Stop Ripping Up Your Lawn To Grow Veggies

It’s a badge of honor among urban homesteaders to say, “I’ve ripped up my whole lawn and put in a garden.”

Stop doing that.

No, seriously, I would now like to explain why you should not actually rip up your lawn, and I’d like to start with a little soil science. Bear with me, this’ll be quick and you’ll thank me when you aren’t paying thousands of dollars in chiropractic bills later on.

There are different types of soils. One, called Mollisols is characterized by, “deep, high organic matter, nutrient-enriched surface soil between 60–80 cm [24 to 31 inches] in depth” and, “a soft, granular, soil structure.”

It looks like chocolate cake:

Mollisols: the soil of your dreams. (Image: Wikipedia/Creative Commons)

Any gardener will tell you that two feet or more of soft, super-rich, high-organic matter soil sounds like a growers heaven. As you would expect, Mollisols are, “the world’s most agriculturally productive soil order [and] represent one of the more economically important soil orders.” (Wikipedia)

What does any of this have to do with your lawn?

Well, Mollisols weren’t born super-soils, they became super-soils. Mollisols typically occur under grasslands, such as the Great Plains of the United States. The most fertile kinds of Mollisols build up over eons from layer upon layer of decomposed grasses. Basically, the diverse grassland prairie grasses die back, thatch down, occasionally burn, and the masses of dead grass and dead grass roots decompose into the best soil in the world.

This is why Great Plains agricultural areas – before large-scale destruction of top-soil anchoring prairies through deep ploughing and hedgerow-to-hedgerow mono-cropping – were some of the most fertile growing spots in the world. The soil is Mollisols, a just-add-water dream to grow in.

Decades of unsustainable farming practices on this prairie land combined with a long, hard drought led to the Dust Bowl disaster of the 1930s. In some places over 75% of the deep topsoil simply blew away. (Yes, the best soil in the world, and it literally turned to dust before our eyes.) Today, of course, massive amounts of supplemental fertilization keeps these soy, wheat and corn growing areas commercially viable. Ponder too long on this and you might start crying, so let’s get back to your lawn.

So the best soil in the world is created when grasses and grassroots are smothered in place by more grasses and grass roots. The best soil in the world is the result of gradual accumulation of lots of organic matter on top of grass.

I think you know where I’m going with this, right? Lots of organic matter on top of grass… And you were thinking you’d have to rip up the grass before you put in a garden?

Go ahead and put in a garden, but don’t rip up the lawn. No, instead, smother it. In doing so, you’ll be mimicking the best soil-building actions of nature and starting to turn your own little urban grassland into a teeny Mollisols which you can build on year after year, just as native prairies build their soil up year after year.

You’ve probably heard of sheet composting, lasagna gardening, grow heaps or hugelkultur. These are all slightly different variations on building a raised growing space from layers of organic matter that rots down right where it is, getting better and better as it composts in place. All these techniques can be implemented right on top of an existing lawn, to the betterment of the soil and the growing space.

I’ve never had lawn survive and grow through 10 to 12 inches of piled on compost, mixed mulch or other organic matter, but if you want to be extra sure your grass is well and truly smothered so it can begin to decompose into wonderful rich topsoil, lay down some plain cardboard over the grass before piling on your organic matter.

The best time to build up new beds (with rigid sides or without, as you prefer) is in the fall for planting next year, but a spring build can be done too. I’m currently building up three half-ass hugelkultur / lasagna gardening beds and will be posting soon about the process of creating them right over my lawn. I intend to have them planted this summer.

So save yourself some work and save your back from needless spasms – stop ripping up your lawn and start smothering it. It’s the natural, faster, easier way to make a garden, and it gives a better result. Don’t you love a win-win?

Comments

  1. Great post! We’re “smotherers” ourselves. Besides, there’s no realistic way to tear up our “sod” as “sod” would imply that there were the slightest bit of dirt underneath the greenery holding it together. We just have rocks with sparsely growing vegetation.

