How To Build a Lasagna Garden (& why you'd want to)

How To Build a Lasagna Garden (& why you'd want to)

When I started vegetable gardening in 2009, I came across a book that changed my life - seriously! It is one of my all-time favorite books in life AND especially, in gardening! It's called, Lasagna Gardening, by Patricia Lanza and I recommend that EVERY gardener buy this book! The bonus is that it's been around so long that you can find it SUPER CHEAP!

This book seriously altered my course as a gardener! In fact, it's the only way I've ever gardened with few exceptions. Once I read the book and its principles, I implemented them immediately and grew the most amazing vegetable and herb garden MY FIRST YEAR!

Although I had technically been gardening since I was a kid, 2009 was my first year to attempt a vegetable garden. I grew the whole thing from seed (which is considered an advanced skill by some) and I used the lasagna gardening methods (even though I had to grow my entire garden in pots - but that's another story!)

So, what is Lasagna Gardening and why is it so amazing?? Well, let's just get into it... shall we?

What is Lasagna Gardening?

Lasagna Gardening is named for its system of alternating layers of organic matter above the earth's surface, much like you do when you're making a pan of lasagna.

Instead of tilling the ground or digging up existing sod or otherwise, you build from the surface up WITHOUT TILLING OR DIGGING! Yes, it's true!

This style of gardening is most commonly known as "no till" gardening or "sheet composting" and you'll see why in a moment. But the gist of the method is the LAYERING.

When I read Lanza's book, I immediately saw the genius in the method AND got to work gathering all my materials - practically for free!

And that year (and every year following), this method has proven itself true over and over again! In fact, the times when I didn't employ lasagna gardening were the times when I battled the most weeds, more disease, and plants that just didn't thrive.

When I did use the lasagna gardening method, my plants flourished (and so did I!)

The Benefits of Lasagna Gardening

There are so many great benefits to lasagna gardening but let me just name a few:

  • You can find all the materials needed for FREE (or very cheap)
  • There's no digging or tilling required (except for maybe a border)
  • You're improving the quality of your soil, which >>
  • Improves the quality of your plants, which >>
  • Increases the nutritional value of the food you grow!
  • It's easy, fast, and you can do over and over and over again1

If you think about nature and how it works, lasagna gardening mimics this almost perfectly. Every year, the ground is layered with organic matter that will die over time and decompose, breaking down into organic matter that becomes part of the existing soil.

Think about the leaves that fall (the ones you don't rake up), the grass that you cut (and don't bag up), manure from local animals (not dogs and cats), the work of earthworms, and any animal or plant that dies and decomposes into the ground.

ALL OF THIS is organic matter that breaks down over time and enriches the soil (if it's left to do so).

Part of the problem with modern gardens and farming is this idea of stripping - stripping the ground of everything that was there until it's bare. And then, stripping everything away that will naturally fall in that space. 

By doing this, you're literally stripping the ground of the much-needed nutrients that will allow plants to grow and thrive.

Sure, you can come back and add synthetic fertilizers, but it's never the same (or as high of quality) as when we let nature do its thing.

Lasagna gardening is a picture of nature at its finest (with a bit of a helping hand from us)!

Lasagna Bed Materials

Looking at this picture above, you'll see alternating layers of GREEN and BROWN materials. THIS is the crux of the lasagna garden system that you must understand (and it's very easy - so don't worry). 

GREEN materials are "live," sort of speak, and are high in nitrogen. They're not completely dried out and have moisture in them, to some degree. Though green materials are more readily available, you will actually use less of them.


  • Grass clippings
  • Vegetable/fruit peelings
  • Coffee grounds
  • Animal manure or barn litter (from farm animals, not cats & dogs!)
  • Compost
  • Hay
  • Wet leaves
  • Seaweed or kelp

BROWN, or dry materials, are high in carbon, which is the essential element in "organic matter". Without carbon, it's essentially dead and considered inorganic.


  • Dried leaves
  • Straw
  • Dead stalks (chopped)
  • Wood ashes
  • Wood chips or shavings
  • Saw dust
  • Peat moss
  • Dried corn cobs (chopped)
  • Shredded cardboard or paper


  1. Don't use grass clippings (or any material) if they've been sprayed with chemicals, because these will break down into your gardens. You don't want that! That means you'll need to ask the farmer you get your straw/hay from if he sprays it.
  2. Also, make sure your pet's litter isn't scooped up in your grass clippings or leaf piles. You don't want dog and cat litter in your garden beds, if you can help it.

** The other VERY IMPORTANT material you will need is cardboard and/or lots and lots of newspaper (black and white, no colored ink). **

This will be the base layer of your lasagna bed that you'll put right on top of the existing ground - sod and grass included! Again, no need to remove your sod or dig up weeds because the cardboard (or a very thick layer of newspaper) will smother out the grass and weeds overtime.

Unfortunately, although newspaper is my preferred base material, it is hard to come by these days, so cardboard is what I find myself using. Fortunately, you can find cardboard EVERYWHERE!

When you get home are are ready to assemble your beds, just remove the tape or labels, if they have a lot of colored ink, from the cardboard. Brown cardboard is best.


  1. Ask your neighbors are willing to share any of their organic materials they don't use in their own gardens - just make sure they don't spray their grass or trees with chemicals! I collected bags and bags from my neighbors who didn't care a thing about saving these resources.
  2. Look on Facebook Marketplace, especially for cardboard. It's often free
  3. Ask you local grocery stores (or wherever you shop) for their cardboard. Most places are willing to give you whatever they have in back.

How to Assemble Your Lasagna Garden

Now that you have all your materials, it's time to assemble them!

FYI, the following pictures above are an example from some beds I made over 10 years ago, but they show the general process.


