When I began my first lasagna garden I used what I had; grass clippings, barn litter (horse manure and sawdust) and peat moss. I piled layers of grass, manure and peat right on top of the ground. I planted right into the layers and plants and seeds grew rapidly. Weeds loved it! In addition to deep-rooted weeds that came to the surface, weed seeds in the horse manure germinated and grew. I grew the biggest weeds I ever saw in that first garden. It was clear something needed to be done to control weed growth.
In my all-natural garden I wanted none of black plastic or woven ground cover. I also resisted spending money when I might get something to do the job free. When I went away on a small vacation I found the answer when I returned. Before leaving I put out garbage and recycled trash on the curb. Stacks of newspaper were set on the grass. When I returned everything was gone except the stacks of newspaper. It had rained after I put them out and they were no longer good for recycling. I went to get my wheelbarrow to move them and found the answer to my weed barrier problem. When I picked up the stacks of wet paper I found the grass dead and earth worms right on the surface. I could pick up handfulls of soft soil that was filled with worm castings. The bottom of the paper stack was partly eaten away by the earth worms. I could use wet newspaper to cover the base of a new garden and it would stop weed growth and serve as a food source for earthworms who would dig and till the garden. And it was free.
I put the paper to work right away. Wearing my barn boots I stomped down weeds then covered up the layers of grass, manure and peat with wet paper. I began again to layer, this time on top of the paper. It was fall so I made the layers tall so they could compost over the winter. When spring came I planted into the layers. It was my best garden ever.
The next fall I laid out another garden. This time the garden was located on an old parking area and I planned an extensive herb garden in the timeless patterns I had seen at Williamsburg, VA. I was ready with plenty of material for both gardens and paths. After measuring the gardens and paths I covered the beds with paper and the paths with cardboard. I covered the cardboard with wood chips and the garden beds with layers of wet newspaper almost two feet of organic material. When the snow began falling I walked away from the project and waited until spring.
In the spring I found only a few inches of material left from the two feet of material I had layered up in the fall but, when I pulled the paper back, I found another few inches of cultivated soil under the paper. It had been cultivated by earthworms working up from deep in the ground to get to the newspaper. What had been a hard packed, grassy parking lot was now loose rich soil ready for planting. I planted my herbs and had one of the most wonderful garden experiences ever. That year folks came from all over to see my new herb garden and I gave my first garden tour and lecture on lasagna gardening.
What had started as a walk in the woods had resulted in a new way of life. I put in practice what Mother Nature had shown me and created gardens that gave me something to talk about. I made a move in my personal life and an actual move from the inn to my farm. I used lasagna gardening to create about thirty more gardens and began to write about my experiences in a garden column for a local paper. A woman came to my gardens and opened up my world to... but that's another story...