Complete newbie to backyard gardening!

archoo16(5b, MO)April 30, 2014

hi, I currently live in an apartment with my balcony garden. I will be moving soon into a house with a back yard. I have zero knowledge about lawn care, gardening soil , mulching etc.
So when I want to clear an area in my lawn to put tomatoes and bulbs, do i have to lift the grass on it and put it some where and fill the area with garden soil?

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You will hear from many people that will tell you that you must pull that sod up. I find it unnecessary to do so and doing that removes needed organic matter from the soil as well as valuable nutrients.
I have, many times, created new planting beds by simply covering the existing grass with newspaper (or cardboard) and a material to both hold that paper in place and to hide it and in several weeks what was growing there is now dead and being incorporated into the soil and I can plant what ever I want.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2014 at 7:43AM
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archoo16(5b, MO)

Thank you for your feed back. Do you moisten the paper? And once that is done, should I add gardening soil to the ground?

    Bookmark   May 1, 2014 at 11:13AM
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My guess is that if you want to plant soon (in the next month), you'll find it much easier to remove the grass than to try to cover it and work with the dead grass. If you want to wait until next summer or plant later in the summer, then covering it would make sense because there will be more time for the grass to start to break down.

For planting edible things, if you have any concerns about the soil quality or possible contaminants (like if it is close to a house where there might have been lead paint flaking over the years, close to a highway, or near any other possible source of contamination), you might want to either have a soil test done or build a simple raised bed to fill with high quality soil. Your local extension office can help with soil tests--every state has at least one--just google it. If you decide to plant directly in your own soil, it is always good to mix in some organic compost first, and to add mulch on top to help keep down weeds.

Other than that, I'd say the best thing to do would be just to buy some plants and start experimenting. You'll learn much more by just doing it! Enjoy your new yard.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2014 at 11:00AM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

If you remove the sod, pile it up somewhere somewhere out of the way and cover it (so it will die). After a while** you'll have some extra soil to use elsewhere.

** A few months, IIRC.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2014 at 11:07AM
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There is no need to moisten the paper before applying it although wetting the soil might be beneficial.
You often read that someone recommends buying "garden soil" or "top soil" without defining what those things are. Soil is about 92 to 95 percent mineral, the sand, silt, clay particles that make up what we have under our feet. Often, good soil will have between 5 and 8 percent organic matter. So if you need to buy some soil forget those meaningless terms "top soil" and "garden soil" and look for soil that is between 92 and 95 percent mineral and 5 to 8 percent organic matter.
If you remove the sod, in the garden area, you will also be removing the "top soil", that top 4 to 6 inches of soil that meets the definition of "top soil" in every dictionary I have seen. So you remove the sod, till the area, wait a couple of weeks to till again ("weed" control), and wait a couple of more weeks to till again, etc. Many times I have plunked down newspaper, or cardboard, waited 6 weeks and planted in pretty grassless soil that was quite workable, or about the same time frame as removing the sod took.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 7:25AM
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archoo16(5b, MO)

Thank you ! I will be moving in by the end of next month. I will try both methods as I will be pressed for time by then.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2014 at 8:53AM
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