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Need feedback on my plan on turning lawn to vegetable growing area  RSS feed

 
Annie Collins
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Hi all!
I am sure this question has been answered somewhere in these threads, but putting in the keywords brings back literally 1000s of threads to go through and I don't have the time since it is autumn and time is of the essence.

I am starting a market garden. I plan on starting small so I don't get overwhelmed. My hope is that I will have the area dedicated in my yard for the market garden ready for planting in the spring. Right now it is all grass. Not well kept grass, just mowed. Here, then, is my plan, the first part already started:

I mowed the lawn short. Next I put about 8" of 1 year old leaf compost on it. I plan on next putting some alpaca manure, worm castings, and azomite on the leaf compost, then raking that all in. I then plan on putting a layer of cardboard over the whole thing, weighing it down, and letting it sit for the winter.
I have 2 questions: Did I do it backwards with the cardboard? Should I have put it directly on the grass?
The other is should I be doing some soil loosening with a broadfork or digging fork before I put the final (or first) cardboard layer on?

I appreciate any ideas/advice!
 
Phil Stevens
Posts: 40
Location: Ashhurst New Zealand
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There's no right or wrong way to do this. Just what works in your situation. We put cardboard down first, directly on top of the grass, and then pile on rotting wood, leaves, manure, grass clippings, etc. The advantage of doing it this way is that the cardboard doesn't blow away. We get a bit of wind here. Also, since some of our grasses are just plain weedy like couch and Johnson grass, I'm of the mind that the cardboard is the main defense against the grass re-establishing itself in the beds.
 
Angelika Maier
pollinator
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Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
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I would slice the lawn away fist compost that thoroughly, grass is a terrible weed.
 
Scott Foster
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Annie Collins wrote:Hi all!
I am sure this question has been answered somewhere in these threads, but putting in the keywords brings back literally 1000s of threads to go through and I don't have the time since it is autumn and time is of the essence.

I am starting a market garden. I plan on starting small so I don't get overwhelmed. My hope is that I will have the area dedicated in my yard for the market garden ready for planting in the spring. Right now it is all grass. Not well kept grass, just mowed. Here, then, is my plan, the first part already started:

I mowed the lawn short. Next I put about 8" of 1 year old leaf compost on it. I plan on next putting some alpaca manure, worm castings, and azomite on the leaf compost, then raking that all in. I then plan on putting a layer of cardboard over the whole thing, weighing it down, and letting it sit for the winter.
I have 2 questions: Did I do it backwards with the cardboard? Should I have put it directly on the grass?
The other is should I be doing some soil loosening with a broadfork or digging fork before I put the final (or first) cardboard layer on?

I appreciate any ideas/advice!


Hi Annie,

Normally you put the cardboard, newspaper etc., down first because it acts to suppress weed and grass growth.  Eventually, the cardboard will become mulch itself.      Also, there is no need to use a broadfork..the worms and rollies will do all of the work for you by gobbling up all of the goodies you put down. You could fork the garden but it's just more work and not necessary in my opinion.    Try to do a good overlap on the cardboard or the grass will find it's way out...ask me how I know that
 
Annie Collins
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I appreciate everyone's responses. I was thinking that such a thick layer of compost and the cardboard on top would still kill the grass. But I can see how cardboard put down directly on the ground first might be more effective. I already put the compost on half of the area. Now the question is if I should rake it aside to lay the cardboard first or just leave that side as is and lay the cardboard directly on the grass with the area I still need to do. It'd make for a good little experiment, I suppose.
So loosening the soil is not necessary? When spring comes  will I be planting into the compost mixture, or will it be so broken down and incorporated into the soil due to our little earth helpers having done such a great job of breaking everything down, that I won't even recognize the layers anymore? I have trouble imagining that. We are in zone 7a, so while we don't get long, harsh winters, we do still get plenty of freezing temps.
As far as taking the sod up, oh no! It is work enough carting the compost from the front of the yard to the back, 6 cubic feet at a time. I definitely won't be adding taking up the sod to the project, too. I know grass can be tenacious, but I will just deal with that if the time comes.
Thank you, everyone, for helping me think this through!
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Annie Collins wrote:Hi all!
I am sure this question has been answered somewhere in these threads, but putting in the keywords brings back literally 1000s of threads to go through and I don't have the time since it is autumn and time is of the essence.

I am starting a market garden. I plan on starting small so I don't get overwhelmed. My hope is that I will have the area dedicated in my yard for the market garden ready for planting in the spring. Right now it is all grass. Not well kept grass, just mowed. Here, then, is my plan, the first part already started:

I mowed the lawn short. Next I put about 8" of 1 year old leaf compost on it. I plan on next putting some alpaca manure, worm castings, and azomite on the leaf compost, then raking that all in. I then plan on putting a layer of cardboard over the whole thing, weighing it down, and letting it sit for the winter.
I have 2 questions: Did I do it backwards with the cardboard? Should I have put it directly on the grass?
The other is should I be doing some soil loosening with a broadfork or digging fork before I put the final (or first) cardboard layer on?

I appreciate any ideas/advice!