  2. I will be doing both to the side of my house, which is covered in a layer of my nemesis, English Ivy (with some bonus poison ivy sprinkled in!). We plan to rip it out, smother it, and maybe put beds on top as it’s the closest thing to a sunny spot I can get in my yard. Unless anyone with experience in this has better suggestions than stressing my hands and arms to bits pulling it out?

    • i’m still fighting a battle with ivy after burying with 6-10″ of fresh course wood chips. i had 20 yards of it dumped in the driveway and spread it all over…the ivy came back. though i did knock it back a bunch…that was 2 years ago,it might’ve worked better ha i had cardboard layer down first..i will try adding cardboard now and another 10″ and hope that does it…the places i didnt want tons of woodchips, i used a rototiller to wind the ivy around the tines til full. sawed it off an repeated..this worked great but is a lot of work,and i’d rather not till ..

      • Thanks for the feedback! The ivy has been left unchecked in parts of our yard for years. We cut it off trees where the main vines were as thick as my wrist, and one tenacious vine was working it’s way into the basement and up through the floorboards into our dining room (and this is a finished house, not a dilapidated wreck!). I hate the stuff and want it gone, but am also working the delicate balance between getting it out and making sure something comes after it to help water management issues in our yard (heavy soil + yard lower than the neighbors = a soggy, boggy mess).

        • Amy – I’d agree with Matthew on this. I don’t think smothering will work for ivy, unless you are smothering on top of black plastic, and even then it may just bide its time. In fact the added nutrients of the mulch might only serve to make it stronger. I think the only way out on this is the dig it and rip it approach, and I’d guess you’ll be fighting the ivy battle for – maybe – ever. I’m so sorry. This is more or less my relationship with horsetail in the boggy shady side of the yard. Good luck!

        • Cathy Smith says:

          Please check the topography of your lot. If your neighbor’s water run off is what’s making your ground so soggy, you may need to look for a fix in that area first. Check with your local extension office (listed under government in your phone book) to see if they can offer some suggestions for fixing the problem.

  3. We’re smothering another big chunk of lawn right now, and since we have Bermuda grass, we’re definitely using cardboard at the bottom. Now the trick is going to be finding enough other material–soil, leaves, etc.–around the yard to fill the two new beds (built your style, with 8-ft 2×12 doug fir boards) all the way. That’s today’s project!

    • Saskia – I have found that keeping chickens has provided me with a near unending stream of high-nutrient deep mulch. Really, I have no idea how I did this stuff before chickens. Without them, I’d be importing $200-$300 of compost to make these hugelkultur beds I’m working on. But I’m also piling on old leaves, half-rotten compost, twigs, sticks, logs, kitchen scraps, old cardboard plates….in other words, it’s a biodegradable free for all. :)

      • Cathy Smith says:

        Chickens are wonderful, also rabbits, however, we went with vermicomposting. We have a neighbor who was being a bit of a pain in the butt about the idea, although he had chickens. (We all got at least 1 like that it seems, sigh) Anyway, we have 4 DYI worm bins in our spare bed room. These wonderful little critters produce plenty of “black gold” organic fertilizer. We also use Bokashi and EM-1, as well as Azomite, all organic products. The first 2 provide a boost of microorganisms necessary to help plants absorb nutrients. The Azomite is all trace minerals that work in concert with the microorganisms. We had good soil to begin with having gardened organically on this property for over 30 years, but we added the “new” stuff about 5 years ago and the results were amazing. Production doubled on many of our veggies, the fruit and nut trees went nutso. I actually now get more pecans than the damn squirrels. LOL

      • I have heard of hugelkultur made with clothes, even. I suppose you would want to keep it to cotton items only, but yeah, throw in the old rags, damaged towels or jeans ripped beyond reasonable repair, that basket of socks that you never found their matches…dryer lint, the dog’s brush-out. Those last two items routinely go in my compost pile anyway.

    • Aaaahhhh!!! That California Bermuda grass….aaaahhhhh!!!!!

