Remove Top Layer of Lawn for Large Garden Bed

greekbecky2(6)September 13, 2010


I am going to make a large garden bed for about 50 iris that I need to plant (in a raised bed). I wanted to know the best way to strip the top layer of grass off, level the ground and prevent any grass from coming up through the bed after i've planted.

Last year, I tilled a portion of the yard, but it just mixed the grass up with the soil. I constructed the raised bed and stapled the bottom with screen (to prevent critters) and lined it with weed barrier. It worked for a while, but the grass eventually came up. Is there a better way???


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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Everyone has their own method.

What I've done is to solarize the lawn by covering it with plastic -- in my case, black plastic, but others use clear plastic. (Walmart has 10' x 25' rolls of heavy black plastic in the hardware area.) Use garden staples every 1-2' or so, or lots of bricks, to keep the plastic from blowing away. After 2 months, the grass is dead (I've only done this in winter, so even winter sun is hot enough). Then it's rototilled, and I plant.

A variant is to kill the lawn with Roundup.

Now, the original grass is 99% dead, but there are still seeds -- lots and lots of seeds! And when you or the heavens add water, there will be new grass. And new weeds.

Something I haven't done (no sense? masochist?) is to cover the bare soil with newspaper and mulch, then slit the newspaper to plant. Several sheets of newspaper (cardboard works too) will prevent seeds from sprouting into new grass and weeds. Wet the paper/cardboard thoroughly (it will flatten to the soil better), then cover with a layer of mulch (keeps the paper/cardboard from blowing away and looks prettier).

Another way to prevent the grass and weed seeds from sprouting is to spread a pre-emergent in the new bed; that will keep seeds from sprouting for several months. (Some of the chemical ones are rather nasty; you can also use pre-emergents containing corn germ (IIRC Preen makes an organic formula which is corn germ; there's another brand which is sold at Lowe's; supposedly farm supply stores have larger bags for much less money).

I have made raised beds for veggies in a former pasture area which is full of nasty perennial weeds which are difficult to kill because they grow from tubers, bulbs, and similar structures (wild onion, horse nettle, morning glory, greenbriar in particular).

The first bed, I did not cover the original soil, and I had wild onion growing through the 8" of additional dirt (but only the largest of the wild onions, and none of the other nasties, I'm very happy to say). The later beds, I covered the pasture with a considerable amount of paper and/or cardboard before adding the new soil. No nasty stuff growing from underneath, not even wild onion!

    Bookmark   September 13, 2010 at 11:50PM
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You can rent a sod stripper from a rental center. It is a cumbersome machine that takes a bit of strength to operate, but cuts it right off.

Depending on how hard youwant to work, you could use a wide grub hoe or strip it off with a rectangular edging spade. The grub hoe takes a bit of technique and can be a bit rough on the back. The spade can be used to slice the sod layer off horizontally much like the sod stripper.

You could spray it with roundup, let it die for a couple of weeks and then strip it so that the roots below are dead. If you do that, make sure you edge it first or the roundup will translocate out into the connected turf that you don't want to kill.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2010 at 6:50AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

I'd try to get a sod cutter there. If you can't do it on your own maybe get some help with it. Need a rental agency that has one, a vehicle it can be hauled in and an ability to handle and operate it. Main awkwardness is highness of engine area, seems it could be pretty easy to dump it over trying to drive it up and down ramps into and out of a truck.

Last time I wanted to use one, some years ago, the main problem was rental agencies no longer having them.

Here is a link that might be useful: The Myth of Paper-Based Sheet Mulch

    Bookmark   September 14, 2010 at 12:05PM
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Thank you bboy...I'm lucky, I found two rental places that had a 12" and 18" sod cutters each. You have to twist his arm off to help, but maybe my husband will pick it up for me in his truck and run it for me. If not, it goes in my ratty volvo wagon and I do it myself. Either way, that sod is coming up!

    Bookmark   September 15, 2010 at 10:02PM
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You may still have to borrow his truck because the one I used was heavy (needed a ramp) and too tall for a car.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2010 at 1:05AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

And too heavy to lift.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2010 at 1:40AM
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I was searching for a used sod cutter, just for kicks, and found this wonderful thing called Turf Teq power edger. Its not a sod cutter, but I could really use one of these too. Anyone have any experience using one? I'm sure it's not cheap!

    Bookmark   September 16, 2010 at 11:30AM
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We use a manual sod cutter - it has handles like a plow and you push it along. It is the BEST tool I have. It costs about 300 to buy one, but we used to rent them from the local hardware store. Its much easier to use than a machine, IMO.

I also have a machine edger - but we just use and edging tool now because it takes less time and no gas. The same company who makes the kick sod cutter makes a kick edger - but even with all the edging i do as a professional I have a hard time imagining it being worth it since you only need to edge twice a year or so.

Here is a link that might be useful: kick sod cutter

    Bookmark   September 16, 2010 at 1:20PM
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Hi drtygrl:

The rental place had those kick sod cutters for rent too. They claimed you could cut 30' in 15 min.

I should try that first., it'll be interesting to see how well it works and how easy it is to use. I'm going to check out that link too..thanks so much...:)

    Bookmark   September 16, 2010 at 3:30PM
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I have a small 10 x 12' full sun section (poor soil, low water)that I want to plant pink myoflorum in as a ground cover (Zone 10). What can I use as a companion plant or plants for some color, texture, and vertical interest that will not be too big for the space?

    Bookmark   September 17, 2010 at 6:36PM
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>Something I haven't done (no sense? masochist?) is to cover the bare soil with newspaper and mulch, then slit the newspaper to plant.

My fave way. Weigh it down with mulch and forget about it.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2010 at 1:21AM
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