Lesson: Lasagna Garden Basics

Recycling grass, leaves, manure, food compost, and peat moss used to store root vegetables back into the no-dirt lasagna garden beds.

This lesson: Lasagna garden basics using biology, chemistry, and physics to understand life systems and compost in place ecologies. This system is also called “in place” composting. The principle is the same: browns and greens in a wet warm environment break down into humus and attract life.

A shot of the bioreactor with a full load of compost at 30 days.


  • Clear glass aquarium
  • 1 gallon each of:
    • Dirt
    • Shredded leaves (Not whole leaves)
    • Cut grass
    • Manure of some sort
    • Shredded paper
    • Sand
    • Green plant leaves
    • Small twigs and sticks
    • Sawdust or Peat Moss
    • Mulch
    • 1/2 gallon of
      • Coffee Grounds
      • Egg shells ground up
      • Banana peels blended fine
  • Cardboard
  • 1 liter of water
  • Tape of some sort
  • Sharpie Marker
  • Trowels or shovels
  • Tarp to manage spills and mess
  • Broom and dustpan to clean up


  1. On a table place the tarp and the empty glass aquarium
  2. Assemble all of the raw ingredients around the table
  3. Taking turns allow the kids to start building layers in the aquarium
  4. Each layer should be about 2″ inches thick
  5. Start with cardboard, then dirt, then leaves, then grass, then mulch, then green leaves, then paper, then grass, then mulch, then sand.
  6. Repeat the layers again.
  7. On top add the coffee grounds, egg shells and banana peels
  8. Carefully pour the water over the top of the layers
  9. Allow students to watch the layers interact with the water
  10. What do they observe?
  11. Cover over the top of the aquarium with mulch and cardboard to keep moisture in
  12. Finally have the students label the layers with tape and sharpie marker
  13. Take care to mark EXACTLY where the layer was when labeled
  14. The student will observe the structure of the layers expanding and contracting over time
  15. Be careful this experiment can get quite heavy!
  16. I always choose where I position this so it is easy to see but I only have to move it once
  17. A critical note: The more sunlight this gets, the slower it decays as sunlight evaporates the water.

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