rosemaryhoney
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Turning the lawn into a Vegetable Garden - dig up or till?

Hi All,

(I'm new here and I did a search but didn't find exactly what I was looking for, so please forgive me if this is a commonly asked question...)

I'm wondering if people have advice or experience on planting a vegetable garden where there is currently a lawn.

Here's the situation: Two springs ago, just after we moved into our home, we made 3 10'x4' plots by manually removing the top layer of sod and turning compost/soil into the plots. We've planted on these plots over the last 2 seasons, and had virtually no weeds - it's amazing! But now, we're ready to expand the garden, add some paths, etc. and we are debating how to approach it. The work to make the 3 small plots was rather backbreaking and took a lot of time, so I'm not sure that enlarging the garden in this way is worth our time and energy. I'd like to roto-till the area just this once (we're organic gardeners who loooooove the compost and lasagne-layering!), lay a thick coat of compost over it, and start planting. My husband is worried we'll get unmanagable weeds - oh, I probably should add that our "lawn" is far from the manicured grass of suburban life...it's in fact probably a lot of "weeds" that we keep mowed, but look nice and green to us! I'm REALLY desperate to expand this year, so waiting until the fall when we can use the cardboard method is not an option.

So, can anyone offer advice? Will we have completely unmanagable weeds? Is there another (organic) way of converting your lawn into a vegetable garden that doesn't require my hubby to take a shovel to a hundreds of square feet of grass?

Thanks so much!!!

elevenplants
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Wish I could help, but I don't know. We have the same situation, we plan to turn virtually our entire back yard into garden...with paths and walkways....and I too have fallen in love with lasagna gardening and raised beds. But oh! The work to get them ready! We are pondering options, but we aren't starting this project until fall, so perhaps by then we'll have our method and plan in place.

Good luck with yours!

Rebecca

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rootsy
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turn it under and let it burn down a bit. Turning it under will kill the grass and then you can break it down and the grass and roots will decompose into the soil. I prefer to break sod and turn it under in the fall and let it overwinter.

Charlie MV
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I'm confused. We consider ourselves organic gardeners because we use compost and organic fertilizers to augment our soil. We also till. Is tilling considered a non organic activity? I use annual rye and colver as a winter cover crop to hold down summer weeds and inject nitrogen into the soil. I don't think I could plant if I didn't till it.

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rainbowgardener
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tilling

It's a controversy. Lots of organic gardeners till every year. But it does chop up earthworms and generally disrupt the soil community and texture. At the boundary of the depth of tilling, it tends to make hardpan. I used to till before I went over to gardening almost all in raised beds. My soil is much better now that it isn't tilled and it is never walked on. But there's no single solution to every situation and I have very small urban garden, plus a little woods that I plant in and clear, but try to minimally disrupt...

2cents
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One option which requires a little extra water the first year, but turns into wonderful garden soil, is,
1)lay down cardboard now, or heavy layer of newspaper(many layers thick)
2)put the heavy layer of compost down
3)then add a thin layer of dirt/clay/soil/top soil/bagged manure, what ever you have(I use some of the dirt from the other garden spots).
This makes a nice lasagna style raised bed. With or without raised bed frames, it will work.
Then plant only shallow root plants(bush beans is my preference, they put nitrogen back into the soil) the first year.
I've had good success with this method several times.

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smokensqueal
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I agree with 2cents. I personally like to remove the sod first but understand the back breaking that it does. So tilling it under and doing a lasagna type on top sounds like a great idea.

Charlie MV, Like rainbowgardener said some people make a big deal about tilling or not tilling. But tilling with in it's self is not breaking any "organic" rules. It's just a different way to prepare the ground. I think it also depends on what type of ground you have. If it's rough clay and every year you add tons of OM to it and still it's tough then you would have to till.

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coloradogardening
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I have done the roto-tilling and the shovel routine and you are right both are back breakers. If you want to kill the grass first and then roto-till the soil for organic matter, here is a method to get rid of the grass.

On a nice warm sunny day cover the area with white plastic and make sure the plastic lies right on top of the grass. You might want to stake it down or put stones along the edges. What will happen is the sun will heat up the soil, kill and sterlize the grass. This will take care of your weed problem. Then roto-till the organic matter in.

