The ongoing care of a lasagna bed includes weekly and seasonal replenishment.

At first the bed will be about two feet high but it will gradually sink as time goes on.  After about a year to 18 months as decay and worms do their work turning the leaves and organic matter into soil. the bed will be reduced to half its original height.

You will need to feed your bed about once every week or two.  To do this, for a four foot by eight foot bed, you'll need two coffee cans (1 pound 14 oz each) stuffed with unused fresh produce such as tops from carrots, bottoms from lettuce and cabbage, apple cores, etc.  You can make a little hole in four different places in the bed and put half of each can in the hole.  Cover with leaves to prevent attracting critters.  

As for feeding your plants, there are few things better than compost tea.  Get a five gallon bucket with a lid. Dump some unused, uncooked produce from your kitchen in the bucket along with some coffee grounds which are rich in nitrogen and potassium.  Fill with water near the top.  Cover tightly with a lid.  Keep the can near your garden and use to water your plants once a week.  Just continue to add more spoiled produce and water each week.  Make sure and leave about 1/8 of the water in the bucket as this ensures you'll have plenty of microbes as a starter for the new batch.

In the winter you can let your bed  rest.  In December, cover  the bed with leaves and water well so your leaves don't blow away. This will also discourage pests from over-wintering in your leaves.  Return to it in March.

Mar 13 @ 8:08 am


and often a family affair

There are many different reasons why people turn to gardening, but from what I’ve seen, if you dig deep enough, you’ll find that overwhelmingly it is the desire to heal that moves people to the garden. We turn to the garden because of our deep natural connection to nature and the encouragement we find in things that are growing.

Yesterday I had the wonderful opportunity to introduce a beautiful family to the garden. Kischa Howard, the matriarch of this family, last year suffered one of life’s most difficult injustices to a parent---the loss of a child. Kischa called me a few days ago and asked if I teach her how to garden. She also mentioned that she had lost a son to cancer just last year. He was teaching her how to garden and she wanted to continue in memory of him. Yesterday, on Sunday afternoon, not only Kischa, but also her daughter, son, sister, granddaughter, grandson and daughter-in-love came with her.  All will be working this beautiful family memory garden.

On Sunday, they completed the build for a lasagna bed and planted two yellow squashes.

I’m sure they will teach me much more that I’ll ever teach them--that’s the secret that many don’t realize but the teacher almost always learns more from the pupils than they learn from the teacher. At the very least, it is a mutual exchange.

Scientific evidence abounds in literature to support gardens as being healing places for human beings.  Gardens provide psychological, social, physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits to humans.  The term healing gardens is most often applied to green spaces in hospitals and other healthcare facilities that specifically aim to improve health outcomes. These gardens provide a place of refuge and promote healing in patients, families, and staff.  Any environment can promote healing, but gardens are particularly able to do so because humans are hard-wired to find nature engrossing and soothing.

Regardless age or culture, we find nature restorative. In one study, researchers Marcus and Barnes found that more than two-thirds of people choose a natural setting to retreat to when stressed. In another study, 95% of those interviewed said their mood improved after spending time outside, changing from depressed, stressed, and anxious to calmer and more balanced. [Source: University of Minnesota]

Why do we find nature so restorative? As mentioned, some believe that it is because we are hardwired in our genes. Roger Ulrich, a leading researcher in healing gardens, summarizes it thus: "We have a kind of biologically prepared disposition to respond favorably to nature because we evolved in nature. Nature was good to us, and we tend to respond positively to environments that were favorable to us." [Note: Dr. Ulrich is Professor of Architecture at the Center for Healthcare Building Research at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, and is adjunct professor of architecture at Aalborg University in Denmark. He is the most frequently cited researcher internationally in evidence-based healthcare design.]

Another reason for our biological connection to nature could be that humans who paid close attention to nature gathered key information that helped them survive and reproduce. So, the tendency to find nature engrossing lived on in those genes.

