The Lasagne Vegetable Beds.

I have never showed my vegetable patch on this blog as it was such a mess. Last year I went to a talk by Alys Fowler about permaculture. A few days later I went to another talk about growing veg in raised beds and I was hooked.  The vegetables got neglected and weeds took over. I lost interest in my boring old vegetable plot.

I wanted to make a proper potager with raised beds full of wonderful compost. I wanted to grow onions like footballs rather than the ping pong balls I had produced.  I wanted long straight carrots instead of the stunted, forked misshapen ones that I was ashamed to bring into the kitchen. I started measuring and  planning the whole thing on paper and I got a quote for the job.  It was just too expensive and I felt quite disheartened.

But then my Knight in Shining Armour stepped in.  My lovely Pianist offered to make them for me. He is a very enthusiastic and very good cook and he has taken over all the cooking in our house. Although he doesn’t see the point in gardening I think he is quite interested in making sure that he has a plentiful supply of interesting fresh vegetables and herbs. I must admit that I had misgivings about him undertaking this job though. He has always maintained that he believes in the dignity of labour, but not manual labour. His only DIY so far has been a single shelf in the kitchen for recipe books.  His only other attempt to be handy in the garden ended up in him falling from a tree whilst brandishing  a chainsaw. An image that will stay with me for ever. The only other jobs he has done involved gaffer tape.(Duct tape in American I think.) He is a great believer in gaffer tape and I was quite keen that no gaffer tape should be involved in this project.

We decided to make the 8 main beds 2.4 metres long by  1.2 metres wide. Any wider and I wouldn’t be able to reach from both sides. We needed posts 75 mm square and 45 cm high  to make the frame. The 2 centre beds were to be smaller. They were 1.8 metre long and 1.2 metre wide. We ordered the wood from the sawmill and had them cut into lengths the right size so that there would be no sawing.  I wanted them three planks deep so we needed 120 planks. We had them treated with a non toxic preservative.  We needed 60 90mm number 6 screws per bed (48 for the smaller beds) which seemed an awful lot. The screw holes needed to be pre-drilled.

I was rather worried about how he would manage the job. The wood arrived and there seemed an awful lot of it. I saw the look of panic on his face. I bought him some nice red overalls so that he would feel the part and enter into the spirit of the thing. I cleared the ground and made a bit of a trench for the wood to sit on and away we went.

20140329_132136 Here is the Pianist in his new red overalls drilling. Behind him there is a nice pile of well rotted manure from the horse up the road waiting to be used. While we had a cup of tea the Vicar came to see what we had been doing.                                                                     IMG_7294                 He peered in the box and then climbed on to the compost heap and went to pick an argument with the pheasant next door. This is a daily ritual at the moment.  They                 spend ages nodding their heads up and down and showing each other their tails, saying mine is bigger than yours.
To my delight the beds were finished in less than three weeks. Now came the job of filling them. Here is where the Lasagne method came in.

Lasagne Vegetable Beds.

The trick is, as the name suggests to layer them. I had been saving cardboard for months and this went at the bottom of each bed.

The cardboard was soaked with water to encourage worms to take up residence under it and then came the layers of good stuff; any organic matter I could lay my hands on. You alternate green stuff with brown, such as cardboard, newspaper and fallen leaves; but it is not an exact science. I started with the stuff on the compost heap that hadn’t even started to rot down. I had a lot of turf because I am always digging up the lawn. I had masses of semi rotted leaves and plenty of grass cuttings. The well rotted manure from the horses up the road was an important layer. At last I could see the point of a horse.

I finished with good, well-rotted compost.  I had an enormous compost heap which was encroaching on to the lawn, but it was all dug up. I had to dig carefully because I found that I had disturbed a very indignant resident. I was worried he might have a family still in there.

It’s all right, the only harm done to this handsome toad was to his dignity.

Instead of cursing the moles as I usually do, I was quite happy to see mole hills on the lawn. What wonderful pre-sieved soil the mole digs up for you. The job of filling all the beds is very hard work and it takes an awful lot of stuff to fill them . I got to the point where I was tempted to go round the brown bins that neighbours put out for the council. I certainly peeped into them to see what garden waste they were throwing away. Who are these people who throw away their grass cuttings and  leaves?

The beds were eventually ready.  They were not exactly full, and I know the level will go down when it settles, but in the autumn I will have lots more stuff to put in. I had already started vegetables off in the greenhouse to put into them. The potatoes were chitted. Carrots, broad beans and lettuces were waiting to go in. I replanted my strawberries and herbs in the two smaller beds. I bought some asparagus crowns. I have sown all sorts of leaves in the salad bed. I have sown French beans in one bed. Can anyone tell what is digging them up and eating them?

Here are the finished beds.  The wigwam in the middle is for runner beans.

 Notes from the Pianist.

