Easy way to kill lawn for flower bed?

disneynut1977(5b, Sunset zone 42)August 18, 2008

I'm converting my side yard next to my fence into a large bed. I have already done the front of the fence next to the street, but now I'm wondering what's the best way to finish the rest of it? The small raised section by the road, I pulled out the sod by hand, took me almost a month to complete. I now have ALOT left to do and would like to have the bed ready to start putting stuff in next late spring. I started pulling sod along the front border of it and will pull sod 1 foot up along the fence. What to do about the rest? I was thinking putting cheap plastic landscaping fabric down and than in Oct. putting my mulch on top, so it doesn't look so bad and pulling the plastic up late spring. Will that be long enough to kill it off? I'm going to be recieving a check in Oct. that I will be getting my mulch with and the fabric if I don't have ebnough $ to start buying the fabric now. Should I just go with cardboard instead? My hubby wants to do carboard, but I'm afraid it won't be enough to fry the weeds underneath. I will already have a 9'x9' section done that my tomatoes are in now. The grass has been already been killed there.

It's so big and I know pulling sod and breaking up the soil is the best thing, but it's sooo hard. Here's photo's of the section. If you look close enough you can see the border line I made with my shovel so far. Hopefully I can get the border and section by the fence dug up by Sept.

Please ignore the kiddie pool and toys. The 2 stakes mark the path that I'm leaving that leads to the back. The arbor in the back is getting pulled up to where the stakes are and my hubby is building a basic bigger arbor to put in the back.


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I haven't done this myself, but may have if I'd have read my Lasagna Gardening book in the late summer instead of early spring. It involves putting huge amounts of newspapers and I forgot what else, but I do remember something about 18 inches high. You could find a used copy on the internet, I'm sure. For that matter, you could Google the subject and find out how, I bet. I don't know if you could come up with the amount of things you'd need for that large of an area, though.

I hope someone else has some good ideas for you. Let us know what you do, and take more pics.


    Bookmark   August 18, 2008 at 5:16PM
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Look at the link below. Donn has a great plan. I've done this a few times and it has worked for me. You have a LOT of area to convert to garden. Another possibility would be to add compost, rototill, cover with newspaper, and LOTS of mulch. With enough mulch, the grass will die. You may have to pull/poison a bit here or there, but that is a lot less labor than pulling the whole thing. Don't worry about the cardboard not killing the grass. The idea here is to prevent light from hitting the grass, not to try to fry it.

Here is a link that might be useful: Donn's instant beds

    Bookmark   August 18, 2008 at 5:44PM
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You do have a lot of flower beds to create and I'm sure they will be lovely when you're finished. Here is how I create new flower beds. Put down layers of newspaper on top of the grass. Wet the paper or it will blow away. I wet it as I lay it down. Put a thick layer of compost on top of the paper, then mulch on top of the compost. Leave this long enough for the grass to die, then plant. The grass will decompose and you don't have to worry with digging it up. You can also use cardboard instead of newspaper. When you use newspaper, use only black printed paper, no color. Color ink has metal in it and you don't want this if you plan to grow edible plants.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2008 at 7:34PM
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disneynut1977(5b, Sunset zone 42)

Thank you, thank you, thank you for donn's instant bed link. that is perfect for me. I already have a decent amount of cardboard now. I'll keep collecting more and in Oct when I can get my mulch, I'll start doing this method and instantly covering it with my mulch and chopped up leaves. It's perfect for me. I will have to see if I can get my hubby to buy me a flat edge shovel though. It will make my cuts so much nicer. Our winters are coming in later than they used too, so Oct to Nov to finish it is enough time for me.


    Bookmark   August 18, 2008 at 8:55PM
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I usually dig up the sod and move it. But that's because I really need grass to hold my sandy soil here and there. It is a horrible job. SERIOUS muscle strain.

The cardboard WILL work. I've done it in several places. The only thing to know is that it takes a little time AND the more stuff you pile on top, the better. Mulch, compost, ground leaves, whatever. Just make a deep pile and it will work - especially up there where you are. You have all blessed winter for it to work!

I have one section of flowerbed where we put down horse feed bags - they are plastic lined. That's not good. For one thing the plastic NEVER goes away. AND the centipede lawn keeps growing underneath. I don't understand that because it dies where we put cardboard. There is still perfectly viable grass under the horse feed sacks. HUH???

