Converting lawn to vegetable garden, suggestions.

linchat(10b)February 4, 2009

Hello all, planning on converting a portion of my backyard to vegetable garden. This is atypical south florida soil, top soil first 7-10 inches then that I suppose white fill. Thoughts were to dig up some of the soil and amend with garden soil and mix it all up.

Any thoughts / suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

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trinigemini(10 Jupiter)

If you're not adverse to the idea I would not dig up at all...I would simply add to what is already existing. With this method you would not even need to dig up the lawn. Just lay down newspaper or cardboard, and cover with your choice of soil and mulch. At least that's what I've learned here...I've never done it myself but when I do convert my lawn that's what I would do.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2009 at 6:10PM
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I have done this at 2 different yards now and it is exhausting and backbreaking. Underneath that skinny topsoil is sandy, rubbly fill that won't grow anything but weeds and native plants. Amending it (adding good stuff) is a thankless task.

I agree with trinigemini: build beds on top of the grass. It's called "lasagna gardening" and you can do a search for that to see past threads/talk.

However having grown tomatoes this way in 2 places I can say that after a year the nematodes that live in the sandy soil below will make their way to your nice raised beds and damage the roots. Growing in pots or "posthole method" (another search) is the only way to grow tomatoes. I sink some of my pots in the ground and others stay on top.

There are probably lots of veggies you can grow in the raised beds that nematodes won't hurt. Lettuce and other greens (collards, kale) come to mind. I don't grow a lot of those so other great gardeners will have to chime in with suggestions.

But beds are great for growing lots of things, just not tomatoes in Florida. I wonder how commercial growers deal with nematodes?

    Bookmark   February 4, 2009 at 6:36PM
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tomncath(St Pete Z10a Heat 10)

Or, if you have level ground you could mark out an area, spray with Roundup to kill the grass, use a post-hole digger or shovel to dig the holds only ONCE (rather than every season) and do this, then cover the areas where you don't have pots with cypress mulch.


Here is a link that might be useful: Additional info on what I've done

    Bookmark   February 4, 2009 at 6:58PM
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The area is around the edge of my pool. Around the first 2 foot out of the edge of the cement around the pool I was going to convert a growing area. Just a single strip long. Was going to start with broccoli.

Trying to keep this garden as part of landscape and easily converted back to sod if need be. I was wandering if digging out a sort of trough and back filling with garden soil would not work. I would wrather not do that (lot of work), I like container idea, but I cannot find material to make Al's mix and do not want to be pulling pots to change soil. (already have a 30+ pot container garden). This is why I am looking to move into the grass now.

And do not have enough material for lasagna garden.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2009 at 7:37AM
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I think I remember seeing pictures of your backyard before. I missed the "this" like and now seeing the pictures, I like the idea. Prob is, I do not want to pull the pots every season to change the soil. I am going to have to do a think on this one. Do you water the plants every day with als mix?

    Bookmark   February 5, 2009 at 8:44AM
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Another way would be to
1.mark off the area
2.remove the grass with a shovel
3. comb out the roots with a rake
4. Dig the area to loosen up the top soil down to the rubble
5. Order a truckload of high quality compost (mushroom compost)
6. Spread the compost 6 to 8" deep over the planting area
and turn this in well.
7. level the planting area with a rake.
8. Straight the sides to 45 degree angle with a shovel
9. Plant

This would give you a sideless raised bed over a foot deep. All the compost (and the roots of the things you plant) will hold it together).

Check out Peter Chan's "Growing Vegetables the Chinese Way" for great pictures and more descriptions.


    Bookmark   February 5, 2009 at 8:50AM
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tomncath(St Pete Z10a Heat 10)

Do you water the plants every day with als mix?

In the late spring and summer you have to water every day, as cool as it has been I've been able to back off to every two or three days....

That's a really cool way of doing things Bill is talking about too.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2009 at 12:18PM
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I tend to want to do everything at once, the entire bed of x or y or around z, but... I've had much better luck doing small pieces at a time and using the lasagna method _ with boxes I happen to have. I always have enough boxes to do a small part of the bed and the beds I've been happiest with over time were the ones I've done that way, not the ones I did all at once, busting my back over a weekend so everything looked great. Those were the beds that ended up weedy and disappointing pretty quickly.