  4. Joel Salatin discusses this at length quite often. Herbivores are tantamount to the creation of good soils. When they eat the top of the grass, the grass then sheds an equal amount of roots to stay in balance. These roots decompose and become food for worms and other critters, thus building more soil.

    • I love Salatin. He’s my kind of crazy.

    • Rachel, I am glad you posted something so i didnt have to go into depth. The single biggest piece missing from this article is the role herds of herbivores played on building the great soil on the plains. To that end the matting down of grass DID not speed the building of soil but the pruning and fertilizing coupled with mild periodic disturbance of the ground did. So although I agree with most of this article i recommend mowing any of your grass before sheet mulching etc.
      Read or watch anything by Joel Salatin to learn more.
      Cheers food growers!

  5. I was just reading another blog post on the same topic. They didn’t really go into the specifics of soil – other than to say theirs was poor – but recommended stripping the lawn and then laying down cardboard and piling bio mass on top. The turf was then composted…

    In the end I suppose it’s the amount of bio-mass you pile up which can determine how fertile your new gardening space will be.

    • Tanya – “the turf was then composted” but to what end….so they can add that compost back to their growing area in a year? Sounds like a lot of extra digging and hauling of turf to me. The only time I’d recommend doing this (having done it both ways) would be if you intended to double dig your plot under the grass because it was solid hard pan. But even then, I’d suggest you first do a deep-compost-in-place system for a year and come back to double dig a year later, after the worms have pre-softened the sub soil for you and digging is just digging, not sod busting AND digging. Just my two cents. :)

      • Ok, I’ve read the article you’ve linked out to, and the first in the series. The author of that article says, “it is not like the lawn will just decompose to soil.”

        He and I have had *very* different experiences with grass, and I’ve smothered a lot of it. :) I have found that not only WILL the lawn decompose, breaking down sod makes earthworms happier than just about anything else. Perhaps the difference in our perspective is that I am willing to cover my lawn with 10 – 12 inches or more (if I can get it) of whatever mixed organic matter I have on site or can bring in, and depending on the components of that organic matter I can turn around and plant the area the same day. 10-12″ of root room is enough space to get vegetables going nicely, and by the time their roots hit the (now decomposing) sod, they speed the process along by seeking out the rotting matter, pushing through to sub soil and absorbing moisture let out by the break-down of the lawn.

        I’m not going to say I’d *never* see eye to eye with the author of this post about this, but I’ve done it both ways and I know which way I *don’t* do it anymore. ;)

  6. I smothered my front lawn too, but I have bermuda grass so I took the extra step of using black plastic *gasp* for an entire season before I added cardboard and 2 feet of organic matter.

    • I smothered a 700 square foot stretch of horsetail with landscape fabric and 12″ of compost. Just compost or compost + cardboard wouldn’t have made a dent, the horsetail would grow right through. So I’m not judging your black plastic. :) In a way, I wish I had used plastic because at least roots don’t mesh into plastic so you can rip it up more easily later. I’m trying to get the landscape fabric up, but doing so means ripping a lot of plant roots up at the same time….conundrum!

      • Oh bummer. I’m guessing these are plants you want to save? I have taken out landscape fabric by cutting into strips horizontally and vertically so that I had more manageable squares that I could get up a little at a time so that I could be more careful with roots. Don’t know if that would be helpful in your situation.

        I removed the plastic after a year and then added the cardboard and compost/manure and let that sit for a year. The only bermuda I have is creeping in from the neighbors yard.

        • So just to confirm you were able to successfully smother bermuda grass with the addition of black plastic? That’s very interesting – I am hearing from a guy on another forum that it’s madness to attempt to smother Bermuda. I’m glad to know it worked in your case! I like your “bite size” approach to the landscape fabric. I think I could me more careful with removal that way.

  7. I’m a lazy gardener, and I always opt for “smother”, because trying to rip out the grass is just too time consuming and too laborious ;). I, typically, use empty feed sacks (the ones we use are all paper with no plastic coating like some feedbags I’ve seen) under a layer of leaves and/ or straw from our bunny hutches under a layer of compost. It seems to work pretty well.