Relax, this is a job for someone with minimal skills because that’s all I have. I know the beds are not all level with each other because to make them so would have involved an enormous amount of earth-shifting and for what? So that they look pretty? Sorry, I’m not that anal. Maybe you know that already, I don’t usually read my beloved’s blog. What has she been saying about me? The only thing I’m really proud of is that the order I made to the sawmill over the phone was exactly right. (Though some of the planks weren’t sawn accurately – pshaw!). It’s quite nerve-wracking ordering £700 worth of wood by phone. By the way, you need a corded (mains power) drill. Battery drills run out too quickly, even with multiple battery packs in reserve and they don’t have enough power for the screws.

Note from Chloris.

I didn’t know he was going to write all this, I only asked him to check the measurements.



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46 Responses to The Lasagne Vegetable Beds.

  1. rusty duck says:

    This is so exciting. Seriously impressed!
    It might be mice digging up the beans, but keep an eye on that bird!

    • Chloris says:

      I wouldn’t put anything past the Vicar. Arrogant strutting fellow that he is.
      I am so excited by my veg beds that I lie in bed at night thinking about them. ( A bit sad isn’t it? )

  2. Anna says:

    Oh job well done Pianist and oh what veggie/fruit loveliness to look forward to this summer Chloris. I spotted some fine molehills last week when were out and about and wished that we had a sack and shovel in the car.

    • Chloris says:

      A good idea to carry a sack and shovel around for scooping up mole hills. Now why didn’ t I think of that?
      Yes I am excited about the veg to come.

  3. Alison says:

    The Pianist did a first rate job on those beds! Well done him. I hope your veggies and herbs thrive, as a reward for him.

    • Chloris says:

      Yes, he is a clever, wonderful Pianist and I am very lucky. I do hope to impress him with my veggies but he is very exacting in his demands. You should hear him on the subject of potatoes. In the past I have had my beautiful, freshly dug potatoes rejected on the grounds that they were not firm enough. Being homegrown is not good enough if they are not firm..

  4. Kris P says:

    I was amused and delighted with your story and I’m exceedingly impressed with your results. Any man who cooks is to be treasured – I’m lucky to have one of those myself. While mine (a scientist by education and training) is handy, this means that my requests often get bogged down by critiques, as well as his availability, so that handiness is a mixed blessing. I can’t help with the question regarding the beans – I’ve never had those dug up but the usual culprits in my garden are the raccoons and the squirrels and I don’t think you have either, do you?

    • Chloris says:

      You have your own cook too? We are lucky aren’ t we? It is wonderful to come in from the garden absolutely exhausted and have dinner ready on the table. And not just any old dinner! Superb haute cuisine every night. We have plenty of squirrels here, nasty, ratty, grey ones but no racoons. Now that would be a sight in an English country garden.

  5. pbmgarden says:

    What a great project. Nicely done.

    • Chloris says:

      It is a great project and I didn’ t really appreciate how much work was involved before we started; I can still hardly believe we did it.. I keep having to go and have another look at them to make sure I didn’ t dream it.

  6. Cathy says:

    Wow! It looks fantastic! I am very envious! I would love something like this one day, so the description of how you did it is useful too. One day…. I can dream! Tell the Pianist I admire his handywork and dedication too! 😀

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Cathy, I will tell him. It is not difficult to do; as the Pianist says he has minimal skills. In fact I wasn’t aware that he had any practical skills that didn’ t involve gaffer tape. But it is hard work. I hope that you will get your raised beds one day. It is the way forward, imagine – no digging. .

  7. Pauline says:

    That is seriously impressive! We made raised beds for our veggies as the only area we could put it was always waterlogged. They have been a great success, you will be eating lots of wonderful goodies all summer, well done the pianist!

    • Chloris says:

      I would be interested to hear what you grow in your raised beds Pauline. Would you write a post about them? I am really keen to read about other people’s veg growing, as I am always looking for tips.

  8. I’m well impressed! Both by the garden and the Pianists handywork. It must have been the red overalls! My Mr. Chef is also the cook in our household (a reluctant handyman as well!) Hence, the veg plot in our garden is where his garden interests lie. Your plot looks so promising – you should have plenty to eat and cook! P.s. The Pianist should start a blog too!

    • Chloris says:

      Another chef! Aren’t we lucky?
      I think the red overalls played a big part in this project. I think it was a master stroke.
      Well perhaps the Pianist should write a blog; he has a way with words. But it would be all about scientific stuff combined with political rants. Not the sort of thing I can be bothered to read.

  9. Julie says:

    I saved your post to read with coffee this morning, its funny and lovely and a bit of an adventure too I can relate to that feeling of excitement over raised beds, have a lovely weekend Chloris.

  10. Chloris says:

    Thank you Julie. It is exciting. But then I am easily excited by things going on in my garden.
    Have a lovely weekend too. It is supposed to get warmer tomorrow.

  11. They look wonderful, great teamwork!

  12. Flighty says:

    A most enjoyable post and terrific pictures.
    All very impressive, and well done to the Pianist. They should look really great once there are things, including a few flowers I hope, growing in them.

  13. Chloris says:

    Thank you Flighty, any suggestions as to what flowers would make suitable companions? I have some Marigolds and Sunflowers coming on.

