Pros: Enjoyable book, Humor, Simple-to-install garden design, Organic soil-building
Cons: This is not about growing food for a lasagna garden.
Don't confuse Lasagna Gardening with Herbs with lasagna garden design books; they're not the same concept, although this borrows from lasagna cooking instructions. Patricia Lanza's book is about creating garden soil, partnering with worms, and gardening without digging, tilling, or weeding. It's a strategy that works on top of any soil, any where in the country. This is another book that helps rescue aging backs and protects young backs from going garden-bad.
This is part of the new trend in gardening and I like it. The Square Foot Gardening approach introduced me to above-ground, no-dig gardening. With my aging garden-damaged back having a vegetable garden without double digging or tilling clay soils was most appealing. Patricia Lanza might be my gardening soul sister.
"When you're able to find me, it will most often be in the garden. Gardening of any kind is what helps me get in tune with the earth and helps refuel my spirit." She has a terrific spirit and a willingness to go boldly down new gardening paths, or re-invent traditional paths. She also has an engaging style of writing and sense of humor. So what is Lasagna Gardening if it's not a place for growing ingredients used in this favorite dish?
Above ground and in layers with food for plants
After selecting a great spot (sunlight and water but not soil) mark off the space you want for a garden. Smother the grass with newspaper (don't dig the grass) then layer peat moss, then twice as much organic material and a second layer of peat moss. Repeat this until you have it as deep as it needs to be to support the plants you're growing. You can use all types of material for building the layers including barn litter, buckwheat hulls, coffee grounds (and filters), compost, fruit pulp, grass clipping, garden waste, animal manure (herbivores including rabbit), kitchen scraps and more. (She provides a detailed list that includes where to find it, how to use it and comments.)
Hopefully worms will come along. Build this up in the fall and by spring, especially if you live in a cold winter and freeze-thaw climate, this should be churned, perforated with worm holes, and ready for planting. Remember, there wasn't any initial digging and there isn't any need to dig or turn in the spring. Your soil will be healthy and there won't be any need for fertilizers.
This is an herb garden, although this style could grow any type of plant. The first chapter essentially expands upon the above description, and the remainder of the book addresses growing and cooking with herbs, maintaining the garden, incorporating edible flowers, and using herbs.
While she is an obsessive gardener and has a strong passion for growing plants she also is a fervent cook with marital roots in Italy. "Food is more than fuel."
"Gardeners feed their souls on flowers, but they feed the family with fruits and vegetables."
She thinks nothing of placing only a few sprigs of tarragon inside a roasting chicken for flavor, although I'd add a few garlic cloves. This book includes recipes that use herbs harvested from her garden. Through these pages she scatters "herbal hints" for cooking, decorating, drying; she also includes history, design combinations, and plant lists.
But I wanted to grow a pizza garden.
What I expected to find in Lasagna Gardening doesn't appear until the chapter on theme gardens. Here I found plans and plant lists, for a butterfly-shaped garden, white-flowering herb garden, aromatherapy garden, wheel or pizza garden, a dryer's garden, thyme garden, and tea garden.
"Most woody perennial herbs respond to a good hard pruning in spring."
Care and tending to the herbs is found throughout the book. The second chapter covers some of the author's favorite 60-plus plants that she grows or has grown in her herb gardens. Each detailed description provides uses, history, and plant lore, as well as how-to-grow instructions. She offers appropriate tips for growing these in southern states as well as in the northeastern, cold winter states.
She brings a wealth of practical knowledge and experience gleaned from many years of gardening and from watching her grandmother garden. She has a garden gift shop and café and has written two other books, Lasagna Gardening and Lasagna Gardening for Small Spaces. Her background and confidence is readily apparent and the book is a delight to read. Gardeners will enjoy this semi-memoir tribute to gardening as much as the welcome easy-to-install directions. Her recipes are simple. You don't need an herb garden to appreciate these; however your own backyard herb garden will make the foods more personal and everything always tastes better fresh. Try the Fresh Green Bean with Fresh Garlic and Mushooms—this recipe is simple, easy, and tasty.
Do you need worms?
This relies a lot on the power of worms who work the soil. Conceivably, if you build it the worms will come, but if you don't have a lot of worms, perhaps you can introduce some to your soil. If they're happy and feel at home they might just increase their populations in your "compost" layer garden. This is essentially composting in alternating layers.
I, like the author, have moved far too many times and each time I literally put down roots with new gardens. Unlike many of my friends who have only dug up one or two garden beds, or at least one yard for their gardens, I've done this in five different homes. The garden and experiences it offers are basic to my emotional harmony and patient spirit, without one I'd lose focus on life. Digging up, preparing and establishing yet one more garden the traditional way just makes my body want to scream and rebel against my mind and spirit.
It's too late for most gardeners to create one for this summer's season, but now is a perfect time to begin preparing for next year's garden. Take your pick, this or Square Foot Gardening. These no-digging, no-tilling and no-weeding styles of gardening work for more than just herbs but what a delicious way to meet Lanza's Lasagna Gardening with Herbs. If you're new to gardening, trust this hint. You really do not need to go the traditional, dig-it-up, turn-it-over, and then take two Advils before going to bed route. We now know it's possible to have successful vegetable and herb kitchen gardens AND a healthy back. There's no need to explain the reasons for this book to veteran gardeners. You're already interested, now just shuffle over to a bookstore and pick up a copy while you can still hobble.