The importance of gardens figures large in literature and religion. For example, the Christian story begins in the Garden of Eden.  Our literature abounds with stories developed around gardens in such works as Shakespeare’s Richard II; Keats Garden poems; Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass; Virginia Woolf’s Kew Gardens; etc.

I hope you'll visit the Garland Community Garden because then you will see what I mean.


A woman called me a few days ago and asked if I could teach her how to garden.

THAT remains to be seen.  However, I did accept the challenge.

I'm meeting her in the garden tomorrow, Sunday, March 12 at 3PM.  I'll gather the materials and provide her with the instructions.

It takes about one hour to make and plant a lasagna Garden--much easier than tilling up the soil.

You are welcome to come and watch.


YOU CAN DO IT! Let’s make a Lasagna Garden

Lasagna beds are a no-till easy method of constructing a garden bed.  Great method for beginning gardeners.


Lay the cardboard the shape and size for your. garden. Wet it 
thoroughly with water. Worms are attracted to we cardboard and
will come to the surface.  No need to till. The cardboard blocks
sunlight and thus the grass and weeds die.


Cardboard (Enough flat pieces for a four by 8-foot bed)

Decaying logs (about 4)

Twigs (enough to cover the entire bed)

Newspaper (or any uncoated paper)

Uncooked vegetable scraps (enough to cover most of the bed)

Coffee grounds

Dead Leaves (about three or four large leaf bags

Two 2-cubic feet bags of garden soil

Vegetable transplants and seeds


Six night crawlers (Get them at a bait store.  Walmart sells them in sports section.)


  1. Lay down the cardboard right on top of weed or grass.  Don’t leave any gaps between cardboard and ground beneath. This will kill the grass and weeds because they won’t have sunlight
  3. Soak well with water.
  4. Crumple paper and put on top of logs and twigs.
  5. Pour two bags of dry leaves over twigs and paper.
  6. Pour uncooked vegetable scraps over entire bed.
  7. Water well.
  8. Sprinkle coffee grounds over vegetable scraps. (Worms love them and they add nitrogen and potassium to the soil. Amount no more than 25% of bed.)
  9. Gently release the night crawlers near the middle of the bed.
  10. Pile another bag or two of leaves on top of this.  Water well.
  11. Sprinkle entire bed with 1 to 2 cubic feet of garden soil.
  12. Now you are ready to plant.  Before planting seeds or transplants, dig a hole in the leaves and add about a cup or two of soil to anchor the roots or seeds.

You don't have to spend a lot of money buying wood to enclose your bed.  You can let the worms
and natural decay of organic matter to create most of your soil free of charge!

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?  $25 to nothing

If you buy four cubic feet of garden soil and purchase the night crawlers, building a lasagna garden will cost about $25 plus seeds and plants unless you can get them from friends.

But if you have a yard, you can dig some of that soil and amend it with about 20% sand and about 10% dry leaves.  The sand can be purchase by 40 pound bags for about $6.

 As for night crawlers.  You can get them free by digging in the soil near a shrub.

 One of the easiest ways to gather worms is by leaving a wet piece of flattened cardboard in your garden or lawn overnight. Worms are attracted to wet cardboard, so they will crawl up to the surface in no time. Once you remove the cardboard, you'll have countless worms to place into your worm bin

 I get cardboard by driving behind businesses and taking cardboard from their bins.


Left to Right:  Girl Scouts, Liz and Calley (supposedly the adults in the photo)



It seems like for a few days that I've been nudged back to promoting my permaculture roots. All the gardeners at the Garland Community Garden and most community gardens are organic gardeners--that is to say that we do not use any chemical fertilizers, GMO seeds, pesticides or herbicides.

Permaculture takes organic gardening to another whole level.

