Easiest Way to Convert Lawn to Garden? Try Sod-Top Gardening
Checking off the items on my Mother’s Day honey-do list I found expansion of a garden front and center. For years, converting lawns to gardens was one of the most back-breaking tasks of the year. I used to dig up or rototill all that sod before working in compost or manure and hoping for the best with vegetables and flowers.
Several years ago, I learned about sod-top gardening from Maine Cottage Gardens, a top-of-the-ground method that is “non-invasive, quick, relatively painless, and does not require hours of work with a spade, or the use of a noisy, smelly, huffing, chuffing, power rototiller. It opens gardening to that segment of the population that is … ‘Machinery and Tool Challenged.’”
Here are the easy steps: Pick your site; mow it low to the ground; cover the area with wet newspaper or cardboard, but first soak the paper in warm water. A five gallon plastic pail works well. Lay the newspaper on the ground six layers thick, and over-lap it generously. On top of the paper put a layer of old horse dressing, manure of any stripe, municipal compost, or any of the commercial potting or planting mixes four to six inches in depth.
Except for the planting, your garden is done. Very few plants in the sod will be able to penetrate this layer of newspaper and manure, compost and/or soil. The result is that the grass and weeds die. An ambitious set of worms with an interest in digesting the news will turn the remnants of the sod, the newspaper, and the covering into a rich friable humus in a matter of months. At that time nothing is left of the sod or the newspaper and if a one inch layer of old manure is added yearly, the weed problems will be nil. Fall is the best time to do this so that the area is ready for planting in the spring.
With “Sod-Top Gardening” there is none of the character building aggravation of delayed gratification. You can plant immediately after laying down the newspaper and horse dressing. You can have your garden NOW, and build your character and tool handling skills elsewhere!
To plant, open a hole in the layer of newspaper, put some good soil in the opening, and set the plant in a depression in the newly placed soil. Small plants can be set in a shallow depression on top of the newspaper. Be sure to use good soil directly around the plant, and poke a few holes in the paper for drainage.