help: lasagna garden too brown!

Discussion in 'Soils, Fertilizers and Composting' started by fern2, Mar 5, 2007.

  1. fern2

    fern2 Active Member

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    Thanks for the suggestion Gordo. But the part of the garden that those photos are from is the 'deep shade' corner and so was planted with an eye to creating high & low layers of shade-giving & shade-loving plants (even though I don't have a dense or coniferous canopy directly above it, as you'd find in the forest). And yes, I know that salal can get rather unruly (ditto for any evergreen huckleberry & salmonberry I'd plant) but I fully intend to keep much of it pruned back to a workable height & size. Heck, I'm even planning to put some of my HUGE sword ferns (each 8-10ft in diametre!) around the edge of the garden and perhaps also on the terrace level below to help it all feel more naturally designed. However the rest of the native garden WILL be planted more sparsely with the understanding that it'll all bush up, fill in, & get added to over time. And if worst comes to worst, then the salal in that corner will cast a nice shadow for 5yrs and then get moved somewhere else in the garden once the other shade-giving plants get tall enough. I'll try to post a photo of the whole garden, from above, to give you an idea of its layout & contents so far.

    And Kia796, the city compost that I was referring to is made from the garden trimmings that residents put out with our recycling & garbage each week, not from biosolids or municipal wastewater. Here's a link: http://www.vancouver.ca/engsvcs/solidwaste/landfill/sales.htm
     
  2. fern2

    fern2 Active Member

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    Oh and to reply to your earlier post Kia796 (can I just call you Kia??), I think I will follow your suggestion to construct some sort of 2-3 bin system (with a couple standby containers of 'browns' & grass clippings) and will certainly use the contents of my current bin, including its happy worms, to give those new bins a jump start. But that project's going to have to wait until the rain stops... (which may take a while)

    ps: you should see my bin midsummer when the whole thing is just over-flowing with worms - it gets so bad (=good) that I actually have to scoop them away from the lid's threading so I don't kill dozens of them simply by putting the lid back on! I think they must have all come from the surrounding soil which is wonderfully black due to the hundreds of apples we allow to decompose on the ground each year after they fall from our nearby apple trees. Happy worms :)
     
  3. kia796

    kia796 Active Member

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    Oh, good, re the compost materials from the curbside (versus the stuff I thought you meant!) I won't buy that stuff ever again.
    Before I had a truck, I brought neighbour's leaves over in my trunk (unbagged...!) to fill my compost.

    I've never before heard of so many worms that you can't get the lid back on. Wonderful, a great supply for your new bins.

    We get so little rain here that I take the lid off when rain is forecast. Good luck with your multiple bins. I didn't see ONE worm in mine!
     

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  4. fern2

    fern2 Active Member

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    Wanted: ground-up lasagna recipe...

    Haha, loose leaves in your trunk. Hope they were dry. I made the stupid mistake of rounding up bags of leaves in the middle of a rainstorm last fall and of not lining my trunk with plastic beforehand. I had to remove all the carpeting etc from the trunk and use dozens of towels to soak up the 3" of water that had accumulated back there. My windows STILL get foggy from that little misadventure - and I even found a beautiful little mushroom growing in the still-moist carpet last week. Fun fun.

    Anyway, back to my high-effort low-success lasagna garden. I've now decided to rip up at least half of the lasagna (=the unplanted, sunny side) and to splurge on outdoor soil so I can get all of my tender little plants out of their pots & happily growing without having to fuss over their dangerously inappropriate N & C levels for the next eight months. I figure I'll just take all the mulch & leaves etc that I remove and use them as the 'brown' layers in my soon-to be renovated compost 'system'. So I'm not actually giving up on the lasagna ingredients, per se... I'm just choosing to grind them up & let them marinate a while before using them. :)

    I'm also seriously considering removing the remaining lasagna so that the hardier plants (that are already planted there) can get rooting into a more balanced soil too - with modifications to come as my regular & carbon-rich composts evolve over the next year or so. I think that with the warmer weather we've been having lately, all those microorganisms are starting to speedup their work and, since I don't have enough N out there yet, they're stealing nutrients from the plants themselves & that's starting to show: some of the oregon grapes, salals & ferns are looking a little ragged & unhappy. And I figure that, while it's true that buying all that soil is going to be expensive, it won't cost anywhere near what I'd need to spend to buy all those plants again (!!!).