And, I've got broccoli heading up right now that I planted from seed over mulch, just spreading the seeds over the mulch and watering them in. The mulch was spread over cardboard.


    Bookmark   February 7, 2009 at 12:54AM
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I wonder how commercial growers deal with nematodes?

The commercial guys use raised beds that have been heat treated,use only the most root knot resistant varities,put in large transplants ,grow fast and harvest green tomatoes
to later be put in an ethelyn gas room. Ship north. Justas they start to turn red you get one on your Whopper.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2009 at 11:25PM
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thanks fishead. Informative and amusing :-)

    Bookmark   February 8, 2009 at 8:03AM
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I'm planning on doing this very thing myself this coming weekend. I'm planning on creating a slightly raised garden area in my back yard by tilling under the grassy area and then adding black cow and a little topsoil to the area and tilling it into the garden spot. It's primarily a mixed St Augustine lawn but I figure eventually, the tilled grasses will break down and compost into the soil.

It's been years(30+) since I had anything close to a garden spot to really plant anything in so I just want to get a plot of dirt that I can get started with quickly. I have a few different types of plants I'm in the process of starting that I'll be putting out there.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2009 at 12:25AM
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Lasagna gardening is definitely the way to go .
Build up adding organic matter rather than plow under store bought amendments .
With so little rich soil in Florida , we must create our own through layering and composting .
Layer cardboard boxes and newspaper . Water .
Add hay , wood chips or leaves . Water .
Purchase a truck load of mushroom compost . Water .
In my case , I add cow manure from my pastures .
Let age for a few weeks or a month .
Plant .
This works well in raised beds .
Here is another reason to use this method -

From the IFAS link :
Organic amendments can be added to soil as compost, manure, green manure, or other materials. Organic matter can help prevent nematode damage in several ways. The organic matter increases the ability of the soil to hold water and nutrients, and improve soil structure. This makes a better environment for most plants and can help the plants survive in spite of the nematodes. Organic amendments can also increase natural enemies of nematodes that suppress the nematode populations. Some organic amendments can release chemicals or gasses that are toxic to the nematodes.

There are several "organic" nematode management products for sale. Researchers with the University of Florida have worked with a number of these . In the majority of cases these products work no better than adding any other, less expensive, organic material.

Here is a link that might be useful: Managing Nematodes

    Bookmark   March 2, 2009 at 6:37AM
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Having broken a good bit of bahia pasture, culled out the grass, mixed in a lot of well-rotted cow manure and/or mushroom compost, I can report: the heavily enriched sand grows super crops for a short time, and the amendments waste away quickly and the nemotodes will come with any kind of typical weekend garden assortment of plant species, as mentioned above.

Not being here most of the year makes the necessary rotation plan difficult to enact, so most of y'all have the advantage in that regard. However probably most do not have the necessary space. I am beginning to think that five to ten times the square footage in veggies at any given time needs to be in various stages of rotation, including back into grass.

I think the lasanga method is a good choice if one has the materials, though one could also make use of the sod itself. Take a sharpened shovel and shear off the sod mass from an area the size of a desired planting bed and place it upside-down on top of the grass where another planting bed will be. Soak it down good and cover that with cardboard or something to exclude light but allow moisture through, keep it damp for several months and there will be the second bed ready for planting and moderately rich from the double amount of rotted sod. The first area that the sod was taken from can be used right away if there is some compost enough on hand to boost it up. After the first crop of vegetables it could be put into legume, then chop down the crop residue and cover and keep moist. And so on.

It'll surely work long term with little outside input, especially with irrigation, but a fair amount of space is required to produce fresh produce for several people.....

    Bookmark   March 2, 2009 at 8:36AM
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I'd definitely go with a raised "lasagna" bed; raised as high as you can manage. Kneeling on that concrete around the pool to weed will get old in a hurry.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2009 at 9:23AM
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Here is a bit of the method, in experimentation:

Hard to see detail in this washed-out photo, but there is the piled up sod between two dug out beds. You can see where I'm about to mix in some compost in one of the just dug beds, enough to fertilize and raise the ph a bit. Lawns and pastures generally have a reasonable ph in any case. In my case hairy indigo (a legume) is endemic, so I figure the ph must be around 6.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2009 at 12:56PM
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