Can I successfully remove sod with...

grandeandyJuly 17, 2006


I am re-landscaping for a wildflower garden. I want to put in two large flower beds, but first I need to get some grass out of the way.

Just average lawn grass. I heard I could rent a sod cutter, which sounds difficult to quickly remove the large area I need to. I don't want to use herbicides, and I would like to have the area ready in 3-4 weeks so I can reseed the non-flowerbed area with grass seeds.

I have been thinking about getting a rototiller that goes up to 8 inches deep from the Home Depot. I figure I could just go over the lawn, tear it up, and the grass that was there will decompose under the hot sun. Then, if I retill it every week or so for a few weeks, it will be ready to re-seed.

Would you think this is a good plan? Or should I get a sod cutter and put in some elbow grease? Any problems I will run into? Any advice on this would be great!

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saypoint(6b CT)

This recent discussion probably covered it. You can search the forum for other threads on your topic.

A sod cutter works well, I used one when I put in about 300 feet of 8 foot wide beds. Removing the sod is a lot of work, it's very heavy, and you have to find someplace to put it. I composted mine, and ended up with a mountain about 10'x14' and four feet tall. I used it the following year to make a berm in another area.

Others have flipped it over, and mulched heavily over it, but it depends what you want to plant (shrubs, maybe, perennials, I don't think so). I don't trust this method not to resprout grass.

If I had to do it over, I'd use the herbicide if I didn't want to wait, and the lasagna method if I had time to let it sit for a few months. Third choice would be solarization, but that kills off beneficial organisms in the soil at the same time.

Tilling brings up a lot of weed seeds, if you will mulch immediately, you may be able to get away with it.

Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   July 17, 2006 at 4:47PM
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gottagarden(z5 western NY)

Tilling just mixes the grass in with the dirt. It will regrow from all those roots and you will still have grass. Tilling will not solve your problem, and is at least as much work as a sodcutter. (except you need to move the sod when you are done cutting and it is HEAVY)

    Bookmark   July 18, 2006 at 6:30AM
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I've tried every possible method to get rid of sod. This year I used a sod cutter for the first time and will probably always use this method. I like it because it doesn't raise the soil level like the lasagna method will, it makes a smooth surface, so no raking and leveling will be necessary, like you would have to do if you tilled. If done properly, the sod cutter will remove about 2 inches of sod, so you will have room for a good layer of mulch.
I don't have a weed problem either, like you will get with tilling.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2006 at 7:35AM
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Just to brag...:) Tilling does work but you need a three point tractor and at least a 48 inch tiller! We till a new bed in the spring and then about 3 or 4 times during the summer. (especially when it's hot and the grass/weeds are dieing) Believe me nothing lives after I'm done!

But everything else above is still true...

    Bookmark   July 18, 2006 at 1:22PM
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saypoint(6b CT)

Whatever method you choose, be careful not to over-till the soil, or you may ruin the soil structure. You want to stir it, not puree it.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2006 at 6:55PM
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Tilling does work. I've destroyed sod on several occasions using a Mantis tiller (with cutting-type tines) to create large garden areas (most recently an approximate 30 x 10 foot bed). It's fairly hard work since you need to make at least two passes through the area, removing the sod chunks for mulch - and you tend to vibrate independently for a couple of hours afterwards. But done right, there's no grass left to resprout.

If you have more patience, the cover-with-newspaper-and-smother technique is also effective. Some report success by covering the area with clear plastic during warm weather to bake the grass to death. Fine Gardening magazine had a feature on using the sod-cutter a couple of years ago and might be willing to sell you a copy (they sell old issues from time to time).

    Bookmark   July 18, 2006 at 7:09PM
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What is a sod cutter, hand tool or powered? I have always used an edger and fork to remove sod. I then find spots that need repair on our property and use it there. Never have any leftover! I'm thinking of enlarging my vegetable garden and doing some landscaping so might try the newspaper idea. Anyone know how long it takes? Thanks

    Bookmark   May 20, 2007 at 10:43AM
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Well after having just come in from planting a Manhattan euonymous, 10 heucheras, and transplanting two berberrys and removing about 5 sq ft of sod, I am relaxing reading gardwn web.

I have used two of the cited methods. I usually only remove a few feet of sod during a planting, so I just dig it up with a shovel. After I dig it up, I shake out all of the soil I can and then toss the root mass into the compost bin.

For a large area a few years ago, I used glycophospate (i.e Roundup), which worked great. No disturbance of the soil microcosm, and the dead grass was in-place mulch.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2007 at 11:35AM
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saypoint(6b CT)

A sod cutter is a large gas powered machine that has a reciprocating blade that slams forward under the sod ahead of the machine to cut a slab a couple of inches thick in a continuous ribbon about 1.5 feet wide. You then have to pick up the slabs of sod, which can be quite a labor intensive job if you're doing a large area. Then again, if you're not doing a large area, you probably don't need the machine. It's a heavy, teeth-jarring job to run the cutter.

If I had to do it again, I'd either use the roundup and wait two weeks to plant, or use the lasagna method, or both.

Do a search of the forums for lasagna to get more info than you wanted to know about it.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2007 at 6:48PM
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Since the Danish government found levels of Roundup in Danish drinking water at 5 times the allowable level, it has been discovered at least to the Danes, that Roundup does get into groundwater. And no, it's not safe to drink. And it's deadly to amphibians.

So I hope that people won't be too eager to use Roundup. It has a great marketing campaign, but is still a poison.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2009 at 10:33AM
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So if I want to remove sod I could use Roundup (grass & weed killer)and spray the entire lawn to kill the sod/grass and then rototill it to remove? How long do I wait before I rototill? Will Roundup affect my next planting of grass seed or plants?

    Bookmark   May 16, 2011 at 11:32PM
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