Removing grass a must?

hopefulnewbieMay 19, 2006

This is only my second year as, what I consider, a "real" gardener. I have 13 perennials and a dozen or so small things that came back up this year, making me beyond overjoyed to see. Before last year I lived only in containers, pretty much!

We're about to do a new, and rather large, mulch bed (mulching this year, hopefully adding some perennials later in the year but we'll see what the budget allows). Is it absolutely neccesary to remove the grass, or could we do weed blocker along with the thick newspaper and mulch that has been talked about? We want to get it done before a birthday party with both our families on June 10th, so we're under time, and budget, constraints. Help!

Thanks so much!


~A newbie who is hopeful to be not a newbie for much longer!

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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Rent a sod cutter or if disinclined/unable to do that buy a garden spade and slice the sod off, roll it up and cart away to an area that needs some soil added. Unroll strips upside down in low area. Kill grass first with glyphosate if concerned about sprouting.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2006 at 11:07PM
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saypoint(6b CT)

I'm not sure why you'd want to put in a big bed of mulch with nothing in it, but that's not what you asked.

The easiest way to do it is to mark the outline of the area and carefully spray the grass with roundup or something similar, being careful not to get it on the surrounding grass and other plants. Don't do it when it's windy. Wait a couple of weeks, and mulch it. It will take a while for the sod to break down, but eventually it will.

Personally, I'd wait until I had a plan for planting something before deciding on the size and shape of the bed.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2006 at 11:37PM
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If you do as Saypoint recommends, you need to cut an edge first. The surrounding lawn is connected to that area by the roots. Roundup translocates throughout the whole plant. If you spray a lawn over there, it can kill over here unless you "disconnect" it first.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2006 at 7:15AM
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Welcome to the addicting world of gardening, Kelli.

Search this site for "lasagna bed", if you haven't already. I have never done it but it seems like a quick way to start a bed. You will need to remove the sod, (you just flip it over really). It is not really that hard...just requires a few strong backs.

Have fun.


    Bookmark   May 20, 2006 at 7:17AM
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saypoint(6b CT)

You don't need to remove the sod if you do a lasagna bed. The cardboard and newspapers will smother the grass and turn it into compost (in about 6 months to a year, depending on the conditions). If you are planting shrubs, you can remove the sod where you want to plant, and cover the rest. The whole point is not to have to remove the sod or dig. Of course, if you are planning a veggie or flowerbed, you really should give the whole thing plenty of time to decompose thoroughly.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2006 at 8:19AM
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Thanks everyone for the replies! I'm going to look into the lasagna bed thing, but last night hubby agreed that it's best to remove the sod so we'll do it that way. If we can't get it done this weekend (we're going to try to find a sod cutter) then we'll work on it as much as we can before the party. We're doing the mulch first because we don't have the money for plants right now. We're hoping we can do some later this year with a quarterly bonus and hubby might sell the boat. Last year we had a patio installed and need something to finish it, hence the mulch. The bed gets larger because close to it is a tree with some really exposed roots that the mower likes to shred if it's not mowed right, so we've been wanting to cover that for some time, and we think it will look better if we combine the two beds. So yes, it's going to be a sea of mulch until I can get it filled, but we're taking baby steps. Make more sense? I still have the large bed where my other perennials are to "fill", too! I've always wanted to do this, but it's slightly intimidating. I grew up with big time gardeneres. My grandma, where I spent summers, had extensive perennials gardens, as did my mom.

Okay, another question. Where do I start?? If I have this sea of mulch, how do I put a few plants or shrubs in it without it looking like a little plant island in a big sea? Maybe this isn't a good idea?? I don't know!!!

New and now scared! :)


    Bookmark   May 20, 2006 at 9:36AM
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Kelli, I've done it every way so here are my thoughts.

Lasagna - it's slow and if you want to plant anything in it this year, you have to kill the grass first. Once you put everything on top you will have slightly raised bed. Maybe you won't mind having a raised bed, but I've regretted doing it this way and it's too late to fix it. Make sure you are ok with having raised beds. The upside is it's the easiest method.

Removing the sod using a shovel - back breaking. The advantage to this method is you can angle the edges at the same time.

Sod cutters - This year is the first time I did it this way and I will never do it any other way. We used a manual one, called a sod kicker, the rental cost was very cheap. It's work, but not as much as using a shovel. It leaves a nice clean edge and there is enough room for about two inches of mulch. Of course, you need a place to dispose of the sod. Our county landfill accepts sod. They grind it up, let it compost, then use it as top soil. The only disadvantage to using a sod cutter is that you still have to cut along the edge a couple more inches and then angle the soil working from inside the bed towards the lawn edge.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2006 at 9:50AM
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Janet -- Thanks for your tips! I've called around and can't find a sod cutter (we live in a fairly rural area), so I guess it's hard labor for us. We do have a local handyman that we're going to call to see if he has any ideas. He removed the sod when we put our patio in, so he's a possability, but he'd be using a skidder or backhoe, so the detail work would be left to us.

