Autumn is a great time to prepare your yard for a new garden for next year, but how do you remove the turf? As many of you know, sod-busting is not easy, even though there are multiple options:
You can rent a machine, but they are expensive and often difficult to use.
Slicing off the grass with a sharp spade is doable if you are fairly fit. This method avoids the use of chemicals but removes a lot of organic matter.
Tilling retains the organic matter and is faster and easier than digging. However, it can destroy the soil structure and wreak havoc on beneficial worms. Another disadvantage is dividing perennial weeds with the potential of each piece developing a new plant.
Applying herbicide is fast, but waiting for the grass to die isn’t. If you choose this method, be sure to wear protective clothing and apply on a calm day.
Finally, there is the smother method. Cover the area with newspaper, cardboard or plastic that is weighted down and then wait for six weeks. Plastic will kill the beneficial organisms in the soil, so I suggest using something that is biodegradable.
One smother method that really works is lasagna gardening. Say what? Lasagna gardening is a way to build a new bed without removing the sod. It is both fast and beneficial to the soil.
As with the pasta dish, you make a lasagna bed by building layers; in this case, alternating nitrogen (green) sources and carbon (brown) sources. The first layer is green – the existing grass. The next is a brown layer in the form of sections of wet newspaper. Keep building 2- to 3-inch layers, alternating between greens and browns.
Fresh grass clippings, kitchen scraps, coffee grounds and manure are good greens. Browns include fallen leaves, sawdust, shredded paper and straw.
Finally, top the whole thing off with a layer of compost or soil so the wind doesn’t blow away your effort.
Lasagna Bed Care
Keep the bed moist until the ground freezes. It is particularly important not to let that bottom layer of newspaper dry out. By spring, you will have an enriched bed that is ready to plant. You can mix up the layers with the underlying soil (provided the newspaper has fully decomposed) or plant it as is.
If you need time to stockpile the different layers, you can build the lasagna bed in the spring. You can plant right into it, but it will require a lot more watering because the layers will not retain moisture as well as the soil. If you use manure for one of the green layers, it should be well composted or it may burn the plants. Also, keep in mind that transplants work better than seeds in a lasagna bed built in the spring or summer.