Seven years ago, Lynn and Charlie Biebel of Monroe attended a demonstration at the Common Ground Country Fair about the “lasagna method” of starting a garden. They’ve been cooking up fantastic gardens ever since.

At a tour sponsored by the Belfast Garden Club in August, Charlie noted a raspberry patch in the couple’s vegetable and flower garden that seemed intrusive there. He and Lynn want to move it outside that garden, so they were layering organic materials in a new spot then in preparation for moving the plants next spring — and demonstrating the lasagna method to visitors at the same time.

Charlie credited Keith Zaltzberg, who was a MOFGA Farmer in Residence in Unity in 2003, with teaching the method at the fair. Zaltzberg went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in environmental design from the department of landscape architecture and regional planning at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He then became a founding partner of the Regenerative Design Group in Greenfield, Mass.,, and will speak at Common Ground this year on “Productive Conservation: Food at the Margins.”

Charlie began establishing the new garden spot in much the same way as one creates a dish of lasagna: layer by layer. First he spread a thin layer (about a half-inch deep) of composted cow manure in a neat rectangle. He covered this with a loose layer of spoiled hay, perhaps three inches deep in its initial fluffed up condition, and then covered that with plain brown cardboard, removing any plastic tape from the cardboard beforehand and being sure to overlap edges of pieces of cardboard with one another to prevent weeds from poking through.

With the first set of layers completed, he covered the cardboard with another thin layer of composted manure, followed by another layer of hay, then manure again, hay again, and, finally, manure. The new bed will sit over the winter and will be ready for planting by spring. At that time, the cardboard will be fairly soft or broken down, and he’ll be able to plant through it easily — possibly making planting holes in areas that aren’t completely broken down.

The Biebels used this same method to start their other vegetable and flower beds. The cardboard helps smother the quackgrass that grows on their land, and the cardboard, hay and manure support soil life and break down to nourish plants. Once they establish a garden using the lasagna method, the Biebels control weeds further by mulching with grass clippings. Their homemade compost also feeds plants, as does an occasional application of fish emulsion. A sprinkling of wood ashes helps maintain the proper pH for vegetable growth. (Gardeners should check their soil pH before making a lasagna bed garden.) In late fall, they cover their garden with “a generous layer” of composted manure from a nearby farm.

The Biebels make the lasagna method of gardening look simple — and, once you gather the ingredients for the growing casserole, it is. If you need more information, however, or want to know about variations on this recipe, you can read an entire book about the subject: “Lasagna Gardening,” by Patricia Lanza, much of which is previewed at

For more about the Belfast Garden Club, including photos of this year’s garden tours, see