    Bookmark   August 18, 2008 at 9:00PM
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midnightsmum (Z4, ON)

Hmmmm...this looks like a lot of work for the payback. How soon do you need that ground to be flower beds?? Just lay the coragated cardboard, the newspapers, everything at least one box thick and add : garden soil; compost; rotted leaves - whatever, at least 6" thick. Let it have the fall/winter to do it's magic. Donn worked way too hard.... OK, I'm not sure about the leaves....but let nature do the work.


    Bookmark   August 18, 2008 at 11:56PM
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I did a new tomato bed using a simplified lasagna method. It was much smaller than what your beds will be.

The year before, I laid down paper feed sacks; over these I put flakes of some old alfalfa hay. I just let it lay over winter.

I would lift a flake and put kitchen waste under.

I didn't cover with leaves, or compost or soil since I didn't have that readily available.

I have had the best tomatoes ever this year.

The decomposing lawn is a great additive to your beds.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2008 at 5:55AM
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disneynut1977(5b, Sunset zone 42)

I don't need to plant until next late spring 2009. So it can rest during the winter. I WS'd for the first time this past spring and I still have babies that need to go in, I'm running out of spots quickly. This is 1 of the very few areas on my property that get full sun requirements. Most of my yard is part sun- dappled shade due to all the trees. Even though it's a big area, I don't want to waste a bit. My list of seeds I have already aquired is longer than last year, so the bed I need for WS 09 has to be big. I am putting 2 4'x4' raised beds in this area for my garlic. This will be the first year I have tried garlic. So those 2 small square areas, I just have to level the box and fill up. I keep 1' high boxes, high enough to smother what's underneaath :) So, the garlic spots and current tomato spots will be taken care of.

I know it seems like alot. I have free time, enough for this. I work FT, but only 4d/w. I don't really have any other hobbies and I don't drive, so if I'm not at work, I'm home most of the time. So whenever I'm not cooking or taking care of my family, I have all this time to work on it. Just the digging of sod and skaking out all the dirt to save is getting tiring, that's why I'm looking for a easier way around it.

I was wondering how much compost I would need if I wanted to put about a 2" layer on the whole area? With all the maples I have, you would not believe the amount of leaves I get. If I mowed over them a few times, I could go lighter on the mulch and put some of that money into having 2-3 yards of compost delivered to me before it freezes up here if that's enough? I only need to save some leaves for my compost bin that I use for my small veggie beds. What ever kitchen scapes I have I save for the compost bin to mix in with my veggie beds.


    Bookmark   August 19, 2008 at 10:37AM
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fammsimm(Z8 DFW)

All my beds were made using the lasagna method. The beauty of this method is that it works without having to dig up sod.

Be sure to add coffee grounds to your lasagna beds. They are earth worm magnets!! You can go to your nearest Starbucks for all you want. It's part of their company policy to make used grounds available to gardeners.

Also pine needles, saw dust, and compost can be layered in your beds. I have found the more variety of material used, the richer the beds.

You have a beautiful area to work with. I hope you will post pictures of your completed bed!


    Bookmark   August 19, 2008 at 10:39AM
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abrodie(z6 ON)

I am a big fan of the lasagna method. All of my new beds have been done this way, and every one of them performs better than the old ones. It is unbelieveably easy!!!

Recently a friend of my husband's called to ask me about this when he wanted to do his back garden. I explained it to him in about 2 mins. I suggested he put the shovel AWAY, absolutely not necessary, and explained the benefits of all that rotting stuff to his future gardens. He was extremely skeptical, said it sounded too easy. Apparently he "tried", gave up because it was "so complicated", and dug up the whole thing and spent the next 4 or 5 days complaining about how sore he was. This guy is a black belt in karate and said digging the garden was worse than an afternoon in the dojo. No kidding.



    Bookmark   August 19, 2008 at 10:50AM
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terrene(5b MA)

LOL abrodie! I think your friend was making lasagne too complicated!!

Disneynut, since you are willing to wait until next Spring for your beds, lasagne is perfect. It is the easiest, albeit perhaps the slowest, way to make bed.

Donn's instant bed method is good if you have reasonably easy soil to dig and you want an "instant" bed. I don't have easy soil in most parts of the yard, there are too many roots, rocks, invasives, and even pavers and debris, to dig out. I did use Donn's method in one corner where there are no tree roots and I needed to expand an edge by 1 foot. Donn's method is also a fair amount of work because you must cut through the sod and turn the soil.

