School Gardens Update: Square Foot Lasagna

“Well begun is half done.” ~ Aristotle

The work part of building garden beds is for the most part complete. We are on to planting and teaching kids what to do from there, managing rather than micro-managing.

They are giving seed sprouts a light water every day — sometimes twice — until they are established. Soon, they will begin thinning the sprouts and watching their plants grow into edibles. They will use leaves as mulch once plants mature to help conserve moisture in their gardens to minimize the need for supplemental watering.

Their curiosity keeps them engaged, and their questions are never-ending:

Why can’t I see the carrot seeds whenever I eat a carrot?

They have learned about the differences between roots (no seeds) and fruits (with seeds) that grow from flowers. They are learning in class about pollination, erosion from wind and water, and seeing how all that applies in their garden space.

They will determine what constitutes a ‘pest’ or a ‘weed’ and learn to let nature do what it does as much as they can.

The fun for kids — and me — has really only just begun! Now for a re-cap and update. Thanks for tagging along.

~ Shannon @ DirtNKids

Lasagna: An In-ground Compost Pile

Why bring the compost to the garden when you can plant right in the compost? If you’ve followed here long enough, you know this is my preferred way for lazy gardening.

Mimicking nature’s seasonal layering below the surface of the soil assures that all the water, micro-nutrients, fungi, and bacteria are there when the roots reach down into the substrate. Only a bit of digging is required, moving off 4-6″ of top soil if possible.

Then layering in lasagna fashion, these ingredients:

  1. Flattened, water-soaked cardboard — a neon signs for the worms saying ‘Come and get it!!‘ as well as a moisture retaining carbon layer
  2. A smattering of leaves (mulched or no) or shredded paper — more water on this as well
  3. A layer of nitrogen-rich vegetable waste — the ‘spark’ for the soil campfire
  4. A layer of compost with or without earthworms — water again
  5. Repeat 2-4 if vertical space allows
  6. Top with the soil substrate — water lightly, smooth
  7. Add a planting grid system with twine (optional)
  8. Plant seeds

Just A Bit of Shovel Work
(Barefoot With Crocs, No Less!)

Bermuda Grass On Bottom
Smothered With Wet Cardboard Blanket

Chop Up Chunk Veggies Like Lettuce Heads
Do This Before Adding Your Worms!

Ready To Plant!

Square Foot Plot Vs. Planting In Rows

In my own garden, I’ve learned (mostly the hard way) that the best way to minimize insect infestation is not to give the little chompers a place to belly up. When you plant in rows, you essentially give them a 20-ft-long all-you-can-eat buffet without the need for additional transportation.

Staggering plants in a grid system makes it a long walk to the next plot (if you’re an insect). If you’ve ever observed a ‘lost caterpillar,’ you know many will simply never arrive to their next meal.

Using your index finger as a trowel is a rather clean and easy way to plant seeds, thinning is a cinch, and ‘weeds’ are easily identified within the grid. If it’s not where you planted it, it’s probably a weed.


Square Foot Gardening Grids

Each plant’s spacing requirement makes it a 1, 4, 9, or 16 per square arrangement (as seen above). Just poke a not-too-deep hole in the soil, drop 1-2 seeds, and cover over. Easy peas-y.

Kids work the squares math:

  • Carrots, Radishes: 4² = 16
  • Peas, Beets: 3² = 9
  • Lettuce, Spinach, Mustard, Chard, Turnip: 2² = 4
  • Cabbage, Broccoli, Kohlrabi, Tomatoes: 1² = 1

Planting seeds with 25-50 kids means there is quite a bit of randomness within the garden. We only get 30 minutes per planting, so kids kneel beside the bed and get to work on their plots.

Once sprouting has begun, we have a general idea what it is based on the planting density and the type of leaf:

This must be radish.

Seeds Sprouting
Peas In Foreground

Below is an excellent presentation put together by the Master Gardeners of the AgriLife Extension of Collin County Texas that I found trolling the Interwebs. I could not have done one better myself. Go ahead —  Click it!

Related Posts:

Now…on to my own garden!

11 thoughts on “School Gardens Update: Square Foot Lasagna

    1. But you want rollie pollies. They are decomposers for dead lead matter and food for your garden predators. I don’t know if I’d want a garden without them!

      Some critters will take some of the fruits in your garden but that’s okay. It’s good to share some. You just don’t want an infestation of any one species. Having a varied ecosystem will help with that. Happy Digging!


  1. I know the kids are already having fun, cuz dirt is involved, lol. But I know when they see their seeds sprouting and plants growing, their fun turns into amazing fun! And I’m learning right along here with the kids! 🙂


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