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Composting: Like Making Lasagna

Written by Rhonda Ferree, retired horticulture educator

Do you compost? Composting is the ancient art of mixing by-products from your yard with water, air, and time. What better way to dispose of leaves in the fall, grass clippings throughout the summer, and kitchen vegetable scraps than to turn them into compost?

Composting is fun and simple. Simply take by-products from your yard, and layer them thinly and uniformly; the same way lasagna is made with thin layers of macaroni, cheese and sauce. Never overdo any one single layer and never skip a layer in the construction process.

Locate the compost pile in an inconspicuous but accessible area. The average homeowner compost pile size is 3 feet by 3 feet. A compost pile can be as simple as piling up materials in a corner of your yard or you can build a bin.

Starting on bare soil, organic matter will be the first layer. A ratio of 1-part grass clippings to 2-parts fallen leaves is a good way to start. You can mix in vegetable scraps from the kitchen or debris from your garden clean up as long as you start with the basic ratio. The second layer should be animal manures microorganisms to get the pile working. Water and keep layering (just like lasagna) and watering until you run out of material or reach the top of your bin. Now you wait. After 2 to 4 weeks your pile should be hot in the center. This indicates your pile is working (the lasagna is cooking). Failure to heat would indicate a construction flaw: too much water, too little water, too little nitrogen, or too little a pile.

For more on composting visit our website - Composting for the Home Gardener



As horticulture educator, Rhonda Ferree inspired citizens in local communities to grow their own food and improve their home landscapes. She focused on high quality, impactful programs that taught homeowners how to create energy-efficient landscapes using sustainable practices that increase property values and help the environment.

After 30 years with University of Illinois Extension, Rhonda retired in 2018. She continues to share her passion for horticulture related topics as “Retro Rhonda” on social media.

ILRiverHort is a blog that helps people connect to nature and grow.