I have been making hundreds of SF of new beds since Fall 06, mostly using different lasagne/layering techniques, but I've also dug a lot out by hand, and I'm experimenting with solarizing in a garden way out back.

You DO NOT NEED A DEEP LAYER to kill off grass and weeds. I am killing off extremely tough weedy areas in the way back of my yard - including such invasives as Buckthorn, Oriental bittersweet, and assorted weeds - simply by using brown paper leaf bags and grass clippings. I collect bags of grass clippings at the municipal compost site. Tear open bag and lay it out flat right on top of the weeds. Then spread 1-2" of grass clippings on top. That's it. Can you believe the stuff is dying? The grass clippings are excellent because they dry out and congeal to form an impenetrable layer. This is NOT good for mulch, but great for smothering. Important note - don't use green grass clippings in close proximity to people who have olfactory senses. Greens such as fresh grass clippings will stink to high heaven until they dry out (unless they're mixed with some browns)!

Note that coffee grounds are an excellent layer too, but not too thick because they congeal as well! And they also smell a bit but not as bad as grass clippings.

If your soil is lean and you want to add extra organic matter, layer it deeper. Rake it out, top it off with some wood chips or bark mulch, and let her sit!! :)

    Bookmark   August 19, 2008 at 12:15PM
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terrene(5b MA)

You can use cardboard, newspapers, pizza boxes, and/or brown paper bags for the paper layer too. They will all kill your grass. Also, you could top it off with leaves, or shredded leaves which are a bit tidier looking, which will break down faster than chips. Whatever you prefer!

    Bookmark   August 19, 2008 at 12:51PM
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I stand corrected. ;-) Trust these ladies. If they say less work will create a beautiful bed, then by all means, do it. I'm a relative newbie. I wish I had the means to transport lots of organic material to try the lasagna method. It seems like a perfect solution to my clay.

If you need to order in large quantities of compost, try to find a compost farm or municipality. Here in SE Michigan, I can order compost delivered for $25-30 a cubic yard. By the time I add in mulch, it can get pretty pricy. That explains the 10 yards of free tree trimmer chips covering two of my gardens.

To figure the amount of landscape material you need:
Calculate the square footage of garden.
1 cubic yard=27 cubic feet
1" Depth=324 square feet of coverage/cubic yard
2" Depth=162 square feet of coverage/cubic yard
3" Depth=108 square feet of coverage/cubic yard

Your yard is beautiful and the "line" you have traced for the garden is lovely. I'm jealous of your energy for this space. I hope you enjoy every minute of turning the lawn into garden.

By the way, DH is a Disney Nut as well.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2008 at 1:01PM
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I hope I am at the right place to ask.. I have an existing flower bed including two shrubs. The bed has bulbs and some flowers, but is rife with crab grass.. once spring passes it is unsightly.. I am fed up and want to start over..can I do this cardboard thing in the fall and cover it with leaves right over the scrubby mess I have now, or do I have to dig the plants out.. the shrubs (one at either end can stay)

any ideas/suggestions is MUCH appreciated.
thank you

    Bookmark   October 22, 2008 at 4:17PM
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libbyshome(z9a BC)

If I were you Sue, I'd dig up the perennials and bulbs, clean the crabgrass off them and plant immediately in another bed or in pots or toss them out. Then cover the old area. Anything you cover will die and the earth will be enriched.


    Bookmark   October 22, 2008 at 5:58PM
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aftermidnight Zone7b B.C. Canada

I was in a similar situation and this is what I did. I had a bed under a Dogwood tree chock-a-block full of crocus and snowdrops AND weeds AND grass. I didn't want to dig all these bulbs out weed the bed and replant 100's of bulbs so this is what I did. In the spring after the bulb foliage had matured I covered the bed with a very thick landscape fabric and mulched with shavings. The bulbs were about to go dormant so the fabric and shavings didn't hurt them but it killed all the weeds and grass and looked neat all summer.
I have just lifted the fabric cloth and removed the shavings (second year doing this), nothing but bare earth no weeds, no grass, I top dressed the bed with some sea soil, compost would do. In the spring all the bulbs will be coming up for the second time minus the weeds and grass :o). This won't work if you have perennials mixed in this bed but for a bulb only bed it really works. I don't know if cardboard will have decomposed enough in one season to allow the bulbs to poke through.


