'Instant beds'

donn_(7b-8a)March 28, 2006

Need quick bedspace for your new babies? Here's a surefire way to build them quickly, using nothing but lawn and cardboard.

Groundlevel beds: Cut the lawn/sod about 6-8" deep, in sections you can handle easily. In the space you dug the sod from, lay out sheets of cardboard. Soak the cardboard. Flip the sod chunks upside down, so the grass side is on the cardboard. You now have a new bed, which can be planted into immediately, with a little compost added to the back fill.

Elevated beds: Find a part of the yard that could use a new woodchip path (alongside a bed is a good spot, because it doesn't have to be mowed or edged, because there won't be any grass to grow into your bed). Dig out the same sod chunks outlined above. Lay out the cardboard where you want the new bed, and soak it down. Flip the sod chunks same as above. It's ready to plant. Put down some landscape fabric where you dug out the sod, and cover it with 6-8" of woodchips. You now have a weedfree path that will make compost at it's bottom, which you can harvest every year. Just rake back the top, shovel the bottom into adjacent beds, rake the top back into the bottom, and put a new layer on top.

The primary benefits of instant beds are that you don't need layers of greens and browns like with lasagna beds, and they don't shrink down like lasagna beds.

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shoregrowin(Z 7 DE on the bay)

You amaze me! Those are awesome ideas Donn and I can't wait to try them both. Lots of sparse- pain in the arse grassy areas that gotta go! That and the cactus pads, my toes always find the tiniest little beasties out there... Thanks for the great tips- hate when the grass tries to grow into the flower beds. It's outta there!


    Bookmark   March 28, 2006 at 7:28PM
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solsort1_dk(z7 Denmark)

What a great idea!

Have you tried it yourself, Donn? It sounds almost too easy. The cardboard will stop the grass roots from establishing again, or how? Does it have to be cardboard, or will newspapers do here like with lasagna?

I was so disappointed that I didnt get to prepare any lasagna this winter... but now maybe theres still hope. I have one new bed to do and two that I need to make wider, so it would be really nice.


    Bookmark   March 28, 2006 at 7:43PM
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gardengirl_17(z5 OH)

I like it! We have also used the Round Up method with great success. It depends on your view of using that product I guess. We sprayed round up on the area we wanted to turn into a bed. Let the grass die off (needs to be warm weather for it to work). Then till up the soil a little, add your compost and other amendments and plant! It has worked like a charm. After I spent 45 minutes trying to lift a small patch of sod on our terrible hard packed clay lot, I decided this was by far the best approach! :)

    Bookmark   March 28, 2006 at 7:50PM
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Hanne...newspapers take much longer to rot. Cardboard, being corrugated, is full of oxygen. Oxygen is a key component to decomposition. Newspaper mats like whole leaves, and becomes anaerobic, not a good environment for rot. Shred it, and you change the equation, but cardboard can be layed as is.

Yes, I've done it, and I'm doing it again. I have loam/sand topsoil, so it's easy to skim off the top 6-8" and it's a great medium to plant into.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2006 at 7:57PM
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Thanks for this Donn! I read it last night, but came back to it this morning to reread and let it 'soak in' a little-What a great idea!

My soil is hard- I will have to enlist the help of my 'kids' to turn it for me :)) But, I am going to try it-I am lucky to have access to lots of cardboard at work-so, I will start saving it right now! Less grass to cut and more flowers, veggies is a win/win for me :))

I will try and post pictures when I get it going,
have a great day,
Linda in Louisville

    Bookmark   March 29, 2006 at 6:55AM
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gardenscout(z6 NE RI)

Who has the best suggestion for cutting out the sod? I have used a regular digging shovel, but I wish there was something that would do the job better.

I am thinking of a somewhat L-shaped type thing with a foot pedal and a long sharp blade to push under the sod without digging too deeply. I have never seen anything made just for that purpose.

What's your best sod removal tool?

    Bookmark   March 29, 2006 at 8:36AM
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There's this kind, which I think is overkill:

There's also a sod cutting tool that looks like a single handle shovel with a flat half-moon shaped blade.

Since I'm taking much more than sod, I use my straight-edged nursery spade. I outline each section, about 1' x 2', by driving the spade straight down, 6-8" and then simply scoop it out with the spade.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2006 at 9:01AM
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gardenscout(z6 NE RI)

...a flat half-moon shaped blade.
Yeah, I have one of those. I always start with that and end up using the regular digging shovel. I'll try using the straight shovel (it's a good excuse to buy a new one, because mine is beat.)

Hey donn, when I was taking up some small chunks of sod to form the edges of a new bed, I saw some grubs. I know the grub killer only works when the little b@stards are active (not now), but do you think I could put it down under the cardboard? On top of the cardboard? Sprinkle it on top of the overturned sod?

Thanks if you have any help with this.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2006 at 8:20PM
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My soil, being clay really needs amending. Could I turn under mulched leaves and old manure then cover with the cardboard?
Does the turned over sod go under or over the cardboard? Thanks, taterbug

    Bookmark   March 29, 2006 at 8:40PM
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evilei(SE PA z6)

Donn! I love you! I am going to pull up my entire front lawn this year, this technique will save me so much time.

So are you saying then that if you get a thick enough chunk of sod w/soil, the grass won't be able to come back?

I'm curious about the grubs too, any thoughts?
Your devoted fan,

    Bookmark   March 29, 2006 at 9:09PM
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solsort1_dk(z7 Denmark)

I really love this idea, and I cant wait to try it. Thanks Don. I understand why the cardboard is better :-)

I have an additonal question. A friend of mine has already dug up quite a bit of her lawn. So now she has this small mountain of grass bits, turf pieces and a bit of soil. Its sitting on some more lawn that she wants to get rid of.
She considered just covering it with dark plastic to make it break down, but its going to take a long time.

Do any of you have a good idea of how to get it to break down fast?

Thanks in advance.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2006 at 5:20AM
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gardenscout..Can't help much with grubs, but my hunch would be to put the grub killer above the cardboard, since that's where the grubs will be.

taterbug & evilei..the sod goes on top of the cardboard, grass side down. This makes a green/brown/green sandwich, which will decompose into a thin vein of compost. The grass will be killed, and will rot away with the cardboard.

