GreenThumbs, Healthy Joints

Lasagna Gardening


a photo of a woman caring a large basket of different vegetables

Lasagna gardening starts your garden with new soil that you make by layering yard and food waste. Where you make your soil is where your garden will be. This takes digging and tilling out of gardening. The layers of yard and food waste will break down, giving nutrientrich and easy to work with soil. This breaking down is also called composting. Lasagna gardening is also known as "sheet composting".

Just like the lasagna you cook, your lasagna garden has to be layered in a general order.

  • The first layer of your lasagna garden is either brown corrugated cardboard or three layers of newspaper. The space underneath the cardboard and newspaper will attract earthworms to your lasagna garden because it is dark and moist. Earthworms help make the waste into soil. Worms will also help keep this new soil loose.
  • Lay the cardboard or newspaper directly on top of the grass or weeds where you want your garden. The grass or weeds will break down fairly quickly because they will be smothered by the newspaper or cardboard, as well as by the materials you are going to layer on top of them.
  • Wet this layer down to keep everything in place. Water also helps waste break down.
  • Put a layer of browns (leaves, shredded paper) on top of the cardboard or newspaper. Put a layer of greens (vegetable scraps, grass clippings) on top of the brown layer. Layer until your lasagna garden is about two feet high.

In general, you want your "brown" layers to be about twice as deep as your "green" layers. There is no need to get this exact. Just layer browns and greens, and a lasagna garden will result. What you want at the end of your layering process is a two-foot tall layered bed. The layers will 'cook down' (compost) in only a few weeks.

a photo of a woman kneeling before her garden

No Digging

One of the best things about lasagna gardening is how easy it is. You do not have to remove grass and weeds before placing your layers of yard and food waste. You do not have to double dig. In fact, you do not have to work the soil at all. Lasagna gardening composts lawn and food waste in place to make a new garden. Where you put your layers is where your garden will be.


Although a lasagna garden needs to be cared for the same way you would care for any other garden, it takes less work. There are a few reasons for this.

  • You will have fewer weeds. The newspaper and cardboard underneath the garden will keep weeds from coming up from the bottom. The mulch you put on top of the garden will keep weeds from sprouting from the top.
  • You may not have to water as often. Compost, what you made by layering food and garden waste, holds water better than regular garden soil.
  • You will not need fertilizer. Your garden is almost pure compost, which is very nutrient-rich.
  • The soil made from building a lasagna garden will be easy to work because it is crumbly, loose, and fluffy.


The yard and food waste you use to make a lasagna garden are broken into two groups called the browns and greens. Browns are: leaves, shredded newspaper, peat, and pine needles. Greens are: vegetable scraps, garden trimmings, and grass clippings. Food waste cannot be any meat product nor have oils in it. For example, leftovers from a stir fry cannot be used because they were cooked in oil. However, if vegetable scraps were not cooked in oil, like leftover steamed vegetables or raw pieces like apple cores, they can be used. The following materials are all perfect for lasagna gardens:

  • Grass clippings
  • Leaves
  • Fruit and vegetable peels and scraps
  • Coffee grounds
  • Tea leaves and tea bags
  • Weeds (if they haven't gone to seed)
  • Manure
  • Egg shells
  • Seaweed
  • Shredded newspaper or junk mail
  • Pine needles
  • Dead flowers
  • Trimmings fom the garden
  • Peat moss

Planting and caring for a lasagna garden

When it's time to plant, just dig down into the bed as you would with any other garden. If you used newspaper as your bottom layer, the shovel will most likely go right through it to the ground underneath. If you used cardboard, you may have to cut a hole in it at each spot where you want to plant.

A general rule of thumb is to add mulch to the top of the bed. You can use straw, grass clippings, bark mulch, or chopped leaves. Care for your lasagna garden just as you would a regular garden.

When to make a lasagna garden

You can make a lasagna garden any time of year. However, fall is thought to be the best time to make one. You are able to get a lot of browns all at once, for instance fall leaves, and general yard waste from around your yard. Your lasagna garden has all winter to break down. Fall rains and winter snow will keep your lasagna garden moist, which will help the waste break down faster. By spring, it will be ready to plant.

To make a lasagna garden in spring or summer, you may need to add peat or top soil. This is so you can plant your garden right away. If you make the bed in spring, layer as many greens and browns as you can, with layers of peat or topsoil mixed in. Put three or four inches of topsoil on the top layer, and plant. The bed will settle over the season as the layers underneath decompose.


There is no right or wrong way to build a lasagna garden. The information in this sheet is a basic guide to building your own. For more details on lasagna gardening, check out these resources:

  • Visit and find lasagna gardening under the 'gardens, lawns & landscapes' section of the website for West Virginia University's Extension Service.

If you would like to talk to someone about accessible gardening, or would like a garden assessment done, call Green Thumbs, Healthy Joints at 800-841-8436.