I can't have this be a raised bed since it's next to a sidewalk, so the lasagna bed isn't an option. It would also be too time consuming. I might try it somewhere else, though. Looks interesting if it's in the right spot.

Thanks again!! Time to go pull some weeds! :)


    Bookmark   May 20, 2006 at 11:40AM
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Brent_In_NoVA(z7/6 VA)

Funny...last year I created my first "no-till lasagna-style" garden bed. This is now by far my preferred method of creating beds. The largest disadvantage of removing the sod (by hand or with a sod cutter) is that you just removed a lot of organic matter and the very best layer of soil. I started the bed in April 2005 and had it loaded with plants by July 2005. The plants have done wonderful.

- Brent

    Bookmark   May 20, 2006 at 9:18PM
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saypoint(6b CT)

I used the lasagna method to make my raised veggie beds in the fall of 2004. Last spring I planted them up and had better results than my mother, who is known for her green thumb.

I did remove the sod when I put in new flower and shrub borders two years ago, and it was an enormous amount of work moving the sod to the compost area. I had a mountain piled up behind the garage, and eventually used most of it to make a low berm in the front yard. The decomposed sod turned into a very nice soil, and the front plantings are doing great, but I had to amend the stripped off beds quite a bit with mushroom compost and chopped leaves. I don't think I'd do that again.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2006 at 10:34PM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

I don't think it is "best" to remove the sod. Frequently when you remove the sod, you also end up removing the best part (and sometimes the only part) of your topsoil.

Dig a hole in the area and see how much topsoil you have, before you remove the sod. If you only have a couple inches of topsoil, I would not remove the sod.

The goal is to kill the turf and then mulch area. You can kill the turf with round up as saypoint suggested. Or you can kill the turf by smothering, (similar to the lasanga method).

In my experience, I have done both round up and smothering. I have had better long lasting results with smothering with respect to long term weed control.

I mow real short and then smother with newspaper and wood chips...I am not truly using a lasagna method because I don't add organic layers. Just carbon layers, paper and wood chip mulch.
If I were going to remove sod, and I do when I am building a rain garden or changing the grade; I definitely rent a sod cutter. Its fifty bucks and will save a load of back breaking work.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2006 at 11:55AM
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Rachel_Lexington(7b SC)

My previous experience with centipede grass told me that newspapers and mulch would do a great job of smothering out the grass and adding organic matter to the new bed. I tried that in my present yard, which is mostly bermuda, and have been fighting it ever since. I used up a bottle of Round-Up concentrate this past weekend, and I'm sure I'll need more. I'm treating the beds, which currently just have containers nested in the mulch, about every two weeks to kill the grass, but it keeps popping through. I can't actually plant anything in these beds until I am in better control of this monster grass. Now I just pull the pots onto the walk and spray, but if I had static plants, it would be much harder to spray the grass and miss the good stuff with the Round-Up. I've got several plants languishing in part-shade which should flourish in this full-sun area, but I can't do anything with them yet.

Enough of my troubles. Your mileage may vary (as may your grass).


    Bookmark   May 22, 2006 at 3:39PM
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Just invite me over. I am known for my grass-killing skills. I have a variety of weapons in my arsenal.

A kiddie pool. Works great and provides a season's worth of recreation.
Raking a pile of debris and leaving it there for about a month. A nice organic killing method
As a variation, accidentally dumping over a wheelbarrow full of mulch and just leaving it there.
Stacking firewood temporarily on the grass. Takes about a month or two to work.
Grubs, along with the moles and voles that follow
Never watering
Putting the mower blade too low
Driving over the grass repeatedly because you can't quite make the garage without doing so.

I can do any or all.
Patty :)

    Bookmark   May 22, 2006 at 3:52PM
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barefoorinct, I don't know about killing grass but I may just have seriously damaged my keyboard what with all the diet coke that shot out my nose when i read about your "arsenal". Bwah! At least I'm reading this at work because if I was at home I would have instead wasted a precious amount of pinot noir.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2006 at 4:35PM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

Most of that arsenal simply shows all the creative ways to smother.

And Rachel - you will never be able to kill Bermuda grass without splitting an atom on it. And even then I am not sure it would die.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2006 at 6:17PM
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That's only appropriate accordian, since your description of the "technicolor craptacular" was my first good laugh here at GW.

Patty, who still giggles thinking of the laurels being held up at gunpoint. Seriously, I have tears running down my face right now.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2006 at 6:19PM
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reading these posts made me join the website! Love all the advice and I also snorted a bit of peach ice tea out of my nose reading the "arsenel." My back sucks so digging the sod out is not an option -- how aggravated will the neighbors be if I put down paper and stuff for 6 months?!? Also - the soil is clay so I'd have to amend like crazy. Should I just get some poor soul to dig it out and replace with good stuff? And if so, how deep?

    Bookmark   August 9, 2010 at 5:06PM
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