As Phil said, there is no right or wrong way,  but there are efficient ways. Cardboard will always work best if it is the underlayment, this is because it needs to be damp and next to the soil is where you will have the most dampness in a lasagna bed method (which is what you are describing).
Overlap of at least 6 inches (12 inches is better) will keep grasses from finding a way to get light. The thicker the mulch layer on top of the cardboard the better.
For mulch layer(s) just about anything that will decompose will work, wood chips and dead leaves, twigs, etc. are fungal food, this is good but you will also want to add something that will feed bacteria, most market gardens make use of more bacterial dependent plants than fungal dependent.
The caveat is that you also want some fungi growing in your soil, just bacteria dominant is the key there.

As far as what you have already done; for fastest ready to plant results you need that cardboard in contact with the grass/ soil then the composting materials on top of that.
When you get ready to plant, just make your openings through the mulch and cardboard and plant.

Redhawk
 
David Smolinski
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Location: Lowell, Massachusetts, USA
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Be careful. If you spread cardboard, you might kill plants underneath.
 
Gilbert Fritz
pollinator
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If you have bindweed or Canadian thistle, or similar creeping weeds, they will find a way through your cardboard, sooner or later. Also, in my experience, heavily compacted soil stays heavily compacted under a sheet mulch; so eventually my plants, planted in the mulch, got drought stressed. Then again, I'm in dry and sunny Colorado, where things take forever to rot and where soil is more like bricks. Where are you located?

I'd agree that cardboard under the mulch and compost will work better, and the mulch will hold it down.

Also, be careful not to import any mulch with persistent herbicides in it.

You might want to do a soil test to see what minerals you might want to add.

Welcome to Permies!

 
Jarret Hynd
Posts: 109
Location: Sask, Canada - Zone 3b
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Everyone gave you great advice, so I'll just add, as someone who read at least 20 of those 1000 topics you mentioned, that squash seems to do best in such a situation. They create a lot of foliage that kills the grass around them and they do well in compacted soil. I recall a picture on permies of cucumbers growing right in the middle of a lawn without any mowing or any mulch layer. I tried pumpkins in a silty part of my yard because I had some spare plants this year, and despite being badly neglected, they got to about 1.5ft tall and looked pretty good.

Good luck with your new adventure!

 
Annie Collins
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Thank you for the new group of shared thoughts as well as the welcome and good wishes for my next venture. ! I am rather excited about it! I am ready for success, I am ready for failure, and all that falls in between. I am not attached to the outcome, but have decided to just have the journey be the destination. It is a very freeing outlook for me. I appreciate everyone here being a part of the journey.
I am not sure where I read about the cardboard being good to put on top and why I followed that idea initially, but after the consensus on here being the cardboard on the bottom would be more effective, I decided to move the compost I already had put down in order to put the cardboard down first. I also decided to loosen the soil with a digging fork before doing so. I just got the sense that the earth could use a bit of loosening up. I am glad I did because not only did it feel right for the soil while I was doing it,  it also gave me an idea of what's happening in some of the places about 4" down... a rather large plate of stone, it seems! I am talking about 6' x 8' or so. I had no idea since the grass growing on that plate showed no signs of distress. I am going with it anyway, just adding a much higher layer of compost to that area. I don't know that that will work, but it's worth a try. I definitely wouldn't use that part of the area for perennial plants, of course, or longer growing annuals, but the plan for that part of the market garden is crops that have a short date to maturity, so hopefully the roots won't need much depth of soil.
I was careful (as much as I was able) about the compost's "cleanliness" as far as herbicides.  I have a strong awareness about that possible issue, having read about someone's story with manure involving that. It killed their vegetable garden not just for that season, but a few years to come. It is why I only get manure and compost from people whose management practices I am familiar with.
I'll probably have questions or comments before, but I will definitely be back in the spring to give an update once I get my plant starts going in the ground. Thank you again for the helpful comments and accompanying me on the journey!
 
Kyle Neath
pollinator
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Location: High Sierras, CA 6400'
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Sounds like you've done some excellent prep work for this plot, nicely done. Please do report back in the spring when you get things going!
 
Scott Foster
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Gilbert Fritz wrote:If you have bindweed or Canadian thistle, or similar creeping weeds, they will find a way through your cardboard, sooner or later. Also, in my experience, heavily compacted soil stays heavily compacted under a sheet mulch; so eventually my plants, planted in the mulch, got drought stressed. Then again, I'm in dry and sunny Colorado, where things take forever to rot and where soil is more like bricks. Where are you located?

I'd agree that cardboard under the mulch and compost will work better, and the mulch will hold it down.

Also, be careful not to import any mulch with persistent herbicides in it.

You might want to do a soil test to see what minerals you might want to add.

Welcome to Permies!



I didn't think about the herbicide issue when I started doing this and I'm getting my chips from the local landfill.  Major bummer.  There is no doubt some herbicide in there.
 
Gilbert Fritz
pollinator
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I didn't think about the herbicide issue when I started doing this and I'm getting my chips from the local landfill.  Major bummer.  There is no doubt some herbicide in there.


In general, tree mulch should be safer in that regard. Many herbicides are broken down quickly by soil organisms, and most trees that are cut down are not sprayed with herbicides first. The persistent herbicides are mostly used on hay fields and lawns; they kill all broadleaf plants, for up to seven years, and they persist in manure and compost.

Does your chip mulch contain grassy material?

Wood chips can contain other odd items though; I've found the remains of strands of Christmas lights, deformed tools that had went through the chipper, a very nice digging fork that had not, and miscellaneous junk. I also got lots of starts of Virginia creeper vine, which I did not want. And there is a potential for contamination of other sorts, though soil organisms are good at breaking down a lot of stuff.

 
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