Here's what I'm wondering:
Should I create the area now before the ground freezes or wait until spring?
Should I take the grass out and compost it or should I till it into the soil?
What kind of tool would be best for doing all of this?
Any suggestions on dimensions for the garden? I was going to go with 16'x16'. Will that be an overwhelming size to start with?
Give me a play by play! I've never started my own garden before, although I've helped with planting in already established gardens. Any advice would be quite welcome, thanks!
Hello and welcome from NW Ohio! I've done it both ways and will tell you what I learned:
1. The first plots I dug I removed the grass (sod) and composted it. Big Mistake!! You try turning the compost pile when it has huge clumps of grass roots and dirt! Impossible! I physically had to tear each clump with my hands into smaller hand-sized chunks and it was a nightmare! Of course, I did this in spring because I needed to use the plot right away.
2. The next plots I dug this fall I removed the sod with a spade and turned it over. I left it a few days for the plant to go into distress. I then broke up the sod clumps with a hoe (but the one I have has pointy teeth--don't know what to call this tool) and it was much easier than doing it by hand! I then tilled the sod (which was by then reduced to topsoil and organic material
) back into the top 12" inches or so with my garden fork.
I suppose that the grass plant will then die and get eaten by worms this fall and winter and will be all ready to plant by this spring. That's the theory anyway. Whenever you remove grass you always have to be on the lookout for any grass blades trying to make a comeback!
If I was you, I'd search for lasagna gardening, which is tons easier if you don't have to plant right away. I can't do it in my garden because I have heavy clay soil that I needed to amend and don't want to mess with raised beds.
I have to be completely honest: I established my newest bed at 120 sq ft this fall. I had to remove the sod, break it up and till it in with my other amendments. It took me over 24 hours of pure back-breaking labor. I did 2 hours/day for 2 weeks. I hope to never do that again!! Come spring I'm going to fork it over and plant and that'll be it since it's destined to become a perennial bed anyway and will only get top-dressed from now on. Whew!
P.S. Your dimensions sound fine, just be sure to leave designated areas for walking paths. Good luck and let us know how it goes!