I have raised beds and the only time I roto-till is when I first make the beds. Afterwards, during the fall I amend the soil right on top, cover with 3-4 inches of straw and then cover with burlap to keep the straw from blowing away. Come spring remove the burlap and straw and the worms will have taken care of your amedning without hurting them.
:)
Gardening is the art that uses flowers and plants as paint,
and the soil and sky as canvas.
- Elizabeth Murray

Rich

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applestar
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Last year, I started with solid lawn covered with cardboard and straw (with amendments like rock phosphate, greensand, grass clippings, etc. in between) layered with compost and topped with bagged topsoil, mushroom compost, and compost mix for veg's and 4~6" strawpile topped with small amounts of the above bagged stuff and mostly my own compost for sunflowers/Indian corn/bush beans/edamame/fall peas. I've detailed the process elsewhere in the forum.

About a month into the season, everything showed sign of Nitrogen stress -- I believe straw/cardboard layer was tying up the Nitrogen. The problem was overcome with home brewed compost tea and application of alfalfa pellet side dressing. My garden grew very well - lackluster performance from tomatoes but many people reported problems last year so I'm not sure if it could be attributed to the soil prep.

Two things I would change this time around: (1) FORK the ground first and (2) add a layer of alfalfa pellets or alfalfa hay below or above the cardboard layer. Also, recent further readings indicate that potatoes grow well as a pioneer crop.

I'm actually planning to start with potatoes and peas, then bush beans/pumpkins and eggplants/popcorn/pole beans, in my new raised bed this year. I did start getting this one ready last fall, though right now, it's still piled high with straw mulch. If it looks ready, then I'll just push aside the straw to plant. Otherwise, I'm thinking rough compost, alfalfa hay/pellets, newspaper layers, then bagged (weed free) mushroom compost/compost mix.

Also I mentioned this elsewhere too, but late last fall, when I dug the sunflower/corn/legumes row to plant fruit trees in, the ground was black, loose and fluffy to the depth of the gardening fork or more! It USED TO BE compacted clay under the sod.

Oh, it's fair to say I'LL NEVER dig up sod again. :wink:

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jal_ut
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Till It

[img]https://donce.lofthouse.com/jamaica/johndeeretill.jpg[/img]

Till It!
Gardening at 5000 feet elevation, zone 4/5 Northern Utah, Frost free from May 25 to September 8 +/-

Charlie MV
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Re: Till It

jal_ut wrote:[img]https://donce.lofthouse.com/jamaica/johndeeretill.jpg[/img]

Till It!

I'm making Tim the toolman Taylor noises. I love the picture and yours is definitely bigger than mine. :lol:

2cents
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Re: Till It

jal_ut wrote:[img]https://donce.lofthouse.com/jamaica/johndeeretill.jpg[/img]

Till It!
When I grow up I want to be just like jal_ut

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rootsy
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Or better yet... Plow it in the fall and let it overwinter :) Then hit it with the rototiller in the spring...

[img]https://i108.photobucket.com/albums/n27/jaroot13/Picture388458.jpg[/img]

Charlie MV
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Everybodys is bigger than mine. :oops:

pursuinghim
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Coloradodog,

Where do you get white plastic? Does it need to be a certain thickness? I can think of trash bags, but that would take w-a-a-a-a-y too many bags. Thanks!

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rootsy
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Find a dairy farm... With silage on site... in the bunker they'll use a white one side / black other side plastic sheet to cover the silage to protect it from the weather... On smaller farms that bag their silage they don't reuse the bag... they are white...

rosemaryhoney
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Thanks for all the input, everyone. I wish we'd covered in the fall, but time didn't permit. I'm going to try out the plastic method, and then till the compost into the ground.

We'll see how it goes!

Snippy
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Lasagna Gardening

What is lasagna gardening? Is that used in raised beds? I also plan on starting a garden in an area that was a garden at one time. With those who have done raised beds in the past, would you use manure or compost the first year or what is recommended as a mixture with the soil?
And...for those who have done raised beds, what are the benefits for doing so? Lots of questions. :?:

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smokensqueal
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Snippy: Lasagna gardening is just a way to "build" a garden bed. I can be done in a raise bed or just right on the ground. Google it and there are a lot of helpful tips on what it is and how it works.

I do a raised bed and it started out for the small fact that I wanted a devider between my yard and my garden. I came to find out that my ground is SO wet in the spring that I would never be able to plant early crops directly into the ground. My raised bed has provided my a better drainage and there for can plant early crops.

As far as compost or manure goes it depends on what type of manure you have and if it's fresh or aged. You usually don't want to put any fresh manure on your garden in the spring. Depending on what animal it came from it could "burn" your plants. BUT it's great to put on in the fall once your garden is done. And to what mixture will depend on what your soil is like sandy or clay or some where in between. But compost is good for any type of soil so if you have it use it.

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