The Easy Way to Start a Garden

Have you been planning to establish a garden but still haven’t gotten started?  If you live in the northern temperate region, there’s something you can do now that will make it easier for you to start that garden next spring.

First, you need to decide where your new garden will be located.  If it’s a vegetable garden, you want an area that is neither bone dry nor soggy wet and that gets as much sunlight as possible, at least six hours a day during the summer.  If you are planning a bed for flowers or shrubs, of course you would locate that according to your landscaping plan (you have a plan, don’t you?) and select plants that fit the location.

If the location you selected is covered with turf grass (and, if it’s like my yard, an assortment of weeds), in other words if you are converting lawn to garden, you will need to kill the grass and weeds and dig the area to loosen the soil and incorporate organic matter, fertilizer, or other amendments.  That can be pretty difficult.  You might think that a large garden tiller would solve the problem, but in my experience anything less than powerful agricultural equipment will have trouble digging up an established lawn.

Now for the part that will make your life easier.  If you gather as many leaves as you can this fall and use them to cover the area of your proposed garden, they will kill the grass (and hopefully most of the weeds).  You might need to cover the leaves with a plastic mesh or sheet to keep them in place; if you use a sheet of heavy, black plastic it will keep the area moist and speed decomposition of the grass.  Don’t believe me?  Take a look at what happened to my lawn where I left a pile of leaves for just a couple of weeks.

grass after leaves have sat on it for two weeks

grass after leaves have sat on it for two weeks

In the spring, remove any plastic mesh or sheet and dig the area.  You want to incorporate the decomposed grass and leaves into the new garden bed; the added organic material will improve the soil.  If you can rent a garden tiller, that will make the job go a little faster.  I would probably use my garden fork as I usually do when I prepare a garden bed.

I discovered this method of using leaves to kill off turf grass by accident, when winter arrived before we could dispose of a pile of leaves in the back yard.


About brianbreczinski

work: chemist, NMR manager; hobbies: gardening, reading, photography, electronics, biking, woodworking
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