How do you dig up grass?

leisa_in_md(z6 MD)April 6, 2009

ok, I know this sounds stupid, but how do you dig up a large area of yard without killing yourself?

I want to put in one or two more beds so I can plant all my WS babies, and I want to attempt to put in a paver patio this summer. I know I can do most of it, but I'm afraid I won't be able to dig what I need to dig.

What have you all done? pickaxe? rototiller? a strong neighbor bribed with beer? ;)

I don't have the $$$ to hire someone, or I'd go that route!



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You use a sharp edge spade.

Then you amend the soil with organic matter to invite some beneficial worms and microorganisms.

Or, for speed...

Go to the library or bookstore and get a book called Lasagna Gardening. It is simply the fastest way I know to create beds--I've made at least ten with the method, it's the best.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2009 at 1:45PM
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leisa_in_md(z6 MD)

That will work for the flower beds, but not with the patio :( I need to dig a good six inches down.

But I will try that for my flowers!!! Thanks :)

    Bookmark   April 6, 2009 at 1:51PM
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bbmiche(7 NJ)

Trudi has given you sound advice, but I wanted to offer another option. You can rent a sod cutter from your hardware rental co. in your area. It cuts away grass roots and all. The grass that has been cut away ends up looking like the strips of sod that are for sale in you garden center. With this material removed, it will be easier to mix in some soil amendments, such as compost to enrich the soil before planting.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2009 at 1:56PM
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mnwsgal 4 MN(4)

If you have a large area of sod to remove for your patio you can rent a sod cutter though you may want to rent/hire a small vehicle which can dig up the sod and extra soil before putting crushed rock down for a base for your patio.

I have done lasagna beds as well as instant beds. If you type instant beds in the search area near the bottom of the discussions page you will find many threads that are helpful.
Here is a recent one on making new beds.

Here is a link that might be useful: need help on my unprepared beds

    Bookmark   April 6, 2009 at 1:57PM
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ladygladys(z5b/6a NEPA)

I use something like the garden claw that I got at Big Lots for $10. You just push the claw into the grass and twist it. A big chunk will come up/off and all you have to do is use a hand cultivator to remove the excess dirt from the sod chunks. I find it much easier on my back and less tiring than digging it up with a heavy shovel.


    Bookmark   April 6, 2009 at 3:08PM
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I would suggest the sod cutter also. I used one for my flower beds. Ours cost $45 to rent. It also dug to 2 different depths.

It was still a lot of work but it was easier than the shovel method I have used before.


    Bookmark   April 6, 2009 at 3:12PM
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nancy_drew(5 nw chgo burbs)

If you are putting in a patio, a sod cutter will not go deep enough. You'll need about 4-6 inches of crushed gravel before you can lay the pavers. You might have dig out 8 inches or more total, depending on how thick the pavers are. If you don't have a deep enough layer of crushed gravel, the pavers will shift.

Digging out a patio is not be a job for the faint of heart. I think the equipment you would need to DIY, is called a front loader. I know you can rent one at Home Depot, but I would also consider getting an estimate or two for a paving company to dig it out for you. Then, you have to consider where all that earth you just dug out, is going to go... a paving company can help you there, too.

My sod, once I get it get it started comes up pretty easy, and you've already had several good ideas for that.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2009 at 3:27PM
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leisa_in_md(z6 MD)

Thanks for all the help! I'll give some people a call -- I'm definitely NOT going to try and use a front loader... what a disaster THAT would be ;)


    Bookmark   April 6, 2009 at 4:30PM
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"...not for the faint of heart?"

Sure it is. A couple of years ago this summer, I built a Mandala Bed in the back yard, which required digging up the sod, down to 6-8", in a 26 foot diameter circle. I piled the sod up, alternated with wood shavings and sawdust, to build the beds in between woodchip paths.

Here's a picture of the work in progress:

I was 60 at the time, and 12 years into a 10 year warranty on quad bypass surgery. I did it by hand, with a sharp spade, during the hottest part of the summer.

Pace yourself, and keep your spade sharp. You can do it.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2009 at 6:19PM
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chickenmom(7b/8a, DFW, TX)

Donn!!! Where was your attendant?! Are you trying to go for another surgery? I'm sure the bed looks wonderful, but what if you'd blown a gasket??

    Bookmark   April 6, 2009 at 7:17PM
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My wife has instructions to compost me if I blow a gasket. My "attendant" is a Portuguese Water Dog, and she was lying in the shade watching over me as I worked.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2009 at 7:34PM
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