward to the next stage.