Hanne..the black plastic will kill all the grass, but it won't really do much to hasten decomposition. Your friend needs to get some browns into the mix, like sawdust or shredded leaves, and it needs to be in contact with the grass. If possible, I'd rake back the pile, and lay cardboard on the lawn, then rake the pile back onto the cardboard. Then soak the whole mess down, and cover with black plastic.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2006 at 6:02AM
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glad2garden(5, Chicopee, Mass)

My soil is probably different from Donn's, because when I tried cardboard in a lasagna bed, it didn't break down fast enough and the roots of the plants were having trouble getting through it, so I pulled out all the thick cardboard that I could. Come to think of it, maybe it was the cardboard being too thick, or maybe I put too many layers of cardboard. But anyway, newspaper worked better in my conditions. (northeast, loamy soil, dumb gardener)

    Bookmark   March 30, 2006 at 8:08AM
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g2g..it isn't a question of the soil. Cardboard is a brown/carbon substance. Grass is a green/nitrogen source. Put them together, with oxygen(in the cardboard) and water, and they'll decompose, in any soil.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2006 at 8:16AM
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I guess I don't get it...are you planting into the tangled mass of grass roots??


    Bookmark   March 30, 2006 at 2:28PM
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Sort of. In a double thickness bed, the top of the bed is sub-soil, because the cross-section is so thick. Next is nice topsoil, with grass roots in it. Then thatch, then grass, then cardboard, grass, thatch, topsoil and subsoil. If I dig the planting hole 8" deep, I'm into the center, where the cardboard is. I use compost mixed with topsoil to backfill. By the time the roots of the plant I've installed get moving, the grass, and it's roots, are dead and decomposing.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2006 at 2:38PM
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glad2garden(5, Chicopee, Mass)

Ohhhh, now I get it. It's the carbon/nitrogen thing I remember from reading about composting. Wow! Great idea, Donn!

    Bookmark   March 30, 2006 at 7:02PM
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kqcrna(z6 SW Oh)

I planted my first babies today in beds that I ammended last fall, interbay mulch style. The beds are great- soft dark wonderful dirt (compost) teeming with worms. BUT the newspaper layers are just shredding and blowing around and making a mess. Next time I will try the cardboard, or just top with greens and browns and forget that layer if I have nothing to kill off under it.


    Bookmark   March 30, 2006 at 7:37PM
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everything is slower here...even compost. What I could do in Nebraska takes forever around here! 2 years ago, I had an area near my frost porch that I tried to build a lasanga bed. So I laid carboard, grass clippings, a little soil, newspaper, coffee grounds and built of layers, watering in-between. I did this in spring and by the next summer the cardboard was still there. I ended up pulling it out.


    Bookmark   March 30, 2006 at 11:49PM
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I love Lasagna beds and have made lots of them over time. ...
but this idea is exactly what I will use this year as a very easy and neat way to expand the beds a few feet in front to accomodate all my new winter sown babes.
Thanks Don :)...I never woulda thunked of that ...LOL

    Bookmark   March 31, 2006 at 6:56AM
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The results:

Here's a new garden path, bordering the woodland foundation bed at the back of the house. It's ~30' long, 4' wide and 8" deep, filled with woodchips. The sod to the right will be flipped next week, to enlarge a bed just off-frame.

Three new beds in the north end of the front yard. Full afternoon sun from noon on. Soaker hose installed, and covered with woodchips, ready for planting.

Final measurements, 120 square feet of new beds, 120 square feet of new path, and 240 square feet less lawn to mow.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2006 at 2:56PM
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missspoiled25(7 LI, NY)

ok Don, guess what I did this weekend!! Yep I made my first ever attempt at creating my own 'Instant Bed', I only made one mistake (to my knowledge) which was not going 6-8" deep, as a result the sod we pulled up (after being pulled up and moved around) has barely any dirt left on the roots. We have that horrible zoysia grass that's still yellow and sharp and prickly as needles upside down with very little dirt, I can barely differentiate my bed from the lawn LOL. I plan on adding some top soil and compost to cover it all, my question to you is this, after I get that done, do I have to continue to water my mound of dirt to encourage decompisition? or should I avoid wetting it any more then what mother nature provides? if I should be watering, how often?

I await your response oh instant bed guru.... teehee

Your Grasshopper,

    Bookmark   April 11, 2006 at 12:33PM
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Millie...the forecast for us has rain on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. If that happens, that's enough. If not, water it to keep the cardboard moist. You really need to get the additional stuff on top as soon as you can. If light gets through to the grass, it'll start growing back up again.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2006 at 1:53PM
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missspoiled25(7 LI, NY)

I figured that it wasn't good, so I ran over to WallyWorld last night and snatched up 4 bags of top soil (1 cu ft each)... once I got home and poured out the first bag, I knew there was no way that it would be enough, I poured the rest out and it didn't even cover half. I probably would've gotten more coverage if I had taken 10 $1 bills and stapled them to the upside down grass then I got from the $10 worth of soil I bought.
(Obviously math isn't my strong point LOL)My intention is to use some soil from the backyard along with what little compost I have and get it covered tonight so that demon grass doesn't start growing. I think seeing it covered in some nice dark soil will bring some serious satisfaction.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2006 at 2:56PM
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I started planting one of these "instant beds" today. The one in the foreground:

The bed runs roughly east-west, and gets 5-6 hours of afternoon sun. I started with 7 rooted cuttings of Salix alba 'Britzensis' along the north side (the back) of the bed. That was fronted with 8 transplants of 1-year old Fountain Grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides), WS'd last year. I ran out of steam before I could finish, but tomorrow, I'll front the Fountain grass with about a dozen transplants of Purple Love Grass (Eragrostis spectabilis), also WS'd last year.

The theory is the Willows will hit 5-7', and show bright red bark, even after the leaves drop. The Fountain Grass will bloom to 4', and the Eragrostis will bloom to 2+'. All will be cut to the ground in late winter/early spring.

I'll get a pic when it's finished, and follow it up with progress pics through the year.

The little round bed (5' diameter) will be Helianthus Maximilliani, fronted with Abelmoschus manihot 'Lemon Slice' if I get enough germination. Eventually, it'll be all Maximillian.

I haven't decided what to put in the third bed yet. It runs roughly north to south, and gets an hour of morning sun, and about 3 hours of afternoon sun.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2006 at 7:24PM
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donn, I made two beds using your technique. I think I have a small problem. Grass is starting to grow up through it. What did I do wrong? taterbug

    Bookmark   April 29, 2006 at 10:55PM
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My guess is you didn't bury the sod in enough mulch, tater.

I finally finished planting the first of the instant beds today. I stuck a row of 12 Eragrostis spectabilis in front of the Pennisetum. Looks good. Can't wait for late summer when the grasses fill in and start blooming.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2006 at 7:43PM
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hudsonzoo(zone 5 UP of MI)

Thanks Donn I will try this as I plan on never having to mow again LOL.

