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Good new way to go from grass to garden bed?  RSS feed

 
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OK, I'm not really so new to gardening, but I'm still fairly new to the art of starting beds without a rototiller. Here's my idea for a way to do it that addresses some of the problems I see with established methods. It's not really no-dig but it's less destructive than a rototiller for sure. It's also basically free and doesn't require gasoline, and it would take about the same amount of time and effort. I really think this could become the new go-to, assuming it works. I thought of this just a few days ago and I'd be testing it right now if it were the right time of year and I had the space for an experiment bed.

You're probably all aware of the so-called "lazy bed" method, where you take a shovel and flip the ground over in a row, repeating and placing the grass face down onto the previous row. Not really "lazy", actually a lot of work, probably just as much work as using a hoe really. But I like it because it doesn't require tons of material to be brought in, like the cardboard and wood chips method.

A company called Case makes this knife called a sod-buster, because that's how sod actually used to be moved before they invented machines for cutting it. They'd just cut a roughly two foot wide and however long rectangle with a knife, then roll it up and transport it. I feel like this is pretty lost knowledge. The only reason I know about it is because I saw one of those knives and thought, "why's it called that?", then did research.

So what if you did this, but instead of rolling the sod up to make a lawn or golf course somewhere else, you just flipped it over to rot down in place, placed seeds on top of it, and covered them with a bit of straw mulch to protect them from birds and keep the grass down?

The only potential problems I see with this are: 1, the intact roots might somehow inhibit the sprouting and growth of the seeds, and 2, sod might be hard/impossible to roll up in conditions less ideal than perfectly manicured weed-free grass.

I'd love to hear thoughts on this and know if anyone's seen it done or tried it before.
 
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Location: Middle Georgia
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Depending on where you live one thing to watch out for is cutworms. The moths lay eggs in grass and if the grass disappears and new plants are placed there when the eggs hatch the little grubs (cutworms) have no choice but to demolish the veggie plants.

If you are not familiar with cut worms they are truly horrid for gardeners, they live in the soil and emerge at night to wrap around the stems of plants and sever them clean off. Imagine having beautiful foot tall bean plants, or cucumber plants beginning to produce fruit, and coming out the next morning to discover that "someone snuck in the garden at night snipped all the stems off at the base with a pair of scissors" and the healthy beautiful plants are laying on the ground. That is what cutworms do!

You can use BT to control them but some people have BIG problems especially the first year. Layering lots of stuff (cardboard, new soil etc...) on top of the bed can help.

Also lots of folks will say it is "easy" to prevent cut worm damage by using little plastic or foil collars etc.... If the infestation is bad those little collars do NOT work. I tried everything last year and had 3 crops of beans wiped out anyway.
 
L. Tims
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Sorry to hear about your beans. I've never had any problems with them. Which areas/climates do they tend to be a problem in? Maybe try rotating something that's less tasty in sprout form? I mean, bean sprouts are even tasty to humans.
 
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Location: SW Ohio
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Lucrecia Anderson wrote:Depending on where you live one thing to watch out for is cutworms. The moths lay eggs in grass and if the grass disappears and new plants are placed there when the eggs hatch the little grubs (cutworms) have no choice but to demolish the veggie plants.

If you are not familiar with cut worms they are truly horrid for gardeners, they live in the soil and emerge at night to wrap around the stems of plants and sever them clean off. Imagine having beautiful foot tall bean plants, or cucumber plants beginning to produce fruit, and coming out the next morning to discover that "someone snuck in the garden at night snipped all the stems off at the base with a pair of scissors" and the healthy beautiful plants are laying on the ground. That is what cutworms do!

You can use BT to control them but some people have BIG problems especially the first year. Layering lots of stuff (cardboard, new soil etc...) on top of the bed can help.

Also lots of folks will say it is "easy" to prevent cut worm damage by using little plastic or foil collars etc.... If the infestation is bad those little collars do NOT work. I tried everything last year and had 3 crops of beans wiped out anyway.



Have you tried using diatomaceous earth?
 
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Location: Western Canadian mtn valley, zone 6b, 750mm (30") precip
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I won't reject the idea.  I think the method is worth experimenting with.  I've never worked as a landscaper... I think they'd have a lot of experience with sods formed from varied specific species of grass.  But I will add a caveat, that I think probably some sods might not prove appropriate to using the suggested method.  For instance, quack grass (also called "couch grass") is notoriously difficult to kill, and it has a tough root system and it spreads mainly by rhizomes, not seeds.  It has an extremely wide distribution range in North America, and I believe also elsewhere on the planet.

I had occasion to cut and turn over some quack-grass sod, laying it on the ground surface.  It somehow picked up enough moisture to just reverse the direction of leaf growth — topsy-turvy within a month or so: sparse growth at first, but later very luxuriant!
 
pollinator
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Location: mountains of Tennessee
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I prefer to initially spend the time & energy required to dig at least one shovel deep. The FIRST time to loosen the soil & mix in any needed amendments & organic matter. After that first time I aim for no dig. If something must be dug (potatoes & peanuts for example) after that first dig I will simply turn the top growth upside down as suggested.

That is for growing veggies & flowers. If I just wanted to ged rid of "lawn" fast & start growing something better than "lawn" to start building gardens & soils for later use then the sod knife seems like a very effective method. Flip it over, work in some legumes, clovers, buchwheat, comfrey roots, pollinator flowers, etc then walk away.
 
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