    So. Given that I can basically start this whole PNW garden from scratch again, does anyone have any suggestions for basic soil recipes that I should try to follow (keeping in mind that money & time are an issue)?? I'm just looking for a generic 'acceptable' soil that will keep the deep forest &/or sunny-edge plants reasonably happy for the next 6-8 months until my first batch of lasagna compost is ready. Any suggestions or warnings?
    I live in Vancouver so if you have any nurseries or brands that you recommend I look for in the area, that'd be great too.

    Thanks for all of your help. I REALLY appreciate it.

    (ps: While many of my 'hardier' plants aren't doing so great right now, ALL of my tender or fruiting plants have started to bud - even the ones I thought had died years ago. It's fantastic & it gives me hope for this garden yet!!)
     
  5. kia796

    kia796 Active Member

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    fern, you can tell you're an avid gardener when you have foggy windows and a mushroom in your trunk from hauling leaves! That was funny.

    That's a good solution you have, and it'll get your plants out of those little pots. Maybe add just a little bone meal into the soil before the plant goes in. Works wonders for mine.

    Good news that plants you had given up on are coming along. Ah spring!

    I'll let someone else answer your (blue paragraph) soil recipe question.
     
  6. fern2

    fern2 Active Member

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    Thanks - I've actually re-done that particular part of my garden. Firstly, I stripped off all but the coir & store-bought/finished compost (including the base layer of newspaper & cardboard), being careful to separate out the woodier layer from the more finely decomposed stuff. Then I added another 1-6" layer of finished compost on top and used a pitchfork to mix it into the underlying soil. On top of that I added some rougher compost and, in areas where I wanted to put forest/shade plants, I also threw in some acidic soil from under my pine & spruce trees. I'm now in the process of adding a top layer of fine organic debris to simulate a forest floor (pine needles, small rotting cedar bits, cones, leaf litter, etc) and mixing the most decomposed of that into the soil to a depth of ~2". Then, in my 'forested areas', I'll lay out some rotting branches & wood from an old conifer we cut down. And finally I plan to cover the whole PNW garden with a thick (6-8") layer of small leaves (japanese maple, poplar, conifer needles, etc) to protect & add nutrients to the underlying soil. I've left the existing plants in place and have even added a few more to establish a more natural, layered 'ecosystem' - making sure to keep most of the mulch from touching the plants themselves in order to minimise any fungi or nutrient-stealing by nearby woody matter.

    We've just had our first frost so I'll have to work fast to put the garden 'to bed' before it gets any colder, but that shouldn't take too much work or time now that I've collected bags of leaves from around my neighbourhood, have tilled & enriched the soil, and have all my plants in place.

    Yes, it's been a lot of work, but the vast majority of that was because I initially & mistakenly layered the area improperly (putting soil over my fresh brown & green layers, and using WAY too much brown/woody matter for the amount of green in there). So, once that was undone, the process was pretty easy. And hopefully, by next spring, my plants will be MUCH happier for all of my hard work & research (they're already looking pretty darn good, IMHO).

    Thanks to everyone for all of the advice & info I've received over the year. I couldn't have done it without you :)
     
  7. Karalyn

    Karalyn Active Member

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    That's great! I'm glad that your garden beds are getting better and thanks for bringing us up to date.
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2007
  8. boiler

    boiler Member

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    When doing the lasagna gardening method (i e layering sraight on the ground) worms etc have the opportunity to enter straight into the material! but some of the bins are either raised off the ground or do not have sufficient holes for access to the worms, Although I have explained in further detail on my web pages I am frightened to mention them incase I threaten some protocol of this site. But I hope the information above will help to solve some of your problems.
     
  9. boiler

    boiler Member

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    kia 796 You may believe that long before the people you mention, (Mrs STOUT) and others the method of lasagna has been carried out by mother nature for millions of years, today it just has a new name, I have gone to the trouble of explaining this on www.gardeningforyou.com indicating the ease of making life just that little bit easier in the garden
     

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