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Goodbye Grass, Hello Garden

April 6, 2012

The easiest way to convert lawn into garden.

Organic Gardening Magazine

Goodbye Grass, Hello Garden

The best way to convert a lawn into a garden does not employ a shovel or a sod cutter and will save wear and tear on back muscles. Sheet mulching—a simple technique that involves layering cardboard, compost, and other organic material right over the turf—kills the grass and leaves behind beds with rich soil. A considerable amount of organic debris goes into the bed construction, so stockpile plenty of autumn leaves, composted manure, and garden waste before beginning. Beds that are sheet-mulched this fall will be ready to plant next spring.

Sheet Mulching: Step 1
Use spray paint or powdered lime to mark the perimeter of the new bed. Scalp the grass within the outline with a lawn mower.

Sheet Mulching: Step 2

Spread a 2-inch layer of compost or composted manure over the bed. This helps encourage microbial activity in the soil and speeds decomposition. Moisten the compost well.

Sheet Mulching: Step 3
Cover the compost with overlapping pieces of cardboard to smother the underlying vegetation and prevent light from reaching any weed seeds. Soak the cardboard with water.

Sheet Mulching: Step 4
Spread a 2-inch layer of compost over the cardboard and top it with up to 18 inches of mixed organic material (grass clippings, leaves, straw, seaweed, garden debris, farmyard manure).

Sheet Mulching: Step 5
Include vegetable and fruit scraps, crushed egg shells and coffee grounds from the kitchen in the layers of organic matter. Moisten these layers.

Sheet Mulching: Step 6
For vegetable beds, finish with 2 to 3 inches of straw or compost. Top ornamental beds with 4 inches of wood chips. In arid climates, water the bed occasionally. Soil microbes and earthworms will toil through the winter to decompose the organic material, cardboard, and sod.

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21 Comments
  1. Is this what they call a lasagna garden? It looks so simple to do! Where have I been?

    • Evelyn Harris permalink

      Boy this is good info, wish i had known this just a little bit sooner, I guess it’s to late for this year right?

      • R D permalink

        Actually this time of yr (fall) is excellent to do this. I just need to dig up three sm tree stumps b4 I can start on this part. An excellent idea when u have several months for it to decompose.

    • Ruie Chehak permalink

      This is a great idea for a small spot, but 18 + 18 is 36 inches of compost! That is 3 feet! If you are sclepping yourself , that is a lot of compost, which can be heavy if it is wet. Give me a potato fork any day?.

  2. This is what I want to do!

  3. Erin permalink

    You should watch the video Back to Eden. I have converted my yards and have NEVER had a garden like it. We are in clay and I’ve been trying for decades. Six months in and I have more fruit and veg than I thought possible.

  4. Michelle permalink

    Will this work for a full shade garden? I would love to do it this way. Also, I live in a zone 3 climate, so long cold winter. Thanks!

  5. Karalee permalink

    I wonder if you can do this over weeds like Star Thistle.

  6. Natalie Mehrer permalink

    Does this work with Bermuda grass?

  7. I have used this technique its great

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