For the grubs I just keep a bucket handy and kill them as I go (yes I wear gloves) and throw them in the bucket. Ruthless I know but works for me. My friend was over and seen me doing this and laughted till she cried. I went to visit her today and guess what I caught her doing LOL. jean in MI

    Bookmark   May 10, 2006 at 11:07PM
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I dig down 6-8", turn the sod over, cover the overturned sod with 2-3 sheets of newspaper, then pour compost on top of the newspaper, then plant. This has always worked really well for me.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2006 at 1:32PM
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penny1947(z6 WNY)

I have only done the lasagna beds but this looks and sounds just as easy and i am desperately in need of more garden space. Donn, you are a sweetheart for the instructions as well as the visuals.


    Bookmark   May 13, 2006 at 7:57PM
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Okay, not to brag, but I think that my instant bed method is easier....

Ingredients: lotsa newspaper, bales of straw (one average sized square bale covers roughly 15-20 sq. feet), greens (coffee grounds from Starbucks will do just fine, or grass clippings), mulch, and water. Border material, such as rocks, bricks, edging, etc is helpful, too.

1) Lay out newspaper over designated instant bed area. Needs to be 6-8 sheets thick. Mowing the area first helps the paper to lay down better. Wet the paper with the garden hose to keep it from blowing away while you work.

2) Cut the twine off the bale of straw and start separating it into flakes (each flake should separate easily, and will be 4-5 inches thick). Lay flakes out on top of newspaper, snugging them right up next to one another, so you now have a layer of straw on top of the newspaper, about 4-5 inches thick).

3) Sprinkle coffee grounds/grass clippings liberally on top of straw.

4) Cover it all with mulch (preferable the fine kind, not the pine bark kind), so it looks like an ordinary raised bed. This is where border material comes in--will hide the fact that your bed is made of straw and not dirt.

5) You can plant immediately, if you want. Just make a little hole in the straw, add a little pocket of soil if there's not much clinging to the roots of your plant, and then spread the mulch back around the plant.

I made one bed using this method last year, and one bed by digging, adding amendments, etc (aka the hard way). I planted WS babies in both beds. The plants in the instant bed are twice as big as the ones in the backbreaking labor bed. From now on, I will create all my new beds with straw. The best time to do it is late fall, when you can aquire lots of great straw bales that have been sitting out in the weather in peoples' fall yard decorations. Totally FREE--just ask nicely!


    Bookmark   May 14, 2006 at 4:37PM
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danaoh(SWOhio zone 6)

What would happen if I used cardboard with nothing on top, except bricks or something to hold it down? Right now I don't have access to any mulching material. In the fall I will have PLENTY of leaves, but my big flower bed has too many weeds.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2006 at 4:52PM
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If you use enough cardboard, and keep it moist, it will probably smother the grass, and attract lots of worms underneath. Cardboard breaks down much faster than newspaper, because it has air in it. If it breaks down before the grass is killed, the grass will come right through it. Remember, cardboard on living grass is brown on green, a perfect decomposition match.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2006 at 4:57PM
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I've been very slow to get these beds planted, but I'll get around to it eventually.

Here's a better picture of the one bed I have planted:

That's how it looked when planted, in May. A row of Salix 'Britzensis' cuttings, a row of Pennisetum alopecuroides and a row of Eragrostis spectabilis.

Here's how it looked today:

The 'Britzensis' has all rooted, but has been very slow to grow. Hopefully, it'll do better next year. The Pennisetum may or may not bloom this year, but has filled in well. The Eragrostis is in bloom, and the inflorescenses are just starting to turn from purple to tan.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2006 at 6:46PM
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Donn, I have never done Grasses. I guess I am easily swayed by a pretty bloom. But I love the look of that bed. I love the lush "hairy" appearance enough that I may have to venture out into grasses.
Hmmmm more seeds to collect...

    Bookmark   September 20, 2006 at 11:45PM
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pitimpinai(z6 Chicago)

Very pretty, Donn. Love the Eragrostis. I wish it would stay purple longer. Mine just started to bloom because it is in partial shade. Thanks for the seeds.

You might have to spread out the Pennisetum, though. Mine are 3 years old. They are about 4' wide now.

I love grass. I need to redo my bed on the parkway; thin out the perennials & add more grass.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2006 at 12:21AM
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So beings I am still that annoying newbie to wsing could someone clue me in on what a lasgana bed is? Thanks

    Bookmark   September 21, 2006 at 2:37AM
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Mone..believe it or not, I planned to remove alternating Pennisetum in about 3 years. I may have to do it with the Eragrostis as well. We'll see.

butter_fly, in a nutshell, a lasagna bed is built by piling alternating layers of brown (carbon) and green (nitrogen) compostable organic matter on top of a base layer of cardboard or newspaper which is layed down on the lawn grass.

For example; Start by laying out the newspaper or cardboard directly on the grass, in the shape of the bed you want to build. Then alternate between layers of lawn clippings and shredded fall leaves. Pile it up about 16" deep, finish the top with a layer of brown material like mulch, and your bed is done. You can wait for it to compost, or plant into it right away.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2006 at 5:55AM
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merrygardens(z5 MI)

A variation, which I used last fall all over a new property, is a load of fresh horse manure mixed with sawdust over the paper or cardboard, then leave till spring. It was a bit sawdust-y this year, and not as fertile as I had hoped, but stuff grew--the vegetables were great--and I'm now able to further amend and mix.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2006 at 12:48PM
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pitimpinai(z6 Chicago)

This is my instant bed that was built last fall. I just covered the grass with cardboards & newspaper, then layered with gravel, compost, top soil and shredded leaves then woodchips. I did not have any other organic materials at that time, but I wanted a quick bed for my bulbs:

And Donn, I wanted to show you this edging. I finally woke up and made something pretty out of the willow twigs instead of throwing them away:

Butter_fly, this is a lasagna bed I made this spring from cardboard, newspaper, grass clippings, manure, etc. There are a lot of bulbs underneath the layers.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2006 at 11:34PM
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new here,but i love this idea.will use it this year as i have a bed to expand.i only have one question...how do i get my hubby to unchain himself from what he calls his "grass beds"?!!!

    Bookmark   September 22, 2006 at 12:52AM
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flowered-corners, show him this:


Imagine the conversation The Creator might have had with St. Francis on the subject of lawns:

God: Hey St. Francis, you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there in the Midwest? What happened to the dandelions, violets, thistle and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect "no maintenance" garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honey bees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But all I see are these green rectangles.

St. Francis: It's the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers "weeds" and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.

God: Grass? But it's so boring. It's not colorful. It doesn't attract butterflies, birds and bees, only grubs and sod worms. It's temperamental with temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?

St. Francis: Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. The begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.

God: The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.

St. Francis: Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it... sometimes twice a week.

God: They cut it? Do they then bail it like hay?

St. Francis: Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.

God: They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?

St. Francis: No Sir. Just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.

