removing sod to make shrub bed

fillagirlJune 6, 2011

Hello all, I am going to remove sod from my yard, from about 5 feet from the fence right to the fence. I want to plant shrubs among the trees I already have there and just have mulch in places where there are no plants. Anyway, looking at a few options:

1. Remove sod with sod cutter and bring sod to landfill. Read that this takes away a lot of nutrients, since many nutrients in topsoil

2. Remove sod with sod cutter, turn the sod upside down and place black tarp over this to ensure grass doesn't grow back.

3. Use lasagna method - layers with wet newspaper and cardboard, then add dirt and compost over top. I hear this takes a LONG time I hear and not confident the grass won't grow back.

Anyone have experience doing this on the Canadian Prairies? Recommendations? Thanks for your help!

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mytime(3/4 Alaska)

I'm not on the Canadian Prairies, but I'm not sure what difference that would make, since what I'm doing successfully I got from reading about people's experiences in many different climates, and then just tweaking it.

Where I want to plant a shrub (or tree or perennial) I remove the sod as I dig the hole for the plant, so how much I remove depends on the size of the plant. After planting, I lay newspaper on the soil, and then place the sod upside down on the newspaper, cover sod with more newspaper, and then put whatever over it...dirt, mulch...just something to hold down the paper and keep it dark down there so the grass won't grow. If I have plenty of dirt (but I rarely do), I'll put the sod someplace else rather than replace it around the plant. Everyplace else, I just leave the sod, cover with newspaper, and then cover with mulch. The key is probably using more newspaper than you think you find that much, you can call your local paper...I can go pick-up as much as I want on Tuesday mornings from their over-run. In a very wet year, the paper disintegrates faster and you may have to replace some the following year to get the grass to totally die, but it's pretty easy to pull back the mulch and slap down more paper.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2011 at 11:05AM
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bdgardener(3 AB)

I have done it both ways, removing the sod will be lots of work and since you have no place to dump it, it might get expensive. I dump mine in a slough. This way you will not have grass issues next year.

I have also just covered the sod with newspaper and cardboard but if you do this then I would try and make it an inch thick, sounds like alot but any less and I have had grass come through the same year. Then cover with mulch 4-6 inches. I would still remove the sod around where the bushes will be and put newspaper almost to the trunk. Lot less work, except for collecting all the newspaper.

Hope this helps. Cheryl

    Bookmark   June 6, 2011 at 2:18PM
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We've removed sod, piled it in an out-of-the-way place upside down and let it decompose for a few years. Turns into nice soil but of course there are several downsides to that method.

This year I'm removing sod, quackgrass, and many weeds and have piled them and covered with a black tarp. Eventually they will decompose.

In garden beds I have not had success with layers of newspaper under mulch as the weeds just pushed right thru. I use cardboard/mulch and it works well. I weed thoroughly around shrubs/perennials, then cut a 'keyhole' in the cardboard as small as possible and place that around the plant. Cover with mulch without getting it too much on the stems.

If making a new bed where grass was growing I think you can do a modified lasagna by cutting out holes, amending, planting shrubs, then use layers of cardboard making sure to overlap very well. Just use mulch on top of the cardboard. The decomposing grass will make a great soil amendment. Grass cannot grow without light. I always water the beds well before putting the cardboard down.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2011 at 2:45PM
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northspruce(z3a MB CDA)

I have never had good results removing grass unless it was either physically removed or completely killed with Round Up.

I used to remove sod manually and apply plastic lawn edging, but it takes away not only nutrients but also 4 inches of soil depth so my gardens were always low. Like Luckygal I also have a dark corner I would dump it in and after 3 years the grass is all gone and I used to fill my vegetable garden boxes.

The last big garden I made, I dug in lawn edging and killed everything inside with Round Up. Then I waited a month and RUed again to get rid of survivors. It's been the most satisfactory method so far.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2011 at 4:39PM
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Thanks for your ideas. I'm toying with the idea of using the sod cutter, turning the sod AND putting cardboard over it. Maybe it's overkill or doing things you don' need to do. I guess I really don't want to deal with grass growing through, and also don't want to have to replace 4 inches of soil if we just remove the sod and haul it away.

More research I guess...I don't want to use Round Up as I just planted 10 cedars and have other trees already growing and don't want to kill them.

Thanks again for all your ideas and sharing your experiences.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2011 at 12:43AM
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freezengirl(3aMN and 5AK)

I just plant my plants in holes directly in the ground then lay down cardboard and cover with mulch matirial. I have and do use newspaper also but the cardboard lasts much better. I have done my gardens this way for years in muliple states and it has worked well for me. The worms love the soil and sod decomposing over time. Just be sure to keep adding mulchable matirials whenever it looks like it needs some.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2011 at 7:31PM
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Thanks freezengirl. For those that use cardboard, does it have to be an inch think? Or will one layer do it?

And so it would be:
1. Plant shrubs
2. Put cardboard down (one inch thick?) around trees & shrubs, to make grass die.
3. Layer with mulch (one inch?)
4. Enjoy your new grass-free (hopefully) and weed-free border?

    Bookmark   June 10, 2011 at 8:49AM
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I'm about to do the same thing as you are, except not 5 feet wide. I'm planning on flipping the sod, covering with plastic for a few weeks or so until I have time to plant, removing the plastic of course, covering with a thick piece of cardboard (the kind appliances come in), cutting a hole in the cardboard, planting the shrubs, and then covering with compost or soil or whatever I can dig up, and then grass clippings thereafter.

I covered a quackgrass and weed infested area with cardboard last year and didn't pick a weed after at all. I cover with grass clippings and have only picked 2-3 weeds growing on the top this year, so the cardboard is still doing the trick =:)

I just did another small bed and just covered the grass with layers of newspaper. I sure hope it works. Time will tell which method was the best.

Good luck with whatever you try!

    Bookmark   June 10, 2011 at 12:32PM
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Fillagirl - I use cardboard from cardboard boxes and only use one layer altho overlap by several inches so it's double in many areas. I recently got some large sheets of thicker cardboard from a business that had heavy items shipped. I know it will be more difficult to work with tho and I'll likely end up cutting it up into more manageable pieces.

I've had to redo a lot of areas where I used newspaper as the dandelions push their way thru and I won't waste time using it again. Probably depends on what type of weeds one has.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2011 at 3:20PM
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Forgot to mention I try to use more than an inch of mulch on top of the cardboard altho sometimes have to add more later if supply is low. I'd like to do a minimum of 2" but make my own mulch and rarely have enough.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2011 at 3:23PM
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I forgot to mention one of your options. The sod cutter. Will you have help if you decide to use one? I think they weigh about 200 pounds =:(

    Bookmark   June 10, 2011 at 9:57PM
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freezengirl(3aMN and 5AK)

I do the same as Luckygal, one layer of cardboard with overlapping edges. My first garden area I did this way years ago was almost five years old and the cardboard was still intact. Newspapers disintegrate usually in a year or so, plus they are a pain to work with. I do use them but only in areas that get break through weeds (usually where I cut through cardboard to plant). In a shrub border you shouldn't have to add much if any soil on top, just cover with mulch matirial to hide the cardboard usually a couple inches thick will do.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2011 at 1:06PM
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