Permaculture, at its core, is sustainable agriculture. It also includes 12 design principles that expand beyond farming and offer an ecological approach to modern living and communities—for example, energy conservation and zero waste living. All in all, permaculture takes its lessons from nature and how things grow naturally in a forest in particular.
In the beginning of the Garland Community Garden almost 10 years ago now, we "made" the soil for most of our beds the permaculture way: Lay down cardboard the entire area of your bed, right on top of the weeds or grass; Water it well; put a layer of twigs and several large old porous logs on top of the cardboard; Pile brown organic matter such as leaves on top of the logs; old newspapers torn up; mix a little green from shrub trimmings; and some rotting produce; straw; water well and wait for the worms to come.
Vegetables grown in our lasagna beds did not grow well so we gradually moved away from this method. It takes at least a year for most lasagna beds to attract enough worms to harvest the organic materials into rich soil.

Monica Escamilla, Starbucks Store Manager and community gardener


Monica Escamilla Store Manager at the Starbucks on North Garland Road between a Walmart and Target store recently has come to our garden to help us out. Monica mentioned that her previous experience included working in a permaculture garden in Nashville. There are several in the Nashville area so I don't know which. one but talking with Monica reminded me of the value of this method of gardening. But more importantly Monica mentioned that you can buy live big night crawler worms and also the red wiggles at Walmart or any bait shop and add them to your soil.
I decided to make a lasagna bed on Sunday, bring worms to it and see what happens. So I bought three containers of worms collected the leaves I had raked from my yard and some cardboard and headed for the garden. At least as far as the beginning of this bed goes, it was magical.
I had barely started to pull the cardboard out of the truck when a troop of girl scouts flooded the garden like so many butterflies.
The girls were not only strong and enthusiastic, great listeners and action-oriented, they displayed great teamwork and kindness to one another.  This photo shows one of the older girls helping a younger one to loosen the roots of a transplant.  Yep, the garden encourages all kinds of good manners.
They were curious about what I was doing. When I told them they begged enthusiastically to come and help. Of course I said yes and Calley, one of our new gardener members joined in to help us. With the exception of going into the woods to get the old rotten logs, we let the girls do everything--from laying the cardboard to planting the plants which included some herbs, a tomato plant and a pepper plant. (The tomato plant was planted at the other end from the pepper plant as they are not good companions.)
The girls were fearless with the worms which surprised me. It was so much fun to see their enthusiasm and sheer joy.
After we were finished and the girls had left the garden it struck me that I had helped to create a happy memory for a group of children. This was likely an event that many of them would remember their entire lives. And I, as a participant, would also be remembered as well. I guess this is the closest we come to immortality--to make happy memories for others. No better place to do this than in the garden.
The Girl Scout's lasagna bed.  They have eight plants (herbs, one tomato plant and one Banana pepper plant.  In addition, this bed is the new home for about 15 worms.


When it comes to seeds,  you have three choices: Open Pollinated; Hybrid or GMO

I took up gardening late in life--about 10 years ago. One of the main reasons I did was to escape the world of politics but I soon found out as I dug up my front yard that such an act is rift with political ramifications.  You'll have people cheering you on and others criticizing you. Someone once wrote that digging up your front lawn and planting a garden instead of a lawn is one of the most political acts that a person can undertake.  You are defying the status quo that says all front yards must be an uninterrupted flow of green from one house into the next.  No dandelions allowed.  Do what you have to do: pull them out by hand or use an herbicide like Roundup.

Over the course of the two months that it took me to dig up half of my front lawn, over 120 people stopped by to chat with me, ask what I was doing, and talk about gardening.  Prior to that time, I had lived at this address for about 8 year and no one had ever stopped to chat when I was in my front yard.  [Note: I say over 120 because I didn't start counting until I was into my second week of digging up my lawn and people started stopping on day one.  It was from this group of people that the Nonprofit Loving Garland Green was started.