God: Now let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?

St. Francis: Yes, Sir.

God: These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.

St. Francis: You are not going to believe this Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.

God: What nonsense. At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. Plus, as they rot, the leaves form compost to enhance the soil. It's a natural circle of life.

St. Francis: You better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.

God: No. What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter and to keep the soil moist and loose?

St. Francis: After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call mulch. The haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.

God: And where do they get this mulch?

St. Francis: They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.

God: Enough. I don't want to think about this anymore. Sister Catherine, you're in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?

Sister Catherine: "Dumb and Dumber", Lord. It's a real stupid movie about.....

God: Never mind, I think I just heard the whole story from St. Francis.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2006 at 6:20AM
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rosebush(z7 NC)

LOL!!! Donn, that's great! I'll have to pass it on. . .
Pitimpinai, LOVE the willow twig edging!

    Bookmark   September 22, 2006 at 9:42AM
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That's a great idea, Mone, which I will promptly steal.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2006 at 9:53AM
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pitimpinai(z6 Chicago)

lol. That is a wonderful story, Donn. :-)
Here's news for you: I have NO LAWN! :-) I am also talking my neighbors into letting me take away some of their lawn so I can plant something there. lol.

Thanks, rosbush & Donn re the willow edging. :-)

    Bookmark   September 22, 2006 at 8:13PM
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strmywthr3(Central OH z5)

can you do this in the fall too?

    Bookmark   September 23, 2006 at 8:13AM
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You can build the bed any time of year. Follow your normal rules for fall planting in your zone.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2006 at 8:18AM
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sondra_tn(South East TN (6/7))

Ok, newbie here to the "lasanga" beds as well...so I have a few ?'s...LOL

#1: Does grass not grow when you put grass clippings on TOP of the cardboard and than put compost on top of that? (what am I missing?)I mean when I mow, sometimes I mow so that grass will get blown on bare spots...eventually I get grass there by the clippings...LOL

#2: I have compost (aged horse manure mixed with shaving's, egg shells, coffee grind's and what not's) Will that work instead of the mulch or is that considered the same thing? (quit laughing at me) LOL

#3: As I pull dead plants/flowers and such from the bed's, I am worried about putting them in the compost ( was going to burn them) as I don't know if they will drop seeds and such and rehatch for next year?

#4 On the use of "straw" and compost ( broodyjen's post)...around here (TN), people put straw down to get grass? I also have access to hay...see why I am confused on the grass and such...LOL

By the way...great photo's and ideas from everyone...:))


    Bookmark   September 23, 2006 at 9:58AM
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#1..turfgrass doesn't grow from clippings. If you get new growth in bare areas after blowing clippings, it's most likely from seed that accompanied the clippings.

#2..any organic matter will work in a lasagna bed. The layering is simply a lazy way to mix the browns and greens to hasten decomposition.

#3..The best way to dispose of garden waste is to shred it and then compost it. I seldom get reseeding in my compost piles/bins. To assure it doesn't happen, make sure your compost operation is hot. Deadheading before the plants set viable seed is another way.

#4..People don't put straw down to "get grass." People use straw over freshly seeded areas to provide protection and moisture retention for the germinating seeds.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2006 at 10:34AM
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Can I do this now or over the winter for spring planting?

I have zero bed space, only lawn, and I'm not ready to do any planting just prep work.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2006 at 11:05AM
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pitimpinai(z6 Chicago)

Hi Sondra,
6 horses!? You have 6 horses? To give you manure? Now, I am VERY jealous. :-D

Let me take a jab at this:
1. Grass clippings on top of cardboard that I layered under other organic materials do not grow. They turn into compost in no time.

Later on, grass seeds may get blown over the layers and germinate, but the grass will be easily pulled. If other organic materials cover the grass seeds, they will no germinate.

2. Yowser!! You are lucky you have all that! Can I have a truckload of that? Where are you in TN? lol. Why would I laugh at you? I am green with envy!! :-)

3. I use all those in my compost piles/bins unless they are covered with powdery mildew, black spots, etc. I use them in my "lasagna" bed too if I am making one. If the compost bins/piles are hot enough, the seeds wonÂt grow. In a lasagna bed, other organic materials will block the light and prevent the seeds from germinating.

4. Hmm. I am thinking this through and speaking as a city gardener here. How would putting down straw will get you grass? Do seeds from the straw germinate and give you grass?

In the city, what I call straw or hay is found in the alley after Halloween and Thanksgivings. Lol. (I am too cheap to buy any when I can get a bale or two for free. Lol.) And it is dry  meaning golden or tan color.

I use this straw/hay either on my bed as "brown" or mulch or between the beds to walk on. I replenish the path with straw/hay whenever I find a new bale.

"I also have access to hay...see why I am confused on the grass and such...LOL"

Well, actually I am the confused one because I donÂt know the difference between hay & straw. :-)

Is hay you have green (fresh) or tan (dry)? Either way, it can be used in a lasagna bed as another organic material.

Have I managed to confuse you even more? lol

    Bookmark   September 23, 2006 at 11:07AM
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Hay is grass, alfalfa, clover and other plants, mown and dried.

Straw is the stems of threshed grain.

Straw is much more likely to contain seeds than hay.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2006 at 11:11AM
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pitimpinai(z6 Chicago)

"Can I do this now or over the winter for spring planting? "

Absolutely. In fact, doing it now or over the winter will give you more time to plant in spring and allow you to add as much organic materials as possible. Don't forget all the leaves that are falling, kitchen scraps (not meat unless you bury it deep), cardboard, newspaper, magazines, junk mail, shreded paper, etc.), manure, straw/hay, any organic materials you can find.

Beware, though, too many sheets of newspaper will slow down its decomposition. Cardboards break down faster because of its consistency. Wetted & matted down thick layers of newspaper take forever to break down.

Have fun and don't for get to give us an update next summer. :-)

    Bookmark   September 23, 2006 at 11:21AM
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pitimpinai(z6 Chicago)

Donn, OK. I will try to remember that. Thanks.
So the bales that I find in the city or at garden centers are actually straw. Oke doke.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2006 at 11:28AM
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sondra_tn(South East TN (6/7))

Wow, thanks for all the info...hopefully this will stayed bumped up 'til I can do this...

Thanks for the info on straw and clippings NOT growing grass..(used to be a city girl) LOL I have access to last years square bales and will use it for the beds as well as the horse's..LOL

Oh, I have not updated my profile..I am up to 7 horse's and located in East TN...LOL As much work as it to clean stalls, I will bring them in when my compost get's too low..LOL

I don't have a way to "shred" thing's for my compost but that's ok...I am asking hubby for a grass catcher for next year though!! ;) I do put leaves over the bed's and than the compost during the fall/winter....