  8. Kimberly C says:

    I have some really shallow raised beds built by a previous house renter several years ago, that have grown over with sod (though the grass seems more like moss than real grass). I was planning on ripping out the sod, but am now considering smothering the grass instead on your recommendation. I would smother with cardboard and cover with ~10 inches of mixed compost and other organic matter? Would I eventually till the bed, or just plant directly on top? Do you have a rough estimate on how long I would need to wait before planting, or how I would know the bed is ready?

    • Depends on what the organic matter is, but you could plant immediately. In my front beds, we dumped 11″ of cedar grove vegetable mix soil (sand, loam, compost blend – a finished mix) directly onto grass and planted it as soon as it cooled down enough to not burn the transplants … maybe 2 or 3 days? With this bed where I’m “making” the soil instead of buying it, I’ll wait a few months – between now and May when the summer crop go in – just to give everything time to settle down a bit and rot. But I suspect I could plant this homemade mix asap too if I needed by just digging little holes and filling them with good topsoil whereever my transplants were going in. I wouldn’t seed into this mix yet – there’s too much air in it and the seeds wouldn’t be in tight enough contact with soil to fully absorb moisture. I would not till a raised bed like you’ve described. If you wanted to go in and just broadfork over your existing beds to loosen the soil a bit before piling on the organic material, that should be plenty. I speak from experience here – I’ve tried tilling in my raised bed as an experiment and it didn’t improve things and just made a huge mess. :)

      • I am getting ready to plant what I’m calling my lazy garden. I don’t have a prepared garden site. The area I have has grass growing on it. I was planning to mow it as short as I can get it. Then I wanted to mix all of my garden seed together and spread it out evenly over the area. On top of the seeds, I was going to mulch about 4 inches of 2nd cutting alfalfa that is 2 years old. I have a few questions for you. 1) do you think this will work, 2) do you think that I should mulch, then lay the seed down with more mulch on top of the seed or put the seed on the soil and cover it with mulch. Please provide me any info you are willing to share. Thank you.

  9. Basically I agree with the smother approach – never remove organic matter if you can avoid it. The only thing to watch out for is creating a gley-like (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gley_soil) layer that inhibits water, roots, and nutrients from getting below the former grass level.

  10. In principle I completely agree, but with invasive grasses like Bermuda grass, I find the runners a big hassle. Also, how do you get enough organic matter without spending a lot of money? I’m not a home owner, so I have a limited budget to spend on soil building and am frequently having to start over with a new garden. Oh, and I don’t have a pickup truck. My favorite organic matter is aged horse manure/bedding, which you can get from stables for free if you can haul it.

  11. We built our beds in the fall over our lawn, and we didn’t even know we were doing the right thing! It just sort of made sense and we didn’t want to rip up the grass because we were lazy.

  12. Deborah Aldridge says:

    Trust me, bermuda grass WILL grow through 2 feet of soil, around cardboard, and through plastic, and cannot ever be killed. It just crawls around under all the smothering stuff until it finds its way out, then it roots itself and grows back into your perfect raised bed until its roots strangle anything good growing there. In Florida, if we don’t want bermuda grass in our raised bed, we have to build them lined with that heavy black pond liner. Not lying. Not even exaggerating. Bermuda grass killed my pomegranate tree, and I removed all of it for 3 feet around the tree and put 4 inches of mulch around it. It grows up straight from hell. It came from Pandora’s box. It cannot be stopped. I’d love to have prairie grass, unfortunately, I don’t.

    • Brenda Nolen says:

      Deborah: “Bermuda grass killed my pomegranate tree, and I removed all of it for 3 feet around the tree and put 4 inches of mulch around it. It grows up straight from hell. It came from Pandora’s box. It cannot be stopped.”

      Thank you! I’m giggling with agreement here. I have some that I need to figure out how to kill. I’ll try your pool liner method!