It’s amazing how steeped in politics that gardening is, but it is--right down to the seeds that one chooses to plant.
Open pollinated (OP) seeds are naturally pollinated by wind and bees. These are seeds of value to be saved from your healthiest plants and replanted. Preserving an heirloom means growing it out, maintaining the variety and sharing its seeds with as many growers as possible.
Hybrid (F1) seeds come from two inbred open pollinated parents bred for specific characteristics. For example, most of the tomatoes you buy in the chain grocery stores have tough skins. This is because they were grown from hybrid seed that was developed to create tougher skins for tomatoes so they could still look good after traveling the average 1,500 miles that fresh produce in our inefficient agricultural system must travel to get to your grocery store. Seeds from hybrid plants will not breed true to the plant they came from. Some might, but few will and you cannot count on seed from hybrids. Thus, for example, if you want to always get tomatoes with a tough skin, you’ll have the go to the store any buy these seeds. [Get the picture? A captured consumer.]
When it comes to seeds, GMO’s (genetically modified organisms) are typically hybrid plants whose DNA is artificially altered to tolerate higher levels of pesticides/herbicides. Note that hybridization has already achieved the beneficial plant traits; further genetic modification is strictly for monetary reasons. Europe has banned GMO’s for a multitude of reasons, including higher levels of chemicals.
In the final analysis, if gardeners only chose hybrid and GMO seeds, our food source (seeds) would totally be in control of a few people. Some say that we are headed in that direction. I’m sorry to say, but the evidence does seem to be pointing that way.
Seed banks have not prevented the loss of 93 percent of heirloom varieties since 1903.



Use the plastic milk jug as the perfect one-gallon measurement for watering in your garden.  It takes six of these filled with water per square yard once a week to adequately water most plants.  Use a utility knife to cut the carton along the dotted line, put some holes in its bottom and voila! You have a pot for your seedlings.



You can make a birdhouse from cardboard milk cartons:  Rinse well and make a hole around the side of the carton. Then, add pine needles, straws, and any other natural liner. Ensure it comes off as a soft and comfy nest for the bird.  Place the carton somewhere high. This way, mice and rats will not be visiting your birdhouse.

Plant Protector

Cut on the dotted line, turn upside down and place on tender transplants to protect them from an unexpected cold snap in the spring or fall.

Detail for:


First there is the adult only preparation part:

  1. Rinse the milk Carton
  2. Paint the outside of the carton with an outdoor paint
  3. Cut the necessary holes:
    - The entrance hole should be large enough to admit the bird, but not so large as to admit unwanted species. If you want to attract smaller songbirds, a 1½" diameter is a common size of entrance hole; however, it is an advantageous to use a smaller size if you are planning to attract chickadees and wrens specifically. Entrance holes to bluebird nesting boxes measure 1½ inches in diameter because this size prevents European starlings from entering. Starlings compete with bluebirds for scarce nesting sites. The hole should be placed 4" - 6" above the floor. The hole for a Chickadee birdhouse is 1 1/8” in diameter placed 4 to 6 inches above the floor.  Entrance holes for other species: 
    The entrance hole size depends on the species you hope to attract: 25 mm for blue, coal and marsh tits. 28 mm for great tits, tree sparrows and pied flycatchers. 32 mm for house sparrows and nuthatches.

    -Air circulation holes
    Drill small holes (1/8 to 1/4-inch diameter) through each side of the birdhouse just below the roof. This will provide better air circulation.

    - Approximately 1 inch below the entrance hole cut a small X with a utility knife.  Once the child has decorated the birdhouse and put in the nest, you will insert a twig or dowel and hot glue to secure it in place.

    -Poke holes in the bottom of the. Carton to allow water to drain. (8 small holes are sufficient)

    -Cut a small hole on either side at the top of the carton.  After it is decorated and the nest made by the child, you will run strong twine or wire through these two holds for hanging the birdhouse.
  4. Have the child decorate the box with water-based paints.
  5. After paint is dry, adult spays with a clear sealer
  6. After   dry, insert the material for the nest--dry grass, straw, bits of string , tiny scraps of cotton fabric.
  7. Some like to put a couple of rocks to weight the birdhouse a bit.
  8. Insert the perch into the X you cut if you are going to have a perch and hot glue it to the carton.

