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Lawn to garden

 
Posts: 33
Location: 7b
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Happy autumn!

Now that the heat in garden zone 7b has blown by, I am ready to get back to my outdoor projects.

I have about 2 acres of lawn that will eventually be given new life as gardens. Starting with a little less than one acre of weedy grass first. I have an abundance of packing paper and cardboard boxes.

I have read and viewed plenty of videos that show either removing the grass or flipping the grass before placing the cardboard. With a first step of mowing the grass short first. Yet, I have read one tid bit of keeping the grass and weeds as is with the cardboard on top. The reading stated this was more true to permaculture gardening because it creates a more healthy condition. The greens and browns working together to breakdown with cardboard still suffocating the grass and weeds. Great for the worms.

Looking for some insightful experience please. If it matters, the area I am starting with will be raised beds.

Thanks,
Pamela
 
Posts: 52
Location: Vancouver, Washington
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I can vouch that it does work. We have many beds that were grass when we started making them last fall.  We did not tear the grass up.  We just piled cardboard or newspaper and dirt on top of the grass to a thickness of 8-15".  Some grass has managed to grow through this year but not much at all.  And our plants have been happy as can be.  I would say save your back and your energy and don't bother trying to remove the grass before putting down your raised beds.  
 
pamela darcy
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Thank you Jen for the helpful reply.
Approximately how long was your wait period before you started gardening on the new area?
 
Jen Swanson
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We planted lavender and peonies in two of the beds right after we prepared them.  We planted the vegetable garden the next spring.  I don't think you need to wait at all really.  Have fun!
 
pollinator
Posts: 320
Location: Northwest Missouri
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To some extent, it depends on how stubborn your grass is. If it was Bermuda grass then definitely worth the effort to chop and flip (there's a machine most rental places have that will cut your sod an inch or so below the soil.) But for the large size you are doing it would be hard to justify all that sod cutting with "normal" grass.

Curious, you mention the acre you are working on but also that you are starting with raised beds. Not sure if you are trying to smother everything in that acre or just where the individual spots where beds will be. Either way, I'd build the beds first, put down the smothering layers inside, and start throwing in more and more organic matter. For example, right now is the perfect time to use your mower to chop up a nice mixture of grass and leaves to add to those beds.
 
pamela darcy
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Jen - Yes, I certainly plan to enjoy this project. I am working on my graph paper layout right now. Will start my seeds indoors for a spring planting.

Matt - I have never bothered to research what types of grasses I have. There are several patches of different types. Since moving to this property, I always knew I would be removing all the grass. All of my identification time is spent on the many weeds and flowers here.
I won't be doing the entire acre at once this autumn. I am working on the exact size right now based on how many beds and paths. Would like my paths between beds to not have grass either. At least 104 feet across in either direction. I am starting in a circle in the middle of this acre and working outward. Because of neighbor's dogs (many) and horses that run free everywhere, including on my property, I will be putting up temporary fencing that can easily be expanded as I expand my garden. Also taking into consideration easy access to where I will catch water, compost pile, sun, etc.
Raised beds seem to be the best option for me. Besides a great amount of large rock, we have a tremendous amount of debris buried from previous owner. Debris that I do not want to grow food in such as tires, car parts, glass, and building materials.
Mowed grass mulch, yes. My new mower with mulch capability arrives next week.
 
Jen Swanson
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Hi again.  When I watched this video, I thought of you.  It's a good instructional video on sheet mulching lawns/weeds.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4PB0Ym_iXmc  I was thinking it might come in helpful even after you get past the raised bed work you are doing.
This you tube video link was attached to an email I got from ChipDrop, which is a great source for free mulch, if they are in your area.  I just got 20 yards of pine bark from them for free!!!
 
pamela darcy
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Thank you Jen for the info. I watched the video, so easy. I am purchasing more temporary fencing tomorrow for the area I am starting in. I also signed up for chip drop, thanks. I will post pics of the progress.
 
gardener
Posts: 1774
Location: Los Angeles, CA
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I've never flipped the sod over and I get 99.9% grass kill within 2 months.  I don't mow it either.  

2 or more layers of cardboard, covered with a foot of wood-chips.  The only thing that might come up is crab-grass, but if it pushes through all those wood chips, its easily yanked out.

Try to remove the plastic tape from cardboard boxes before you lay it down, or you'll be finding long strings of non-decomposed packing tape in your garden for years to come.
 
pamela darcy
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Thank you Marco. I have enough cardboard and packing paper to put down several layers. No tape, I did not want any plastic in the garden. Plenty of time for a spring planting, yay.
 
pamela darcy
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Thank you for the cardboard info. While the cardboard method worked great for naturally killing the grass, I was not able to garden in that area. Discovered a pipe under a rock that is for the septic tank, so the area may be the septic field. Yuck, did not want to grow my veggies there. Removed the fencing. Saving more cardboard for the next location. One thing after another, yet determined to create a property that works for me and the environment.

pamela
 
master steward
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Location: USDA Zone 8a
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Pamela, sorry to hear about the problem with the garden.  

Have you thought of turning it into a butterfly or hummingbird garden?  Pollinators need gardens too.

https://permies.com/t/121389/design-hummingbird-garden

 
pamela darcy
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Thank you Anne, yes. Looking into how to determine exactly where all three septic tanks and drain pipes are located on this property. Found nothing in the purchase paperwork. Neighbors do not know. Cannot get in contact with original owner. Had watched a video, but that was not helpful, mostly rock and debris so I really could not be sure what I would be hitting. Yes, once I have an idea of where things really are, I would like to then plan the fruit trees, edibles in containers, and native pollinator gardens.

In the meantime, I do have a concrete slab I can start planting edibles in containers until I can make better use of the property.


🙄
Pamela
 
Anne Miller
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Pamela said, "Looking into how to determine exactly where all three septic tanks and drain pipes are located on this property. Found nothing in the purchase paperwork.



Nowadays, septic systems are regulated by the state so depending on your state, that might be where to look to find that info.

Try contacting local septic tank installers to see how this is regulated by the state and if they might be able to give you that info.  They might charge though it is possible they could come out and locate the tanks for you.
 
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Where I live, although septic systems are serviced by private companies, the county keeps service records, as we are required to have them at least inspected regularly. You may want to check with your county to find out if they keep service records, because then you'll get the name of the company that most recently serviced your system, and they should be able to provide those details on where it's safe to dig, plant trees, etc. I don't think raised beds would be an issue.
 
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