Fall Leaf Lasagna Garden

by Elizabeth

When I was first married and living in Walnut Creek, California, I wanted a garden very much.

Unfortunately, the only available patch of ground had had crank case oil dumped on it for years and my father-in-law said nothing would ever grow there.


It was fall, and the neighbors were raking up their leaves and -- would you believe it -- putting them in plastic bags by the edge of the road for the garbage man to take away.

I went around the neighborhood with a garden cart asking people if they'd mind if I trundled their leaves away for my garden.

Nobody did.

So I went to the lumber yard and bought some two-inch thick boards that were twelve inches wide. I made a 12' x 12' box that was 24" high and enabled me to mound up all those leaves.

Then it rained.

A lot of bales of alfalfa hay got wet and mildewed and farmers can't feed mildewed hay to their livestock so I was able to sweet talk one of them out of 4 bales, which I then spread out over my 12' x 12' mound of leaves.

My father-in-law thought I was nuts.

He said you can't just pile stuff up like that. He said you have to turn it with a shovel to aerate it, like he did every day of his life in the big pit out back of his house, shoveling that stuff from one end of the pit to the other and back again.

I thought he was nuts!

I traveled up to Washington for a two-week vacation with my family, and when I got back to my "box" garden, what do you suppose I found?

That four-foot high stack of leaves and alfalfa hay had mashed down to
about six inches!

I bummed another 4 bales of alfalfa hay off my farmer friend and built it up again to about ten inches and then I just forgot about it for the rest of the winter.

Come spring, I bought some tomato plants and made a little hole in the mulch with my hands and put a plant in each hole and then snuggled the mulch back up around it again.

My father-in-law said, "You can't just stick the plants in a hole like that! You have to turn the soil with a shovel first."

I did it anyway.

I made a tube for each plant out of some hog wire so it would be supported all around as it grew up the middle.

It was starting to get really hot every day right about then, so before I went to bed at night, I would turn the hose on to just a trickle and tuck it down in the middle of one quadrant of my 12' x 12' garden and let capillary action take care of spreading the moisture throughout the rest of the quadrant.

The next night, I would move the trickling hose to the next quadrant, and so on around my garden. Each quadrant got watered every four days. It was plenty. That thick layer of mulch kept my garden perfectly moist even when it was 115 in the shade.

And my tomato plants?

They grew like gang busters!

As for me, I had my dream come true:

All the tomatoes I could eat -- and more! -- and that's all I did eat that summer, too. Tomatoes, tomatoes, and more tomatoes!

They were wonderful. Just simply wonderful.

And there was never a single bug in my garden except ladybugs and butterflies.

My father-in-law was stunned.

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Conquering both sceptic and crankcase oil
by: Leslie

I love your story. It just goes to show there are many ways to skin the proverbial cat - and you certainly found a new one.

Crankcase oil by the way is a hydrocarbon. While I wouldn't suggest pouring any onto your compost pile composting is a proven way to clean up pollutants like hydrocarbons.

Yum for the tomatoes.

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