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Tilling my lawn for garden space

Hi Everyone,
I'm in the process of starting a new vegetable garden in my lawn. The question I have is about the grass. I have clay soil and need as much organic as I can get. My thinking is that I can probably till the lawn grass into the plot to increase organics. I know that this will probably give me lots of weeds but I'm going to plant through black plastic so I'm hoping to control this. Does this sound like a good plan?

Thanks,
George
 
Grass is very hard to deal with in a garden bed. It quickly takes over and chokes out your other plants.

I would think that you have to kill, smother, or remove that grass before you plant. You could cover it with layers of newspaper then put soil and compostables on top of that, then plant.

Or, you could peel it all up, turn it upside down, and then put some soil on it and plant.

Or, you could peel it up and lay it down in a spot where you wanted some grass.

Only other comments I have is on the plastic. I am not totally anti-plastic...but I think black plastic does a much better job in a permanent or semi-permanent location. I do use black plastic covering for my strawberry and blueberry beds. It *GREATLY* reduces my weeding chores. I stuff compost and such underneath the plastic.

But I don't think it is a good idea for a annual vegetable bed.

For a vegetable bed you want to use lots of mulch, especially if your soil is so poor. As soon as the seedlings or transplants are big enough, surround them with as much mulch as possible. Some people actually do mulch from the start with a thin layer of grass clippings.

If you have a hot summer climate, that mulch will not only moderate your soil temps, as well as reduce your water use, but it will decompose quickly and enrich your soil.

The only time I wouldn't mulch heavy...is if you are me *sigh* I have very cool summers, and mulch cools down my soil even more.
 
Alaskan (gardening in zones 2 to 5) (*SPRING* avatar...Spring scheduled for May 7th)
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What my Dad did one year to make Granny a new rose bed was to literally dig down into the grass to get to the Sod level, then take a shovel horizontally back to pull up the sod. Then he rolled up the grass and moved it to a place he wanted grass. Then he filled in the hole with cow manure.

I have done lasagna style beds for the last 3 falls and this will be my 3rd year using that method. But my lasagna beds are out of sight of the roadway, I don't know how receptive people would be to those beds if they were in the front yard. But people use that darn mulch all over the place like its so wonderful, but you don't see leave piles in anyone's front yard.
 
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Thanks Everyone,

I like the idea of reduced tilling but I'm not sure I can do that in clay soil. This is part of the reason why I don't want to dig up the sod and remove it - I think that the sod contains too much of the premium soil.

I'm not a big fan of plastic either but for whatever reason the weeds grow 2x faster than any vegetables that I plant (mostly thistle that I fight constantly).

Thanks again for the suggestions.

George
p.s. I'd love Alaska if it had a longer growing season (sigh).
 
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Since any, and all of any "topsoil" (the top 4 inches of your soil) will be lost by removing your sod, and since that sod would, really, contribute a lot of organic matter to your soil you are right in thinking that removal is not a good idea. Tilling the area and working the sod in would make a planting bed a bit quicker but not necessarily better.
I would line out some planting beds, ala Mel Bartholmews Square Foot Gardening, cover the existing sod with newspaper and cover the newspaper with a good mulch and in 6 weeks you could plant a garden in those 4 x 4 plots. Knowing what I know today about wasted space in every large garden I would no longer till up a large garden plot since over 50 percent of the space there is wasted with foot paths so you can get to the plants.
 

The sign of a good gardener is not a green thumb, it is brown knees.

West central Michigan along the lakeshore.

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I had a heavy clay soil when I lived in the southern part of NY, and you're right, don't remove any of the organic material if you can help it. Even if you replace it with compost or manure, you've removed soil from the garden.

Whenever I expand a garden further into a sod-covered area, I do several things, depending on what I intended to plant there.

I've rototilled it to mix the sod into the soil quickly. If I were setting transplants, I could plant right away and use a thick mulch to keep any persistant grass from coming back through.

When I need space for my Hubbard squash or pumpkins, I've simply cut out small circles of sod about two feet in diameter, turning the sod upside-down and covered it with about three inches of soil obtained elsewhere from in the garden. I planted in this top layer and the buried sod rotted fast enough for the roots of the squash to reach down into it. These hills were spaced about 5 feet apart and the grass between covered with cardboard and mulch hay to provide a tidy bed for the squash.

By far, the easiest garden expansion is when I plant potatoes. I simply lay the spuds on the sod and cover them with leaves and hay, adding more as the potato vines grow.

Can't comment about plastic mulch (never used it) except to say it will not help to improve your clay soil since it adds no organic matter.

Wayne
 

Adirondackgardener

Mainegardener

Trying out Northeast PA.

 

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Well, I took my own advice and pulled up some small patches I had left in front of my walks. I put the sod on a spot of the yard I want the grass to grow. The plot I made is only 2' x 10'. I have planted 3 tomatoes, 1 bell pepper, and already have swiss chard and Nasturiums out there. Plus I have some volunteer squash or gourd vines out there too. I did cover the 2 small areas I dug today with the rabbit cage wastes. I just went down about 2 inches.

So.. just shoot me but I felt good about getting tomatoes and peppers in my front yard.
 
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I had to break new ground this year, dug out the sod, shook out the dirt, made a trench, buried the grass and covered it with the dirt. One section I just turned the sod, covered with newspaper and mulch. Looking good so far.
 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Everything that blooms and grows, the garden angel scatters and sows...in the land of corn and pigs...Iowa Zone 4-5

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