  13. I was going to lay down newspaper to kill off all my grass in the side yard before putting beds in. Should I leave the grass around the beds still? I was going to get rid of that too and just put mulch in. Thanks

  14. I did this several years ago and had great results. Unfortunately, I had foot surgery last spring and could not work on my garden all summer. By fall, the grass had retaken all my beds… Somehow,under all the newspapers and organic matter the grass found its way to the top and took off growing again. I’ll be digging it all out again this spring and hoping to keep a better handle on it this year since I’m no longer on crutches!!

  15. That’s what we are doing. Wicking Worm Raised garden beds, Sheet Mulch garden beds and Hugelkultur garden beds right on top of our existing ‘lawn’ (read: weeds & dirt , mostly). My permaculture teacher was against digging (though some in our class claimed they’d never be able to stop digging, they loved that churned-up-dirt, worked-my butt-off, broke-my-back feeling?????!!!) as he said as soon as you turn soil over, you kill the good stuff when you expose it to air.

  16. I enjoyed this post a lot, getting some science in the blog post always trips my trigger. I’ve been following this blog for a while now, keep up the good work!!

  17. We’ve had fabulous results with smothering. We smothered our entire front lawn (including crab grass) using wetted down newspaper with weed barrier fabric on top and rocks to hold everything down. We’ve had pretty much zero weeds or grass. We just rolled up the weed barrier and used it again for the next patch we killed, reused the newspaper that hadn’t been eaten by worms already, and turned in what was too difficult to pick up. It really does create the most lovely soil. We’re planning on experimenting with some deep-rooting ground cover to mimic those grasslands as well.
    We just tried our first hugelkultur style bed this fall for spring planting http://seventhacreheaven.wordpress.com/2011/10/13/our-urban-hugelkultur/–we'll see how it goes. We’re planning good nitrogen fixers for the first crop just in case.
    Thanks for your thoughtful posts as usual!

  18. Oh from your heading I thought you meant not to grow any more veggies! – whew, what a relief :) I have tried different options, landscape fabric or layers of cardboard/newspaper over grass. I did eventually have to remove the landscape fabric and it was a real pain – I would never do that again. Newspaper and cardboard have worked great for me and after two years I have very rich loose soil. I also think that the newspaper and cardboard attract worms which speed up the process. I just watched a movie about building soil just as it was built in the garden of Eden – will be posting a link on my blog tomorrow. I love the way he explains how it works, and lets face it, that is the way soil has built up for years, until we started to mess with things. Look forward to more of your posts.

  19. the great thing about droughts and flooding rains in this country- is in getting wipped out by a flood last year- I have a huge supply(4 bedrooms worth) of heavy carpet and underlay to use on the smothering of prospective gardens- a few weeks of piglet activity and a smother makes for the best gardens ever! Not everyone is as lucky as me!!!

  20. Great idea, thanks for sharing! Not that I have any soil . . . just sand . . . but hoping that I can give a little back to the sandy patch I plant in!

  21. i always assumed that ‘ripped up our lawn’ was figurative. Are you saying that people actually take up the sod and throw it in the trash?! I find that kind of shocking.

    • If you follow Tanya @ Lovely Green’s link (above) you will discover that, yes, people advocate renting a gas powered sod cutter, removing sod (to the compost, not the trash, thankfully) and then adding mulch/compost/top soil above the now sod-free patches. :)

  22. Our yard has been destroyed by free-ranging chickens & herds of ducks.It looks & feels like concrete.Would appreciate any ideas for rejuvenating our desolate wasteland,Please!

  23. Anne Merrill says:

    Here in Austin, Texas I build beds on top of the grass, EXCEPT Bermuda grass, which needs to be completely eradicated first. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself a year or two later with a beautiful crop of pure Bermuda.