Thanks again for the wonderful tips and the "claifying". I don't post much because I feel ignorant at times. :))


    Bookmark   September 24, 2006 at 9:27AM
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pitimpinai(z6 Chicago)

7 horses?. Ou la la! :-)

"I don't post much because I feel ignorant at times. :)) "

Hah! As if I am a know it all! lol
Post away. Ask any questions here. You'll find that we like to hear ourselves talk. lol. The best part is that nobody will jump down your throat and make you feel 2 feet tall.

Here's a link to the Soil, Mulch, Compost forum FAQ. It offers extensive & easy to understand answers re making an instant bed. Please also check the rest of the FAQ page. It offers very useful information on soil improvement organically & cheaply.

Have fun cleaning the stalls. :-)

    Bookmark   September 24, 2006 at 10:19AM
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rosebush(z7 NC)

Hey, did anyone see the show on PBS today that featured The Hermitage in TN? Their head gardener demonstarted how to create an instant bed, lasagna style! :)

    Bookmark   September 24, 2006 at 5:22PM
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Thanks for your reply to my post about lasagne beds. I agree, it isn't really lasagne in the true meaning, but although the method you describe above is certainly easier than double digging and removing all sod, it still is a considerable amount of work.

you replied earlier on to Danaoh, that it would also work to just put down cardboard (as opposed to newspaper) on top of green grass and then cover with mulch. That sounds a little better to me (I'm lazy and also has a predisposition for getting a bad back) - would my bulbs, which are planted in some of the grass that I plan to cover this way, still push through the cardboard come spring?

Thanks for your always very insightful posts!

(the lazy gardener ;-0)

    Bookmark   November 27, 2006 at 3:56PM
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Marianne..what I said to Danoah is that using just cardboard would probably smother the grass, and bring in worms. Adding organic matter later would be necessary, but just woodchips is probably one of the worst you could use as a single OM source. It's the slowest to break down, and worms won't do much with it until it does break down.

I use woodchips in my garden paths. They're sitting 4-6" deep on a layer of landscape fabric. The sod was dug out first. Every year, I go over the paths, raking back the top layer of chips, and shoveling the decomposed bottom layer onto the adjacent beds. Then I rake the old top layer into the bottom, and spread a fresh top layer. The bottom layer is pretty well decomposed after 2 years in the paths, but I still only use it to mulch the beds, because I want it to break down completely before I incorporate it into the soil. If I mixed a nitrogen source into the woodchips, they'd break down much faster, but would make a lousy path material.

The bulbs in the ground will probably have a better chance coming up through cardboard than newspaper. Cardboard decomposes faster than layers of newspaper. I don't know if I'd chance it, though. What kind of bulbs are we talking about?

It's a tough issue, trying to build a bed around bulbs which are already in the ground. If you build a bed around them or over them, they may end up too deep. I think I'd wait until they've done their thing next year, and dig them up. Then build your lasagna bed, and replant the bulbs in the fall.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2006 at 4:21PM
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pitimpinai(z6 Chicago)

"If you build a bed around them or over them, they may end up too deep."

Nah, Donn. It's all right to build a bed over the bulbs, at least in my case. I have done this for years. The bulbs are doing fine, especially the tough ones such as Narcissus, Leucojum, Scilla, Crocus, Muscari, Lilies, and such. One year I piled a foot of leaves on every bed. The Daffs could not push through the following spring, but have come back since.

Beware, it's not easy or downright impossible to dig up any of these bulbs, though, since they are at least a foot below the surface.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2006 at 9:22PM
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Oh, Donn, just one more question: how many layers of cardboard do you put down? Just one or several?


    Bookmark   November 28, 2006 at 9:00PM
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Just one.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2006 at 6:00AM
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Thanks Don, I'm thinking that as soon as it warms up enough to be out working- I will be preparing new beds. I just had to read the thread again. Thanks, SUSAN

    Bookmark   November 30, 2006 at 11:08PM
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Hi Don, I'm hoping to find the time to build a couple of these this weekend for my WS babies. Its been almost a year since you posted this and I'm curious if your still pleased with the outcome or if you've found anything you'd do differently.

I've done the lasagna thing with newspaper before and I'm looking forward to trying this. Thanks!

    Bookmark   March 9, 2007 at 11:52AM
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The only thing I'll do differently is to dig a trench around the bed, to keep the lawn grass from trying to work it's way into the bed.

I'll be doing more of these this year, starting very shortly.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2007 at 12:25PM
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Hi Donn, I had a lovely bed of crabgrass I'll be turning into a border this year, about 25' by 125'. I've read this post in detail and, like most, wondered if you mind clarifying for my particular situation. I have pre-emergent sitting in the garage ready to put down tomorrow morning. (Bought it before I found this post) Extension agent says crabgrass from last year is all dead (as opposed to dormant bermuda) so the purpose of the pre-emergent is to keep crabgrass seeds from sprouting. Question 1: Should I still treat with pre-emergent before turning dead grass upside down on cardboard? It sounds like I'll be disturbing a large quantity of seed and replanting them 6-8" deep. Maybe they'll germinate, maybe they won't. Maybe I should treat after I turn it upside down. Maybe before and after. Question 2: Since the crabgrass is dead, does it still count as green or is it brown now? Question 3: If it is not green, what do I use as a substitute? I own sawdust, newspaper, cardboard, leaves, pinestraw and have access to tons of free mulch. I think none of those are green either. I have heard that horse feed alfalfa pellets will kickstart the decomp process, but I've never bothered to find out because I just let nature take it's own time in my compost heap. The heap itself is not nearly big enough to do the area I'm describing. My fantasy would be to put down cardboard, then the other items I own, ending with mulch, but I suspect that won't get the job done. If you tell me I need to turn the brown grass upside down I will do it faithfully. I will also send the subsequent pics from the hospital. Thanks donn!

    Bookmark   March 9, 2007 at 1:18PM
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Question 1: What's the pre-emergent? In my experience, most crabgrass seed will be in the top inch or two of the sod. Flipping the sod will put them much deeper, and further from light. You still may get some germination, but I wouldn't think it would be as much.

Question 2: My guess is it would be a brown, and, as such, won't benefit from putting another brown (sawdust, cardboard, etc.) in contact with it. You'd need to put a green down there, in order to hasten the decomposition. The reason I use cardboard is it's a brown, and I'm putting fresh green grass on it. Additionally, the cardboard contains air, which provides oxygen to the decomposition process.

Question 3: If you can't come up with a green (coffee grounds, live grass clippings, seaweed, etc.), don't put anything under the sod. I'd still cut and flip it, though. There's nothing nastier looking than dead grass.

