turning sod into vegetables, suggestions?

Discussion in 'Gardening & Plant Propagation' started by beginablarp, Jan 21, 2005.

  1. beginablarp

    beginablarp Member

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    We've recently moved to our homestead, and are itching to get our garden started properly. Of course there are some problems: No tillers, and very little money. Everything I have read about no till gardening and planting in hay recommends having at least 8 inches worth of hay, loads of compost... in the end it does not seem cheaper or less work (not that we're lazy, but we both work full time away from home). Here are the materials available to me. Lots of leaves and tons of cardboard boxes left over from the move. I was hoping to sheet mulch with the cardboard, and kill the grass that way, but what if I have some bermuda grass? My understanding is that I need something nitrogen rich (like manure) to get rid of the grass- Oh yeah, I don't want to use round up or chemicals-Any suggestions for an alternative to manure? Any recommendations will be greatly appreciated.
     
  2. Cyngbaeld

    Cyngbaeld In Remembrance Supporter

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    I have had a great garden just by covering existing grass and weeds with cardboard and mulch. The mulch I used was old hay and wood chips mixed with manure (used bedding from a local stable which was free for the hauling). I'm sure the leaves will help, but they tend to mat together pretty badly and shut out oxygen to the roots unless you mix them with something else organic like straw or wood chips or grass clippings. Don't worry about the grass breaking down. By the time the cardboard breaks down the grass under it will be dead.
     

  3. beginablarp

    beginablarp Member

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    How long does it take for the cardboard to break down?
     
  4. Judy in IN

    Judy in IN Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Black plastic will cut off the light to the sod, and warm up the soil. I'm trying to remember how long it takes....I'm thinking maybe 3 weeks.
     
  5. southerngurl

    southerngurl le person Supporter

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    I'm currently converting sod into garden area with just a garden fork and a shovel. I am double digging the area.

    My beds are going to be about 4' 19' or so. This way I can reach into the middle of the beds. Beds like this are more space efficient that rows.

    So, I use the garden fork in the first 1' x 4' strip and remove the sod. Place that in the wheelbarrow. Then use the fork to break up the topsoil beneath. Shovel this into the wheelbarrow. Break up the subsoil with the fork. Remove rocks. Scoot back one foot for the next row. Remove the sod and turn it upside down into the bottom of the row you had just created. Remove any rocks that are stuck to it (I'm putting rocks into a wagon). Break up the topsoil that was underneath the sod just remove, remove rocks, place the topsoil in the first hole on top of the upside-down sod. Break up the subsoil in the new row and remove rocks from it. Keep working back like this until you get to the end, and use the topsoil from the first part to fill the last part. Put the sod in first, and remove all the rocks and place the topsoil on top.

    I use the garden fork in each part once it is broken up to kind of sift the rocks to the top of the soil, then use gloved hands rake then into a pile and toss then them in the wagon.

    This is a good bit of work. You may only do this where you are going to plant root crops and crops you really want to thrive. Don't even think about stepping on that bed once it's done. :yeeha: Stick some compost and a bit of mulch on your beds, and you will have a nice aerated bed somewhat rock free that will just make your plants so happy! :D

    I have also simply placed newspapers down on grass, then enough hay to hold them down in the wind and cover their ugliness. Then cut holes in it, dug a hole in the soil, and planted. Even with live grass underneath! The grass will die and eventually be broken down into the soil.
     
  6. bonnie lass

    bonnie lass Semper Fi

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    It's true that double digging is a lot of work, but remember, it only has to be done once.
     
  7. Mid Tn Mama

    Mid Tn Mama Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Use what you have. As time goes by (couple seasons) you will really see results. I did the same, starting with whatever newspaper, cardboard and other paper products (cereal boxes, etc..) and covered with leaves. That will kill the grass/weeds beneath and will become great soil builders and food for the worms which you want to encourage to till for you.

    Then, when you want to plant, and only when you want to plant, pull away a row or enough mulch to make a hole. Enrich that hole or row where you plant seed (only) Keep the paper mulch pulled away until your plant gets going and sprinkle dried eggshells around your seedlings to kill slugs and cutworms (which love to hide in the mulch. Unless something is currently growing in that spot--keep it covered with paper and whatever you can get your hands on so that weeds don't start.

    You can do this and work outside the home. It's the weeds that make most people stop--so just keep the soil covered and you will be fine.

    It's not the prettiest garden (some folks think it's messy) but I planted flowering bushes to hide the effects from the house. It works.

    I personally would not try the black plastic because you are not only killing weeds and grass but good things like worms. Also the black plastic degrades, but doesn't provide any soil nutrients like paper or cardboard.

    Bring home any coffee grounds you can from work to add to your soil. Worms love it!
     
  8. Windy in Kansas

    Windy in Kansas In Remembrance

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    Bermuda grass--no chemical---good luck! I doubt you will ever stop fighting the Bermuda.

    Personally I don't mind using chemicals, but I do use alternates or do without whenever I can. I do understand your not wanting to use chems, but with just one or two PROPERLY APPLIED applications of glyphosate you should be rid of the Bermuda grass, otherwise you will probably fight it as long as you live there.