  24. Lovely blog, someone at Steve Solomon’s Soil and Health group at yahoo shared a link. I have developed an insatiable lust for cardboard. Landscape fabric is pure evil.
    Smothering and building on top is just what my 68 year old body’s doctor would order if I went to one. Until recently I loved digging, remove sod, double-dig, the works.
    However, it apparently depends on what’s underneath. As some people mentioned, Bermuda grass and Ivy demand stronger measures. Even quack grass will come back, but it is relatively easy to pull out in the loose soil of a raised bed.

  25. This is music to my ears! I’ve been thinking I couldn’t plant into some areas of my yard because of tree roots…but your post is making me reconsider whether I could build UP the soil rather than having to dig down into it…perhaps build a border to keep all the compost / mulch / straw contained and sort of create a raised bed…while simultaneously, I hope, keeping down some of the onion grass and weeds!

    • I battle roots from a cedar hedge – tree roots will grow *up* into any bed built near them, in my experience, and will suck water and nutrition from your bed if they get established. You will likely need to dig the roots out periodically. It’s doable, just know what you are getting into.

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  27. Hi there, great post! I’m curious though, we are in the process of putting in raised beds to have ready for spring planting, and are going to use the lasagna method. What should we use to layer, there won’t be enough time to “compost” , any suggestions for our layered materials?? I imagine we should stil put down newspaper, but then…..??

    • Catie – I am posting about building my hugelkulture beds tomorrow. I describe what I pile on and I think you could follow the same plan for any lasagna-type bed, skipping the logs if you aren’t going hugel-style. I start with cardboard, then layer the biggest, slowest to break down stuff, and use progressively more broken down material as you build up, finishing with good compost. Lasagna beds are a great place to use up the half-done compost in your bin you don’t want to sift through. Straw, shredded paper, grass clippings, kitchen scraps, old plain paper plates etc. are all good to use.

  28. Celeste A. says:

    We moved into a rental last May. No front lawn to speak of and the husband told the landlady we would “rebuild” the lawn. I thot this funny since my hubby isn’t the gardener in this family.
    So, I got out there to turn over some soil after a frustrating day and came up with the brilliant idea that I was going to turn the front yard into a vegetable garden. I am not a soil expert but I think we have that chocolate type soil you wrote about.
    Looking forward to seeing what comes up. I promised that next year the hubby could grow a lawn.
    While I am here.
    What is the best action to take against white grubs which seem to be common here in Vancouver? Thanks.

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  30. I live in Northwest Florida and that stuff in my backyard can’t be called soil by any stretch of the imagination. It is sand on top of clay. Excellent drainage, but there are patches where not even weeds want to grow. Talk about compacted and eroded! And I’ve never seen a single worm out there. There just isn’t enough organic material for them to eat. :(

  31. This is great advice on how to keep a quality lawn!

  32. I moved into a house in central Florida recently that had some raised beds with sweet potatoes growing. Before I knew it, grass had taken over the beds – way too much to pull it all out. How do you stop this happening?

  33. I’m convinced that all the advice about smothering with cardboard and mulch or other supposed blockers actually INCREASE the bermuda grass. If you’ve ever pulled up cardboard or carpet used this way you will see a thick matt of those rhizomes underneath, traveling to the nearest little crack or hole they can poke through. I’ve been trying for a few years to grow veggies in an area that used to be lawn. One problem is that I am really busy with work in the summer and don’t have time to weed a lot. 1. Tried cardboard + two feet of leaves + 6″ topsoil. Grass choked everything within about 6 weeks. 2. Tried old sheets + two feet of bark chips. Worked better but still got infested by mid summer. 3. Gave up. 4. This time I’m trying straw bales. Anyone else done this successfully over bermuda grass? First I tilled down about 10 inches and pulled out every GD bit of it, then layed a rectangle frame of straw bales, leaving 1′ bare dirt around the outside. I’m going to use an edger as often as possible to try and keep it back. Took about 4 hours for a 6 x 9 bed.