    Bookmark   October 22, 2008 at 6:24PM
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disneynut1977(5b, Sunset zone 42)

I thought it was funny when I saw responses to my thread. I will be taking photo's soon. I am more than halfway done covering the area with cardboard than a thick layer of mulch. I have already gone through 4 yards of mulch(1 yard left) and I think I'm gonna need 3 more. My hubby told me I had to stop though. He said to wait until the spring to buy the rest of the mulch. I'll still cover the remaining area with double layer cardboard and top off with leaves until the spring. When I started putting down cardboard and covering with mulch I had alot of people slowing down as they drove by to look. I'm hoping I can have the last yard put down tommorrow and will try to post pics of it.


    Bookmark   October 22, 2008 at 9:18PM
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This year is the first time I've tried a lasagna bed and I think it's a fantastic idea, wish I had done it decades ago. I used cardboard boxes cut open and made sure the edges overlapped well and there were no holes. They can be covered with more cardboard pieces or many layers of newspaper. Then DH cleaned out the barn and piled the old straw, sawdust, shavings, and of course the sheep manure on top to a depth of a couple of feet. Over 3 months it decomposed to about a foot thick. He's just added more which hopefully will rot down by next spring. We've also used old coffee grounds we get from the coffee shop in town and grass clippings from the lawn. One thing I did was to water the lawn well first, then soak the cardboard, and water each layer. Occasionally over the summer I watered it when there was no rain. I've had to weed it but didn't want to cover it - heard on the soil forum that's a no-no. I'm planning to use cardboard between the plants next spring tho cause I think it's a weed crop waiting to happen.

In the past when I wanted to turn lawn into flower beds DH had to dig out all the grass and that's much more labor intensive than this lasagna thing.

There is a lot of good info on the soil forum here at GW: http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/soil/

Here is a link that might be useful: lasagna gardening

    Bookmark   October 23, 2008 at 1:11AM
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Since this thread has been revived, I'll add my $.02. I was just planting some bulbs in my 2 lasagna garden areas, from this year and last year. I was amazed at how great the dirt was in there! I did cardboard boxes, grass clippings, leaves, and a few inches of compost that we bought from our landscapers (since we don't generate nearly enough on our own). I did have to weed a bit, but mainly in between the new plants. Those beds I started in spring, just a couple weeks before planting.

I am currently filling up my veggie boxes for next spring. They have cardboard, grass clippings, and I am gradually adding leaves. One of them has all of the compost from my own bin - I managed to cover the surface, lol.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2008 at 10:34AM
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teresa_b(z6 MO)

Like everyone else, I cannot say enough great things about lasagne gardening. When I finish my beds, they are about 18 inches high because I am using fresh horse manure instead of composted manure. Let it sit for six months and it is awesome. And, weeding is not even a chore as you have 12 inches of fluffy stuff and they pull out so easily. My soil is clayey and full of rocks but I have transformed terrible areas into "to die for" gardening areas as they are so great to work with. Planting bulbs is a snap as one digs holes so easily. I was amazed how quickly I planted dozens of bulbs.

I have one more bed to put in this Autumn and I'm then set.

One good thing: I have finally convinced DH to set aside several big piles of manure with his tractor and he "stirs" it with the tractor bucket once a month. This way, I will have composted manure for top dressing all my established flower gardens in the Spring.


    Bookmark   October 23, 2008 at 9:12PM
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Do you guys think I could put the cardboard over the perennials that are in my ugly flower bed, or do I have to rip them out?

I know this is a basic quesiton, but what is the lasagna formulation, does the stuff have to go in a particular order?

Newspaper, leaves, grass clippings are three things I can get quite easy, what other items should I be looking for.
What other things can act as mulch or whatever I need..can I cover the whole lot with plastic, so I don't have to look at it? I would like to do this soon as it is getting cold here (southwestern Ontario)

thanks and thanks for the patience.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2008 at 7:03PM
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disneynut1977(5b, Sunset zone 42)

Here's an update with pics. I'm almost done. Just have a very small section to cover now. I am considering doing the patch next to the driveway too. I ran out of mulch though. I think I need another 3 yards to finish with mulch, but started using leaves instead. I have tons of leaves.



    Bookmark   November 7, 2008 at 10:02AM
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