Lisa's Landscape & Design

Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time

Creating a New Garden Space

Replace your boring sod with a Texas friendly, low water, low maintenance garden that adds value to your home and life.

Replace your boring sod with a Texas friendly, low water, low maintenance garden that adds value to your home and life.

Any time of the year is a great time to prepare a new bed. When creating a new flower or veggie bed I never cut out the sod, I leave all of that great nitrogen right in the ground and save a lot of good soil from going to a landfill by following a few simple steps.

First thing you do after choosing a location is to mow close to the ground or weed eat very low and leave the trimmings right where they fall. If you are preparing a bed in a small area you can cover the trimmed sod with large pieces of non waxy cardboard *( you can find huge pieces of these outside of the IKEA in a dumpster out front or at many retail stores if you ask) or by layering several ( I’d say about 15) layers of newspaper (not the shiny parts) and secure with landscape pins or heavy rocks. Once you have covered the bed and allowed several weeks for decomposition of the sod and /or weeds, you will want to remove the cardboard (or plant right into it if it has broken down enough) exposing bare ground (or if you cover with newspaper you can cover it immediately) with a combination of organic matter (compost saves the world) and mulch up to at least 6” in  depth. You are going to hear me say this a lot … YES….6” of mulch and compost. There is a lot of air in these materials when you are placing them on the ground and in a very short time 6” will become 3″. I suggest that your beds always have 4” of mulch and/or organic matter.

If you are trying to kill off a large section of sod to make a huge bed, (and I hope you will) you can buy a big roll of 4 mil clear (so you can see beneath) painters plastic , NOT LANDSCAPE FABRIC, ughhhh, and lay it on the are you are trying to kill off. You will make a border for the bed out of rocks, landscape pins, metal edging, or whatever you choose and then back fill it in with compost and mulch. (if you are planting on a slope do not add mulch until after the sod has died back completely and removed the plastic, otherwise you have created a slip and slide for the mulch and it will end up down the hill after a rain) This time, if you are not on a hill you can add your 6” of material, 3 and 3. Once the organic matter/compost is laid out, walk on it and stomp it down a bit so you wont have a lot of fly-away, you should have about 5-6” in depth now. (Be sure if the new bed you are preparing is close to your home that you allow at least 4″ from the frame of your foundation. In other words, 4″ from the point where your stone or brick meets the concrete.) Once you have laid out the compost/mulch combination, you take a pitch fork and stab, stab, stab as many holes as your heart desires deep into the plastic and soil beneath, this is a great way to take out your frustrations. Leave the plastic on until spring (or the next planting season) and by the time you are ready to plant, the grass beneath will be dead. Now… once the grass is kaput, I handle the plastic in two ways. I can remove a section at a time by raking the mulch away in sections and removing the plastic with a box cutter, recover and move on to the next section or sometimes I can pull the ol’ tablecloth trick and pull it right out from under the matted mulch. If you are planting sparsely at first (not completing the whole bed) you can also simply lay out your plants, make a dent in the mulch where they will be planted, move back the mulch and cut a large X in the plastic where the plant goes, dig a hole twice as wide as the plant and only as deep as the bucket, back fill with compost/mulch and Ta-Da.. new bed. You have already aerated the plastic so the ground will get plenty of water and you have made a great weed free bed.  The weeds cannot penetrate the plastic so they are easier to remove.

This is a shade garden where I have used contrast and color to create interest. Adding natural elements like river rock can also bring light to the space.

When designing on a hill, slope or an area with heavy run off be sure to use landscape fabric or thick newspaper as a weed barrier.  River rock shown here will be fine on top of plastic but mulch will travel down hill if the grade is too steep.

OK, I am organic and environmentally conscious, but I ask you, would you rather have an entire yard of sod thrown in a landfill, or use poison to kill the grass?? I think using plastic (that can be reused to prepare more beds) or recycles materials is a conscious choice considering what little waste there is involved. I have practiced the cardboard/paper and plastic methods for over 15 years and I have had a 100% success rate with them. The plants thrived and the sod and weeds didn’t.

Do not use Landscape Fabric unless your bed is on a slope. If you couldn’t already tell, I despise it. I have been installing beds with my little ol’ hands for over 20 years and there is nothing more frustrating than working for a home owner who has installed landscape fabric. It is a weed netting and a perfect place for the roots to harbor, don’t bother with the expense. Save your money and buy MULCH, install at the proper depth and refresh it every year, that is how you prevent weeds. Plant your beds with lots of good thick mulch and compost, then every spring you top dress the bed with 1/2″ of compost and in the fall you add 1/2″ of mulch. The following year…add a new bed 😉

Now go get your garden on!!

Lisa LaPaso

Lisa’s Landscape & Design (“like” me on facebook)

“Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”

Quote of the day: The man who has planted a garden feels that he has done something for the good of the world.” — Vita Sackville-West

Plant of the day: Pineapple Guava-This evergreen shrub grows to 6-10′ in height and produces exquisite Pink/White and Red blooms from Spring to early Summer and produces small edible fruit in late Summer. Check out the video on YouTube.

Tomorrow’s Topic: Tools

1 Comment

  1. Lisa

    Wow! Great information! I’ve been putting off installing new beds because I didn’t want to go through all the hassle of digging out the existing grass! Now I don’t need too! Thanks for sharing your information!

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