On the pre-emergent question..I asked what kind it is because some of them can be planted straight into, with seedlings and mature plants, with no ill effects. Others would require you to wait a while before planting.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2007 at 1:31PM
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Active ingredient:Pendimethalin .86%
Other: Potash &Clorine
The pre-emergent is designed for turf grass, assuming I wanted to keep the turf grass. There is none in the spot I'm referring to, but since I was going to use it on the bermuda, I planned to go ahead and use it on the crab bed too.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2007 at 3:38PM
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Pendimethalin is both a pre-emergent and an early post-emergent, with a soil half-life of 90 days. If I were going to use it in the soil of a bed, I'd wait at least 3 months before planting the bed, particularly with young seedlings (I'd probably either not use it, or wait a good deal longer.). For mature plant installation, I wouldn't think it would be a problem.

Potash and Chlorine are no problem.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2007 at 3:56PM
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Thanks for the crucial info, Donn. Because the seedlings are coming whether the bed is ready or not, I'll have to approach it differently. I have intentionally sown more scarcely than many in the forum so the seedlings can stay in containers a bit longer, but 3 months will be way too long. My plan had been to take advantage of free compost in my area, but they "sold" out the last week of February; no more until June. This leaves me scrambling to prepare a proper bed. It looks like I'll be using your instant bed method, substituting alfalfa pellets for green.

I'm intent on getting the cardboard in there for moisture retention. Our soil is VERY sandy.

Thanks for all your kind advice.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2007 at 5:27PM
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I started to make a border as described by donn, taking out sod 6-8", flipping it, etc. I used coffee grounds for green, then filled in. BUT, it was physically to hard for me, since our soil is very hard and heavy. So then I used the method described in the post of May14: Cardboard, straw (I actually used old hay), coffee grounds, then 2-3" of wood mulch. I just stuck my finger through it and was able to easily puncture the carboard, i.e. after about three weeks.

The whole bed is just 4" deep.

How should I plant bought perennials in this, if at all? Dig below the cardboard level, or spread the stuff above it fairly wide, fill it with soil/compost and pile it around the plant, and mulch?

I would appreciate your advice very much. I already have to plants and would like to plant them soon, that is, I can't really wait much longer to see what happens to the bed next.

I am certain that I can put in wintersown seedlings without a problem, do you agree?

    Bookmark   March 29, 2007 at 5:58PM
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If the underlying soil is as hard and heavy as you describe, I would dig planting holes, through the cardboard, for any planting. Definately for nursery plants, and for your new seedlings as well. Use a mixture of compost and regular garden soil to backfill. It takes quite a while for a lasagna bed to affect the soil beneath it, but if you keep up with the addition of organic matter, to the top of the bed, eventually, the underlying soil will improve.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2007 at 6:05PM
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Donn, thank you, this is a sad situation. I will do as you say, and turn it into a beautiful bed.

Theoretically speaking, how long does it take for the soil to be affected by a lasagna bed? And does it depend on what the ingredients were and how many (or how high they were piled up)?

Thanks again, Donn. H.O.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2007 at 8:05PM
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H.O...the worms and microorganisms in the soil will start working the organic material down into the old soil, and the effects will cascade. More OM will attract more 'wildlife.' The simple act of planting also adds to the effect. Digging and amending planting holes, and the root action of your plants will all improve your soil. I'm digging up a bed which started as a lasagna bed 3 years ago. I need to get all the rocks out because I use the bed for Horseradish. It began 3 years ago, with ~16" of layered organic material. I planted it with Horseradish right away, and layered on more material twice a year. The original soil has changed from my typical sandy loam to a very rich sandy loam, absolutely filled with earthworms.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2007 at 6:02AM
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Last year we made a raised bed using the lasagna gardening method. We used layers of newspapers, grass clippings, compost, that Black Kow stuff.

Last weekend we brought in 2 truckloads of compost to make new beds and amend the old ones some more. When I added the compost to the raised bed built last year in May all of the newspaper was gone from that raised bed and I was so happy to see worms!!! When we first worked in it last year there was nothing but heavy clay, rocks and the evil slugs. Its still a little on the clay side but theres more of that rich dark soil. I was surprised how quickly it happened. We do amend our soil twice a year anywhere we plant. We've also started throwing a small layer of compost over our lawn and its nice and green and lush. We do not use chemicals & prefer to let nature do its thing.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2007 at 9:02AM
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Stupid Question time: Re: Lower bed adjacent to new 'Instant" bed?

Here's my issue:

Flag pole.
Circular area around flagpole (slightly raised when we back-filled it, so there's kind of a hump around the pole)
Beyond the circle still around the pole area is a myriad of things (starting from a further point around the flagpole): small Daylily bed, bush, crescent bed, bush, Iris bed, bush.
Spent a backbreaking day yesterday playing 'connect-the-dots' with all these bushes and beds via the "Instant Bed" method.
Since I wanted them slightly raised, I put my cardboard layer on TOP, then a good layer of compost.

The problem: the older, existing beds are now LOWER than the new Instant beds. And there's stuff in them.

Is my only option to dig up everything, level things out with another layer of compost, then put everything back?

Here's a pic of the area before I started connecting everything. The other beds are off the left edge of the pic

    Bookmark   April 2, 2007 at 9:06AM
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larry_c(z6 Stl. Mo.)

I am 54 and the thought of turning heavy sod does not excite me. However I am turning quite a bit of my back yard into new beds this year.

After dropping $ 35.00 and 5 hours into my 15 yr. old tiller it is working again :) My first till job in the lawn was very interesting. Caking, clumping hard work.Light tan dirt that is very different from my black dirt in my old established beds. And then I have to pull all of the loose dirt back and fight the grass.

So a minor twist on your idea. I am thinking of cardboard 2' x 4'. and using a shovel to turn the dirt a shovel full at time. This would require a starter hole and then just keep moviog on down the row with the starter dirt ending up at the end of the row. It would not be as perfect as turning a big chuck but it would be easier on the desk jockey:)


    Bookmark   April 14, 2007 at 9:06AM
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Okay, so yesterday - before the deluge!! -I dug the first instalment of a rather large bed (it's going to be my "woodland area" with a path through it when it's finished) and found that this method needs some tweeking to suit my soil. I have lots of small and large stones in the ground - otherwise fine loam - so I'm lucky if I get 4-inch-chunks of sod to stick together when turning before hitting a rock. That means that the roots of the turf is showing when turned upside down and I have had to layer two inches of leaf mold on top to cover. Not that that's a bad thing - just more work. So far, it does feel like it's a lot less work than what I did last year, which was dig up the grass, shake the soil off and compost the rest (and of course rid the soil of rocks!) I'm not sure how long it will take for these beds to be ready to plant larger shrubs since they require a deeper hole but if need be I'll just dig those holes first and use the instant bed method around them. Does anyone want to venture a guestimate for whether I can plant spring blooming bulbs by the fall in this area?

