New flower bed, without pulling up the old sod

Lauren1123(4)March 24, 2012

Has anyone tried starting a new bed by laying down newspaper, then piling soil on top of that?

I want to start a new cutting bed, but I don't think my back can take pulling up the sod, we have extremly heavy clay soil that sticks to the roots, I use a garden knife and slice it out foot by foot, I've read that if you put a thick layer of newspaper down, then pile up to eight inches of soil on top, it will eventually kill the grass underneath.

Supposedly it can be done in the spring, but it seems to me it would take a long time for the newspaper and grass to decompose. I am planting zinnias cosmos etc, mostly annuals for cutting, their roots don't grow all that deep, so maybe it would be more of a raised bed, and the roots wont even reach the layer of newspaper/grass seems like I need a lot of dirt to actually smother the grass, and if the grass is decomposing, will it affect the soil chemistry above? Thanks!

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penny1947(z6 WNY)

Hi Lauren
I built nearly all of my flower beds using the lasagna method. It works great and I even put my plants in the ground an hour after I finished one bed (n I took a break and had lunch boefore planting). Besides using just topsoil over the newplaper, I layered, leaves, copmpost and peat moss that way you don't have to use as much soil.

Last summer I did my last bed and used cardboard instead of newpaper. I did wait A couple of weeks to plant in that bed only because my plants weren't ready to go in but the cardboard just like the newpaper breaks down really fast especially when you keep it moist.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2012 at 12:17PM
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Thanks Penny! " lasagna method" I like that, I am using a compost, topsoil mix, I think I will layer in some leaves with the next row to, I hate buying dirt, wish i had figured this out years ago, would've spared my back a little!

    Bookmark   March 24, 2012 at 12:56PM
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penny1947(z6 WNY)

It is a great way of creating new beds without having to dig out grass and weeds.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 9:21AM
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I've used this method for many flower and vegetable beds! It works well, just remember to keep it wetted, as that speeds the decomposition incredibly! I find that cardboard is much better at smothering out weeds and grass than the newspaper is, and if you go to an appliance store you can ask for some large boxes that will cover the whole area easily. Newspaper also tends to have lots of potentially dangerous toxins in the ink, especially if it's color ink. For that reason I try to avoid using it.

In my experience the only problem with this method is making sure you have enough material on top of the smothering layer, otherwise the roots of your flowers will be unable or unwilling to penetrate from the soft top layer into the hard, compatcted clay layer. And it could result in stunted or unhealthy flowers.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 9:22AM
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bernd ny zone5

I also used newspapers over shortly cut grass, then piled soil, chopped leaves on top. You can speed up the process by spraying the grass with Roundup first, but do that low when no wind is blowing. To enlarge borders into the lawn I turn over spade wide squares of sod.

When using this lasagna method, I actually planted trees/bushes/perennials right into the bed, with carefully burying cut-out sod deep into planting holes.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2012 at 1:25PM
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rini(Rochester, NY)

Lauren -

All my beds started as lasagna beds, as I have hard clay soil. I will take a full newspaper (for example, the lifestyle portion), soak it in a bucket until it's fully soaked, and then lay it down on the grass. then I cover it with compost or soil (whatever I have available).

If you can do it when the grass is short, that helps but it's not essential.

I heard that wet newspaper attracts worms. I'm not sure if that's true but I have to say that my gardens now have great soil and are full of worms.

as others have mentioned, you can plant right afterwards without any problems.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2012 at 4:07PM
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man am i glad that i read these posts!!! i just moved into a house in december and i wanted to do rased beds instead of tilling and all that because it will look neater and i can space them out some, i was trying to figure out if there was any way around removing all that sod, ive never heard of the lasagna meathod but am i sure glad i found this!!!

    Bookmark   April 19, 2012 at 8:24PM
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Thanks all for the great advice, My "lasagna" bed is, well a work in progress, you really do have to keep it well watered, mine is oh about 4' by 20', and I have not been the most diligent about keeping the newspaper moist. so some dandelions have poked through.
I've just added a layer of grass clippings on top of the topsoil compost mix, I think one more layer of dirt and I'm done, my compost always has a lot of sunflower seeds, and dreaded morning glories I'm afraid I will never get rid of, so I'm letting those germinate, then smothering them! All in all it is looking great, the morning doves and robins are currently enjoying sunning themselves on it, and the butterfly's seem to enjoy it to, one of these days i may get around to planting some seeds!

    Bookmark   April 20, 2012 at 10:28AM
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penny1947(z6 WNY)

Gardening and new beds are always a work in progress, even when you think you are done you will find that you want more beds.

Amber glad you found the info helpful

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 4:59PM
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