First, you will want to measure out your garden beds and mark them with twine, rope, flour, or whatever you have. I suggest flour because if you are creating a bed that is not made up of straight lines, you can put flour in a narrow funnel and drizzle it out to make curvy line. You can also use a garden hose to mark out a curvy garden edge.


Once you have your garden bed marked, you will want to lay down a thick layer of WET newspaper (like 4-5 layers thick) or one layer of WET cardboard. MAKE SURE you overlap the edges slightly to keep weeds from sneaking through (because they will!)

You can also use a combination of the two, depending on what you have available. ** Just remember that newspaper will break down a lot faster than cardboard, BUT worms really like cardboard. So... there's a trade off.


Next, you will start to layer your organic materials, preferably alternating GREEN and BROWN layers. You want each layer to be about 2 to 3 inches deep. So, for example, lay down compost and then dried leaves, veggies clippings and then straw, and so on and so forth.


Continue layering until your beds are 18 to 24 inches high. Once I've finished, I often scatter BONEMEAL on top to add extra phosphorus and potassium. Wood ashes are a great (and generally available) sources of phosphorus and potassium as well.


In general, I recommend using a variety of materials, although in a pinch, just use what you have.

One year, I literally dumped all my fruit and veggies scraps, along with some unfinished compost onto my cardboard, added a good layer of topsoil and some straw for a top mulch and called it good. 

The layers broke down as the plants grew and I had a HUGE and HEALTHY harvest! I've actually done this on several occasions when I didn't have time to properly "cook" my lasagna beds and they did fine.

SPEAKING OF COOKING... Let's talk about how to COOK your Lasagna Garden.


As I just mentioned, you can literally create a garden from scratch in one day and put your plants in it instantly!

BUT there are reasons to let it "cook" as well, and by "cook", I mean giving your layers time to break down and decompose.

This will reduce the height of the beds and create the loose, crumbly consistency usually associated with compost. This can take six months to a year, depending on your weather, to fully complete. 

HOWEVER, you can speed up the process by covering your beds with dark plastic tarps and weighing down or fastening the edges. You can use other materials for your tarps, but plastic will allow it to cook quicker. The plastic helps keep the moisture in and traps the heat from the sun.

In six weeks, you'll beds will have mostly (if not fully) broken down in a nice, rich material you plants will love growing in!

If you haven't watched my video about covering the garden with tarps to COOK before I plant out my warm season plants, you can watch that below.

Build in the Spring or Fall?

If you are planting a Lasagna Garden in Spring....

You will want to start building your beds as soon as the snow has melted and you can reasonably mark out your new garden space. AND there may still be some debris in your yard from the past fall that you can use to layer into your bed.

This is also a great time to utilize the compost you've been curing over the winter (if you have some). This is usually when I pull my compost and layer it atop my existing garden beds. Then, I'll lay the tarps on top and let the beds cook until I'm ready to add my baby seedlings or sow my seeds (which is about four to six weeks out. Perfect timing!

If you are building a Lasagna Garden in Fall...

Fall is seriously the best time to build a Lasagna Bed because there is so much organic material to utilize - Leaves, leaves and more leaves! They're everywhere and they're a great addition to your lasagna bed (plus they're carbon, which you need A LOT OF!) Grass clippings, spent plants from your summer garden (that are disease free), corn stalks from local farms, straw and more are also great additions. 

When we are cleaning up in the fall before the snow falls, we put EVERYTHING onto our existing garden beds, lay tarps down, and then let it cook over the winter. Your earthworms will love you for it too!

And just so you know, you don't HAVE to lay a tarp down. It will cook regardless, but it will take longer and the wind may blow off the top layer before the snow settles in (if you have snow in your region.)

When spring rolls around, you'll have garden beds full of that beautiful, dark, rich, loose soil that you will just be able to set your plants into - no digging required!

Seriously, you can just move aside the dirt to set your plants down into the soil, and then move the soil back over to cover the roots.

A Word About Mulch

Just about any of the items listed in the Materials List can work as a top mulch - straw, wood chips, wood shavings, sawdust, chopped leaves, grass clippings - any of it will work!

And the great thing is, it will eventually break down and become organic materials that will literally "feed" your soil. So, over time, if you keep adding layers, you will be building your soil and increasing its viability with each new season. 

Your plants will love you for it!

My favorite mulches are straw and wood chips. 

Straw is great for baby seedlings and seeds because it's lightweight and will allow your tender seedlings to grow without too much struggle. It's also relatively cheap and easy to come by.

Wood chips are my second favorite because they last longer, help smother out weed seeds that may drop in your garden, and help keep the moisture in your garden. 

Wood chips are also great for pathways! Just lay down some cardboard and then layer on the wood chips! If you're wondering where to get wood chips, check Facebook Marketplace or I've gotten two large drops from them, although I had no control over WHEN they had availability. 

Final Words About Lasagna Gardening

I love that you can find the materials for lasagna gardening just about anywhere FOR FREE! 

Seriously, if you're resourceful, you won't have to pay a thing for your lasagna garden bed! Now the plants... that's a different story, but one we should definitely chat about... 😉

You can build a garden bed in about an hour once you have all your materials ready (and depending on how big of a space you're creating).

You can stockpile materials in the fall and pull them out in the spring. 

You can collect materials from your neighbors and friends who aren't using them (just make sure they're not sprayed).

And you can do this process over and over again!!

I should also mention that this is for ANY KIND OF GARDEN - flowers, veggies, herbs, fruits and more!

I just cannot say enough about the benefits of Lasagna Gardening! It's simple, easy, and makes the most amazing gardens!

You should most definitely get you some cardboard and give it a try!