    Perch diameter should match bird size. Birds should be able to wrap their toes around a perch to grasp it, not just stand on top of it with their toes spread open wide. If a perch is too big, a bird can fall or slip if they cannot grasp it properly.

    Bluebird boxes do NOT need perches on the exterior of the box.  They will fly straight into their home. Also, the presence of a perch may attract house sparrows which seem to prefer them.  The entrance hole for a blue bird house is 1 ½ in diameter.
  9. Slide twine or wire through the two holes near the  top of the milk carton for hanging.
  10. Hang the finished birdhouse and wait. . .

    NOTE:  The birdhouse should not be swinging in the wind. Nestle it in branches.  Secure it by wrapping the twine or wire around a branch above it.  Make sure the entrance hold is clear and accessible. You might use some Gorilla tape to secure it.




Keep bird houses out of the sun.


The best time to put up a new birdhouse is in the fall or winter so that birds will have plenty of time to locate them before the breeding season.

 The following heights (in feet and meters) are the ideal ranges for how high to mount birdhouses for different species.

  • Barn owls - 8-25' (2-8 m)
  • Bluebirds - 4-6' (1-2 m)
  • Chickadees - 5-15' (2-5 m)
  • Finches - 5-10' (2-3 m)
  • Nuthatches - 5-10' (2-3 m)
  • Purple martins - 10-15' (3-5 m)
  • Screech owls - 10-30' (3-9 m)
  • Titmice - 5-15' (2-5 m)
  • Wood ducks - 6-30' (2-9 m)
  • Woodpeckers - 10-20' (3-6 m)
  • Wrens - 6-10' (2-3 m)


Birds are attracted to the color red, according to a Chicago zoo authority. Birds protect their nests by flashing red and use the color to attract mates. 

Do birds actually use bird houses?  The answer is “yes”.

About 30 bird species in each region of the country are so-called cavity nesters, which means that most of them will also use a birdhouse. Bluebirds, purple martins, house wrens, chickadees, tree swallows and house sparrows are the most common birds that nest in houses.





We loaded up an upside down tomato grow container this afternoon. I'm curious to see how well the plants grow in this container.  Supposedly, its two-foot square  6 1/2 inch deep bed on top will support four four  tomato plants growing from beneath  and at least 4 other vegetables or herbs on top.


This bed is 2 feet square; 50 inches tall; and 6 1/2 inches deep on top. The first photo shows it in our truck laid on its side. You can see the underside of the bed. It has four holes about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. You poke the roots of four transplants (one plant through each hole and then add soil to the container and plant herbs or vegetables in the top.
My friend, Jane, who donated this container bought it in 2008. I was able to find a photo of it on the Internet but nowhere could I find it for sale today  on the Internet. Perhaps you can get one on E-Bay? Jane said the she grew indeterminate cherry tomatoes in it. First they grew down toward the ground and then they curve back up toward the sun when they almost touched the ground.
In the top bed we will plant basil which is a great companion plant for tomatoes and perhaps parsley as well.
Since the bed really isn't that large 2 foot square and 6 1/2 inches deep) for supporting four tomato plants and four basil plants we will have to watch to ensure that we feed and water the soil well and regularly. If indeed, we can grow four tomatoes upside down, this container will really be an efficient one for urban dwellers as it only takes up two square feet and yields the growing space of four square feet.

The photo below shows what the container looks like with plants growing in it.  To set it up, you first fill the base with gravel, sand or water.  It has a hole with a cap for  filling.  You need to do this  to  stabilize it with some weight.  The next step is to poke the roots of four tomato plants up through each one of the four holes (upside down from the bottom of the container).  Then add soil that is  rich with nutrients. Fill the rest of the container  with soil up to the top and plant basil and parsley.