Very excited about this project. Thanks again, Donn, for the excellent idea!


    Bookmark   April 15, 2007 at 3:15PM
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Marianne...sure you can plant bulbs in it this fall. I've planted thousands of spring flowering bulbs in completely unimproved lawn, and they do fine.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2007 at 4:49PM
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Don, so glad I found your post. I'm challenged by heavy clay soil that just about had me defeated, but reading your post got me inspired to start a new bed using a variation of your method. Since I had shrubs that needed to be planted right now, I dug pretty deep holes for them but flipped some of the sod upside down back in the hole so that sod can be decomposing underneath and then planted the shrubs high using a mixture of soil & compost. I've surrounded the shrubs with cardboard and each shrub planting hole yielded plenty of sod to get me started flipping it upside down on the cardboard. Now I'm layering green grass clippings, with some bags of soil & compost and whatever I can get my hands on thats organic. I feel like its gonna work. I do have one question though. In areas where I'm not interested in improving the soil, only having a tidy, mulched appearance, will the cardboard covered with mulch kill the grass? Thanks so much for your idea. Would love to see and hear more about your gardens.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2007 at 1:12PM
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I still need to post a pic of the 'new & improved' flagpole area, but wanted to add that NOW is the best time to get out there and do this...I had started the project a week or so ago, and didn't finish, but during the muck-rain-slush storm, I finished it, and what a difference in ease! Yeah, I knew it was easier to do this type of work in moist ground, but WET is even better!

Gee, what ELSE can I dig up?!

Go, go, go!!!

    Bookmark   April 18, 2007 at 1:19PM
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penny1947(z6 WNY)

I am glad to see this post resurrected especially for all the new members.


    Bookmark   April 18, 2007 at 1:25PM
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Wishful..yes, just mulch on top of cardboard will kill the grass. Make sure to thoroughly soak the cardboard, and cover it with at least 4" of mulch. I'm doing this right now, in the front yard. It's an area which is destined to be a bed, and I have it covered with cardboard, topped with about 8" of woodchips. I'm using it now to bury potted plants. I piled up the first half of it almost a year ago, and the second half back in January. The first section could become a bed now. The grass is gone. The cardboard is gone. The bottom layer of woodchips has almost completely decomposed, and it's full of worms.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2007 at 1:27PM
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I guess I didn't put my question clearly enough:-) : will the cardboard be sufficiently decomposed by Fall to allow easy bulb planting.


    Bookmark   April 18, 2007 at 4:24PM
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The cardboard will be gone.

"Easy" bulb planting? It depends on how deeply the bulbs need to be planted. Some need as much as 8" deep, and the soil under this bed won't be sufficiently improved to make digging them "easy." They will, however, bloom next Spring, just fine.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2007 at 4:50PM
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Thanks again Don. Wish I'd thought to take a "before" picture.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2007 at 8:54PM
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gardnpondr(Zone 8)

I was reading this thread this morning and was TRYING to post this on this one and wound up getting it posted on the veg. garden forum! lol
so I'm trying again! ;)
Man this is SOOOOO interesting! A friend of mine made him a thing to attach to his tractor for getting the sod up. He needed to sod an area in his yard and he needed lots of sod so he went to the back side of his pasture and dug the sod with the thing he made and planted it in his yard. I might just have to check this thing out he made to see IF I can get my DH to make me one for my lawn tractor because I wont be able to turn the sod and dig in it like you're talking about with my bad back. I love this idea though and thank you soooooo much for sharing it with us. It sounds much easier than the lasagna gardening one. Which by the way, bought the book last year. lol
Thank you again!

    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 2:43PM
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Donn, I'm trying to add the trenches at the entrance of the bed and am having a heck of a time of it. I guess I did things backwards by planting first. I tried a square point shovel and a pointed shovel but the area is so small its hard to do. I found it slightly easier to use a regular garden trowel/spade. However its so time consuming and very painful. Last night I tore the skin from the palm of my hand trying to work that heavy clay soil.

So my question is, can you recommend a tool that will help me achieve this and not rip up my hands? Thanks so much.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2007 at 9:21AM
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Deborah..I'm trying to visualize what you mean when you say "add the trenches at the entrance of the bed."

If you're digging in a narrow spot, get a drain spade, trenching spade, or poaching spade. They have long narrow blades. Make sure it's very sharp.

Oh, and wear gloves to protect your hands. ;>)

    Bookmark   May 11, 2007 at 9:37AM
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Thank you! I didn't know they made trenching spades. You had said you wished you dug a small trench around your beds to keep the grass from entering. I'm trying to do that now but its so hard. And yes, I need to invest in some good gloves. The ones I have now are horrible, I never wear them. DH said to me last night that my hands are so tore up - if he didn't know better he'd think I was a construction worker.

Sadly I think I'm out of commission for a few days. The skin is really tore up and it hurts alot. Maybe I'll give my left hand a try. :-) Thank you!

    Bookmark   May 11, 2007 at 9:52AM
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OK...now I know what you mean.

A trenching spade may not be the right tool. I use my nursery spade, but it's so heavy, I'm going to put one of these on my next Lee Valley order:

It's custom made for edging, and just the right size. The top of the blade is turned down for stepping on:

The blade is 8.5" long, stainless steel and only $19.50.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2007 at 10:02AM
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That looks helpful. I record Paul James and saw 1 episode recently where he used something similiar to that when he started a new bed. I don't recall him addressing the trenching though. I was surprised he didn't show lasagna gardening or some form there of. Thats not a bad price too. Thanks! DH said to buy the right tool this time & start taking care of my hands & back. I go thru so many tools trying different things out.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2007 at 10:33AM
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I bought a half-moon edger and it was difficult for me to use. Not sure why I had such a hard time with it but it was really awkward, and the shorter handle made it hard for me to get enough "oomph" into it. Anyway, I replaced it with an ice chipper and that thing's become my second-favorite garden tool (right behind my handy-dandy, all-purpose garden fork). It's got a long handle and looks like a large, flattened-out common hoe. Works like a charm!

    Bookmark   May 11, 2007 at 11:04AM
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Man, I am so way behind on garden technology, I just use my shovel :(

    Bookmark   May 11, 2007 at 1:32PM
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I am going to try out lasagna gardening in my new yard (rental property so I sure would like to avoid as much work as possible, ahem). I have tons of cardboard since we just moved, so I was going to layer that, free compost from the city, shredded newspaper, what little bagged topsoil I have, and wood chips (also free from the city). I'm going to sow one of the beds with perennial seeds right away just to see what happens.