    • I had to smother the Bermuda with black plastic for a full year before adding cardboard and mulch. It worked

  34. Jiffy Pop says:

    I would be a little hesitant about using carpet, as some carpets are loaded with very toxic petro & other Chemicals, unless they are made with natural fibers. I would not want my veggies breaking these chemcals down and becoming my food.. I ripped up the sod and tilled and I have a had a great garden for nearly 3 years now. What about using one of those sod removers and just take half the sod layer, instead of the whole layer and build your lasagna garden on that. I’m lucky as I have an Organic farm nearby that sells Cow and chicken manure bags for 5 bucks..If you’re going to remove sod, I would add humic /fulvic to the soil along with your natural fertilizing protocols , to rebuild your soil and of course detox it. It will also neutralize any toxins, heavy metals, pesticides and radiation, that may be occurring in the soil especially from fallout, that is now occurring in very minute levels, across North America, from Fukishima Japan.

  35. What a lovely and thoughtful article! Thank you!

  36. u’d betta make sure there are no chemicals in that cardboard over the grass and while we are at it I think what chemicals are on the grass.

    • Cathy Smith says:

      Most cardboard these days is made from recycle material. However, you do need to be careful not to get “waxed” cardboard. It’s seems to be mainly used for appliances, but it doesn’t break down well and the “wax covering” is questionable.

  37. As a farmer, this is a non-issue if you til the Sod into the ground to begin with. If your growing corn, simply til that as well when the crop is harvested instead of sheering it or burning it. I’m not sure who your article is directed at–I don’t know anyone who would do otherwise. Tearing up sod and throwing it aside would be a monstrous amount of backbreaking labor even for a small bit of property.

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  41. Baby-step gardening improvement this weekend. To supplement our overcrowded garden-by-the-side-of-the-house, I put in my first lasagna garden on a 4X8 foot patch of flat lawn. I took your advice and covered it in wet cardboard, beautiful compost, cured chicken coop goodness, and chopped leaves (more layers to follow). It’s an earthworm’s smorgasbord.

    This first bed will be home to garlic. Next one will be a perennial herb garden. I heeded my husband’s advice and moved it further back in the yard so our new neighbors will not have the smell of turned compost to deal with while they barbeque. Seemed right neighborly.

    The dimensions were chosen so that I can add a raised bed corral when we get to that stage. http://www.organicgardening.com/learn-and-grow/how-to-build-a-raised-bed I was joking with my husband though that at this stage the bare, raised dirt rectangle’s looking a bit disturbingly like a fresh grave. To which he chimed in “We don’t take none too kindly to solicitors in these here parts.” A few too many Westerns, perhaps? Plants and new raised bed frame will definitely help!

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    make it sound like it.

  43. Can this be done also to re-seed a yard. Instead of ripping up all the grass, can I just cover the old grass with dirt/topsoil and re-seed my yard?

  44. It’s May in Montana and I am late! I just started putting down wet cardboard and was going to add compost to the top and start planting. Is that going to work. Is it to early to plant? Do I need to wait a year or something? Should I put a layer of cut grass on top of the cardboard the the compost mix? I am desperate for a garden this year and really need to get stuff in the ground now if I am going to get to eat it before the season is over. Any suggestions out there?

  45. I tilled the sod in place and figured on fighting a long battle against grass while it rotted away. I don’t have the money to buy tons and tons of dirt, and can only compost so much without my PITA city getting on my back.

    This is just my first year, so I have no idea how yields will be, but things seem reasonably happy so far. I’ll probably plant fall/early spring cover crops to speed up organic matter addition. Preliminary research suggests buckwheat and clover will be good for what I need.

    My spinach harvest was laughably small, but I didn’t plant enough – or early enough.

  46. Naïve, perhaps, this one [Yoda thought bubble]. The chickens approve of the lasagna garden concept. They took to it like stir-crazy toddlers take to the Chuck E. Cheese ball pit after a month of being house bound by a Midwestern blizzard. Oh my gosh…let the mulch-flinging commence! It’s just hilarious! A week later my pristine 4X8 rectangle is much more of a 6X10-ish blob. I’ll wait until closer to garlic-planting time to put the sides on and attempt some sort of order. Actual blizzards will be here soon enough.

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