  14. Cathy says:

    The Golfer and I had matching red overalls when we built our extension so it clearly makes a difference – although I am a bit concerned about the Pianist’s hands (assuming the pseudonym has some relevance to his talents). I also noted that you mentioned squirrels and haute cuisine in the same sentence and am wondering if he has a favourite method of cooking them…? Great job anyway – especially the estimating and ordering which the Pianist is clearly very proud of. I look forward to seeing your onions like footballs and long straight carrots in due course…

  15. Chloris says:

    The Pianist shared your concern for his hands and we heard a lot about the risks he was running over the course of the three weeks. No damage was done to his hands but he got a badly bruised chin when he tripped over his own feet and landed on one of his nice wooden beds on his chin. His lack of practical skills is combined with an alarming degree of clumsiness. So it makes his big effort on this occasion even more remarkable. I think he is an absolute star.
    No squirrels have found their way into the pot. I only combined cooking and squirrels in one paragraph for the sake of brevity.
    I do hope I will be able to impress you with amazing veg after all this build- up.

  16. Well done! Looks like a very proper job, and a big one. I look forward to reports on all the glorious vegetables.

  17. I’m still smiling. Thanks for the chuckles. If vaudeville were alive and well you’d be the stars.

  18. mrsdaffodil says:

    What a transformation! Kudos to the Pianist, and to you!

  19. Jo says:

    Wow, what a big project to take on, but I have to say that your raised beds are impressive. You must be thrilled with them. Very well done to the Pianist.

  20. Chloris says:

    We are pleased with them and thank goodness they are finished. They have rather taken over our lives for the last few weeks.

  21. Now that is something! Love the beds, love the overalls, love the whole determined spirit of the thing. We have some raised beds but since I gave over the veg growing to Ian he has become more and more determined to colonise the field and seems a touch dismissive about the raised beds. Personally I love them and will be very interested to see what you grow in yours.

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you, Elizabeth. Oh goodness, Ian must have some energy to colonise the field.
      I ran out of steam with my old veg plot. This way, I like that each bed is really a compost heap and I like the idea of no more digging.

  22. Christina says:

    The beds are perfect and I’m sure you’ll really enjoy growing and eating lots of wonderful vegetables. I can promise that it is very much easier to grow veg in beds like this. I’ve never used the lasagne method because I know that the type of couch grass we have here will grow through anyway so I always dig it all out before I start any project but I am convinced it works in most situations.

    • Chloris says:

      Oh no, I hope that I haven’t any couch grass. But the idea of the cardboard is to cover up the weeds so that they will rot. I am a bit worried about the bindweed but if it shows its head I will just keep hoeing it and chopping off its head.

  23. What a project! You were brilliant to think of doing such a thing and the Pianist is to be congratulated for his initiative and skill. What joy to look forward to fat onions and long, straight carrots. Very recently, I found an old British television show on YouTube called the Victorian Kitchen, which then lead me to the Victorian Kitchen Garden, and I’ve spent as much of my free time as possible lately with Ruth Mott and Harry Dodson. I’ve learned at least a million things, including the value of mole diggings, which Harry used for starting seeds. I was crushed when I discovered yesterday the shows were filmed nearly 30 years ago and they have both since passed away. But what treasure to have found them.

    I look forward to hearing more about your adventures in veg cultivation. The Pianist, I’m sure, must have very high expectations. Good luck!

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Marian. I am looking forward to the veg this summer.
      I remember The Victorian Kitchen Garden. I didn’ t realise that it was so long ago. Oh dear, where have the years gone.

  24. Wendy says:

    Hello Chloris – thanks for visiting my blog. I’m so glad you did because I’ve loved reading yours. The raised beds are terrific; I look forward to seeing them full of veg. I love the Vicar, too and the little toad!

  25. Chloris says:

    Hi Wendy, thank you for your comment. I have mixed feelings about the Vicar. He is always lurking around the veg beds. He seems to be endlessly fascinated by them. Apart from Fritillaries I’ m not sure what he eats. I hope he doesn’t take a fancy to my broad beans.

  26. Robbie says:

    those look great!!! now the fun begins + all the food will be rolling in:-) Red Overalls are perfect for your new potager garden:-)

    • Chloris says:

      Yes red overalls are the way forward. As it is, I’ m turning more and more clothes into gardening clothes and I have fewer and fewer clothes to wear to go out in.
      I can’ t wait for our first harvest.

  27. Robbie says:

    maybe his and hers-lol..I do like the red color!

  28. What a wonderful set-up, and so motivating too. I am with your pianist on not needing to get them all perfectly level, I took the same attitude when I built mine, though they are only one plank high at the moment, I may add further levels in future years if bending down gets too hard. I find mine – which are exactly the same dimensions – really easy to work with, and have been getting great results.

  29. Chloris says:

    I am looking forward to this summer looking after these beds. So far keeping them clear of weeds is proving remarkably quick and easy. The measurements were sheer guess work but they seem to be just the right size.

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