I have a few other beds I am working on, the primary being the one out front. It's about 5'x10' and contains two lovely old shrub stumps. I'd rather not dig them out. If I layer high enough, do you think I could just plant over them? There's a weed growing that seems not to mind growing up through the stump so I figure it should be fine. Right now I have petunias and Sweet William in the bed, which I plan to bed over (sob) in September so that I can get the lilac, phlox, veronica, and coreopsis in. Since they're annuals I thought I could just leave them in there and slap the cardboard on top, then layer. Thoughts?

I love these forums.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2007 at 10:32PM
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Thoughts? All your ingredients sound good, but they are heavy on the carbon (brown) side. Try to incorporate some nitrogen (green) material. For example, produce, fresh grass clippings, coffee grounds.

Also, take a peek at the Soil Mulch and Compost forum. I went there initially under protest, but I've really learned a lot.

Also, consider using the winter sowing method for your perennial seeds. There are quite a few that won't germinate right now because they need cold. They'll likely be lost in your direct sown beds by the time next spring gets here. If you have them in jugs you can care for them properly until they germinate.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2007 at 12:28AM
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zengeos(5 Maine)

Hold on there seedmama!!

What is "proper care" for WSing?

I just did 10 yesterday in milk jugs, left the tops off, of course. I added some water carefully running it down the sides. The soil isn't soaking, but most of it is reasonably dampened now.

What other care must I do? I thought I just wait for them to germinate and transplant out into their final resting places???

    Bookmark   January 26, 2008 at 10:29AM
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When the weather warms up, you need to make sure they dont try out.

If its raining alot, you need to make sure they are draining properly.

Make sure the slugs dont get in (yuk).

    Bookmark   January 26, 2008 at 10:43AM
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spartangardener(z4 MN)

You do need to make sure that all the soil in the jug gets drenched thoroughly once. Some potting mixes in particular are hard to wet and if you don't do it now, it may be difficult for that to happen later. My mom had poor success her first year because she didnt properly wet down the soil.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2008 at 10:58AM
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hello zengeos. dorisl and spartan gardener have hit on two key points, which are to keep the soil both moist and well drained. As it warms up you will also need to keep sprouts ventilated so they don't cook. If you haven't had a chance, take a look at the FAQs on the Winter Sowing forum.

I moisten my potting mix initially in a dishpan, adding more and more warm water until it is properly moistened. I then put it in the milk jugs and from that point I only have to maintain moisture. You're right. The initial wetting is the tough part.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2008 at 11:18AM
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grannybrug(z7 ESVA)

Thank you!!!! This will make my life a WHOLE lot easier!!

    Bookmark   January 26, 2008 at 1:35PM
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I've discovered that using hot water to drench the potting soil first seems to work well. I've also read that adding a drop or two of liquid dish soap can help to moisten the soil. Like seedmama, I use a large container (a bucket that sits in my sink) to hold the dampened soil.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2008 at 1:49PM
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I found this site by accident and have been amazed at all the information I've "bumped" into. I think I'm addicted to this site.

The start of this thread regarding Instant Beds is something I did two years ago kind of on instinct. Everyone thought I was nuts. Hope I have the same results - I've been working on it for two years as it is rather large and an old gal can only do so much :-)

I've a newbie at WS also! Plan to use those in my bed. The way I moisten the soil is to fill the sink with water and set the pots in. Let the soil soak it up. I do put a coffee filter in the bottom of the pots and it limits the amount of soil that ends up in the sink. Then I plant and transfer the pots into a dish pan to transport.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2008 at 8:16PM
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Question: I started a lasagna bed in December starting with cardboard and straw, now adding coffee grounds and manure. Anyhow, as the layering is continued this spring will it be too hot to plant seedlings into as it decomposes with warm weather?

    Bookmark   January 29, 2008 at 8:37PM
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zengeos(5 Maine)

Kathy, from what I've read on lassagna beds, you can prettymuch plant into them instantly, though it doesn't hurt to let them settle for a few weeks. That's my understanding, anyways.

Now as for the 'Instant Bed' technique. Would it work if I used a sod cutter and flipped the sod over that way, then till down a couple inches deeper? or better yet, just do the sod cutting and flipping of 3" with a couple inches of compost overtop?

Either way, I'll be adding compost. It just seems like it would be easier to do all this if I rented a sod cutter to neatly cut the grass for me...

    Bookmark   January 29, 2008 at 8:47PM
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zengeos(5 Maine)

OOOH!! Maybe I can do a hybrid bed...for the hybrids!!!!


sod cutter to cut top 2-3" of sod and flip onto the cardboard as the bottom of my new bed. THEN add coffee grounds, then straw, then more coffee grounds or compost?

Would that work to plant into? Or are my browns and greens wrong?

I should have around 2 yards of coffee grounds by Spring....

    Bookmark   January 29, 2008 at 9:23PM
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ladygladys(z5b/6a NEPA)

Donn, what is your soil/sod has no grass on it? Is there any place I can buy several big bags of some sort of greens?


    Bookmark   March 25, 2008 at 2:32PM
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silverwind(z5 IL)

For 'greens' the frequent (and good!) recommendation is to phone a Starbucks or two, nearly all regular stores will save coffee grounds for you to use. You might get grounds, espresso grounds, filters, but it's all fine to throw on as a 'Green'. Other options are if you're by a juice shop - what is it, Jamba, I think? and they'll often hand over fruit leavings, or the occasional restaurant might save items.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2008 at 11:35AM
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plant-one-on-me(MI 5b)

I am so excited I found this method of gardening! I am also amazed that it has been going on for 2 years now. I was wondering what to do on this terrible clay soil I moved into last September, only wish I found this posting then so I could have started sooner.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2008 at 6:06PM
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dowbright(z6 in Missouri)

I've been a devotee of Ruth Stout since the 70's!!! Her mulching books are great fun to read. I've tried lots of types of instant beds--but now I'm older, and after 2 back surgeries--that digging just ain't a-gonna happen!

I'm thinking---cover the grass with cardboard, cover that with straw (not sure whether to use books or loosen it for air flow), and shortly, when the place opens, cover it with free compost from the local pile. All the while I'll be burying green shtuff as I find it, along with my usual things I'd normally compost. I know the green is missing--but my original grass will still be there, and tho dormant, it IS still green...

When it is time to plant (mostly plants, not much from seed until further into the spring) I'll open up areas if need be, dig it in, then pull the coverings back gradually as mulch.

Now I need to know the flaws, problems and hitches I'm going to run into!

Ideas, anybody?

THRILLED to have found this thread...Thank you all for a great time reading the full thread!

Paula in St. Louis

    Bookmark   January 22, 2009 at 7:44PM
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