I just made another sign for the Garland Community Garden.  Our garden will be filled with signs this year.  Making these signs reminds me of when I was a youngster and took cross-country vacations with my parents.  From 1925 to 1963 the landscape of the USA was dotted with Burma Shave signs.  They came down in 1963 when the corporation was gobbled up by another corporations.Typically, six consecutive small signs would be posted along the edge of highways, spaced for sequential reading by passing motorists. The last sign was almost always the name of the product. Here is a typical sequence:  

  • Shave the modern way / No brush / No lather / No rub-in / Big tube 35 cents – Drug stores / Burma-Shave

As I've mentioned more than once:  the garden is a great teacher and the lessons it offers are endless.  To learn from the garden, all the visitor need to do is to stay fully present in the moment.


Rule of Thumb - a broadly accurate guide or principle, based on experience or practice rather than theory.

If it has been a hot day and you have already given them their weekly quota of water, but the plants look wilted, wait until early morning and return.  If the plants still appear wilted, then water them.   (Green rule of thumb for water amounts for vegetables are six gallons of water per square yard per week which equals to one inch of water per week.  This required amount varies some with vegetable variety and drought conditions--thus, green rule of thumb.)

Look for any signs of pests or diseases.  Take photos and visit the Internet to see what the remedies are for the particular issue.

Life’s Lessons from the Garden:       

The garden is a wonderful place that is full of lessons that we can apply to our lives and teach our children and grandchildren. This important rule of green thumb teaches us that problems can be managed and even solved if we pay attention to changes and then take action to remedy the threat when we see it.  The gardeners who visit the garden only once a week to water it may find that the vegetables have succumbed to heat or insects in their absence.


Hard to believe, but February is almost half over!

What can you plant now?

The good ole Farmer’s Almanac have a great modern online site with lots of great gardening tips tailored to your area. These tips that appear in my post are most relevant for those to live in the Garland/Richardson, Texas area which is mostly in USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 8a. The suggested planting dates in my post are for Zone 8a only. You can go to this link and find the planting dates for your area.
All gardeners should know the average frost date for their area. A frost date is the average date of the last light freeze in spring or the first light freeze in fall. The classification of freeze temperatures is based on their effect on plants: The nearest climate station to Garland where I live is Richardson, Texas. Our last spring frost is typically March 14 and our first fall frost is typically November 13.
Light freeze: 29° to 32°F (-1.7° to 0°C)—tender plants are killed.
Moderate freeze: 25° to 28°F (-3.9° to -2.2°C)—widely destructive to most vegetation.
Severe freeze: 24°F (-4.4°C) and colder—heavy damage to most garden plants.
[Note: I saw in a recent forecast for my area that we have one more night of moderate freezing weather in February next Friday, February 17 when the temperature is to dip to 27 degrees. Otherwise, the low temperatures are all predicted above freezing for the rest of February.)
We’ll have to wait and see what is predicted for March.
Frost dates are only an estimate based on historical climate data and are not set in stone. The probability of a frost occurring after the spring frost date or before the fall frost date is 30%, which means that there is still a chance of frost occurring before or after the given dates!


Start Seeds Indoors

Feb 13 to Feb 20th Cantaloupes, Cucumbers, Watermelon
Feb 20 to March 6th Pumpkin


Seed Outdoors

Feb 7 to Feb 20th - Carrots
Feb 13 to Feb 20th - Chives
Feb 27 to Mar 14 - Arugula, Beets
Feb 13 to Feb 27 - Parsley
Feb 20 to March 14 Parsnips
January 30 to Feb 20 - Peas. Spinach
February 13 to Mar 6 - Turnips


Transplant Outdoors

NOTE: I have already planted some Swiss Chard and Kale down at the Garland Community Garden, but I put straw around the plants to keep them warm.
Feb 13 to March 6 - Broccoli, Cauliflower, Kale, Cabbage
Feb. 20 to Feb 27 Kohlrabi
Feb 27 to March 28 Lettuce
Feb 20 to Feb 27 Swiss Chard
Feb 9 @ 7:37 am

Good morning.  I'm making more signs for the Garland Community Garden. Here is one on watering.