Grow Your Own Food Challenge: Turning Lawn Into Garden

4. Smother the Sod With Lasagna

No, I’m not talking about the pasta casserole! In this method, the lasagna consists of layers of organic matter that smother the sod and enrichen the soil. This method doesn’t require heavy labor, leaves the existing organic matter in place, adds additional organic matter, and doesn’t disrupt the soil structure. But it also delays planting by up to several months.

To get started, lay material such as cardboard, newspaper, or old feed bags over the sod (but be careful to avoid materials that contain synthetic dyes or fungicides). Next, cover your biodegradable material with compost to hold it in place. This will eventually smother the sod and kill the grass.

Over the course of the next few months, continue to add layers of organic materials as they become available to you. Any biodegradable material will work – you can use additional newspaper or cardboard, grass clippings, leaf mold, hay, or straw. Be sure to wet materials to help hold the layers in place.

Since it can take several months for the grass to die and the organic materials to break down, this method is best started in the late summer or early fall. By the following spring, the grass should be dead and the organic matter you’ve added will have been incorporated into the soil by earthworms and other organisms.

Pros: Does not require the physical labor of removing or turning under sod; very affordable; leaves original organic matter in place; does not disrupt soil structure or propagate weeds.

Cons: Delays planting up to several months.

Since I want to start planting my vegetable garden soon and I have an injured back that prevents me from doing a lot of digging or weeding, I’m planning on removing the sod with a sod-cutter and then tilling. Right now I’m waiting for the soil to dry out, but unfortunately there is more rain in the forecast!

I’ll be keeping you posted on my progress as part of our Grow Your Own Food Challenge. And because I have no experience turning lawn into garden, please, PLEASE share any tips or comments below!

(Image courtesy of daveeza via a Creative Commons license.)

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4 thoughts on “Grow Your Own Food Challenge: Turning Lawn Into Garden”

  1. if you strip the sod properly, you really shouldn’t lose much topsoil at all. no more than an inch (if that) of the root systems, soil, etc.. should be taken. anymore than that and the sod strips are way too heavy and also very messy. if you only had an inch of topsoil in the first place, you probably live in a brand new subdivision and needed to add some more anyway.
    important note….before using a mechanized sod stripper, do a very thorough check of your garden area for bunnies that might be nesting. they will not get out of the way of the stripper and the cutting blade will kill them. hound dogs are, of course, the suggested tool for spotting these hard to see nests. if you find a nest, wait a week or so for them to grow up and leave.

  2. Hi Rachel,
    I envy that you have lots of land for your garden! I grow food at my suburban home, but we manage to have a great supply of veggies and fruit after taking out the lawn in the front and back yards.
    You may want to plant a cover crop such as red clover or alfalfa wherever you are not putting in beds, as they bring up nutrients from the soil and can be used as “green manure” to prepare your soil for the future.
    I tried sheet composting at our home this fall- knocking down weeds at the sides of our house then layering cardboard, newspaper and green material, finished with some soil on top. It is turning into a beautiful composted strip to plant in (takes a few months). This may be too difficult on large spaces, but you may want to try it in some spots- don’t have to dig!

    Happy gardening
    Urban Artichoke

    1. I assisted many years ago the head of the Tilth Society in Portland and her ecological sustainable use of newspapers and wood chips was miraculous. Lay the papers, first,then lay over the wood chips, dig into that day and plant trees, bushes, or perennials and nature does it’s work breaking down the weeds, brambles, black berries, ivy,and lawn. Who would ever want to dig all that sod up and do what with it It is full of nuturients. It will decompose by cutting it off from the sun and the hotter the area the faster this occurs. I grant you – one might would have to wait till the next year to start a vegetable garden.

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