    Maybe mega doses of boilling water or gallon upon gallon of vinegar MIGHT get rid of it, but I really doubt it.

    Glyphosate, of which Roundup brand is, readily breaks down once in contact with the soil. The product has been around since the '70s and we still don't hear horrible reports of how nasty it is---and the use is growing. In other words, it is a good product and about the safest available.

    I'm not trying to persuade you to use it, but just letting you know my opinions of its use. I have eradacated Bermuda grass with it. One application followed the next year with applying it directly to 3 or 4 sprigs finished the job.
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    I don't know if solarization of the soil would work or not. To do so, lay down black plastic over the soil. Place some 2" X4"s or other material to create an air gap, then layer clear plastic over the entire works. Seal the edges with dirt, more boards, etc. The clear over the black along with the air gap allows higher temperatures to be achieved, hence solarization of the soil. Cooked if you wish. I expect worms, etc. will bring the proper bacteria/microbe levels back up over time. You might also just want to toss some other soil on top and work in to get the good stuff back up to proper working levels.
     
  9. Jack in VA

    Jack in VA Well-Known Member

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    What I did was.......
    Put my mower on it's lowest setting and scalped the plot of lawn.Then I mowed the rest of the lawn with the bagger on and dumped the clippings on the plot.For maybe 2 or 3 weeks I kept dumping the clippings on til I smothered everything. Then I would till this all up and repeat the process, adding a few other amendments. After about 6 weeks I had nice humius rich soil.
    Yes, I did have some weeds, but the process was a lot easier than a previous plot where I removed the sod with a shovel, leaving that plot a low spot that took forever to build back up so it wouldn't collect water.
     
  10. moonwolf

    moonwolf Well-Known Member

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    My first attempt at the sod to kill growth was with a huge canvas that they used to get around here at the paper mill. It was heavy and covered to smother all the growth. took several weeks and the ground was easier to work up.
    You could probably find someone to till it. I paid about $40 and it took the retired fellow doing this sort of thing, about 3 hours. Was well worth it to get that first year garden going.

    Another new garden area, I covered with clear heay plastic when it was warm. The heat build up kills the sod and weeds effectively in about 3 weeks when I did that. Then I seeded buckwheat to take growth for a green manure that was tilled under when it reached about 6" height, and then plant. That was a great producing garden, even though it got a late start.

    The third option is to use roundup. It's not exacltly organic, but it will kill all plant growth, sod, weeds, etc. Within 2 weeks you can till or dig the garden and get something going. There might be weed seeds germinating (what else is new?) which require a lot of attention for hand weeding or hoe cultivating. Here is a carpet of pigweed that seems to proliferated from seed, no matter what killing method of it. If your sod is mostly grass, you're already off to a less physical weed management plan, so your efforts would concentrate on the mechanical for ground breaking. Mulch heavily. Sometimes you might be able to get that growth of clover or buckweat and use a whipper snipper when it's several inches high. mulch more over that and plant. I haven't used this method yet, but it's in the next 'big experiment' for me. :D
     
  11. Pat

    Pat Well-Known Member

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    I used most of what Southerngurl described (except I put the grass roots into the compost pile instead of turning down and putting back in the soil). I had started the compost pile the summer before I had our first garden, (and added the grass roots to the next year's compost pile. I also agree with Windy in Kansas (at least that burmuda grass is very difficult to get rid of, which is why I didn't leave the roots in the soil).

    This fall I bought 2 piglets, and have them tilling the garden (and fertilizing it for me also). If I had it to do over, I would have bought piglets the fall before the first garden. They really appear to be doing a super job (and they love the grass roots etc.), I'll know better in May or June. I'm using something similar to the chicken tractor for them. (I built a luggable pen that is 4 by 4 by 16 with 4 by 4's for corner posts and 16 feet sections of combination panel for the sides, and 4 feet section for the 2 ends. I put 4 metal fence posts (like you'd use for barbed wire fence) on the 2 long sides, and 2 by 6's laid on the ground outside the long sides. (Had one piglet escape because they root down about 6 - 8 inches and went under the side panel. They haven't since I started laying the 2 by 6's on the outside) I'm more than satisfied with what they've done, and plan on raising 2 more next fall. (We plan on butchering them in April / May) They root all the rocks I missed over to the sides of the pen, and I pick them up after moving them.

    Hopefully, you've started a compost pile, and will be able to add the contents into your garden also. I don't know of anything better than adding (and keep adding) compost to your new garden.

    Pat
     
  12. kathrynlmv

    kathrynlmv Well-Known Member

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    Beginablarp, I have also mulched over sod with newspaper and cardboard. If you use newspaper, I suggest using thick whole sections of paper like the New York Times, and overlapping each section to keep your grass and weeds from finding their way to the seams. It needs to be heavily watered to saturate the paper, and covered with leaves, (wet is better than dry) to keep the papers from blowing away. Then plan to plant only plants that can be grown in hills or holes....like tomatoes, peppers, squash, etc. Chop holes in the paper for your 10" diameter holes, removing every root and blade of grass. Loosen the soil in the hole, add compost or other nutrients....or not, if you don't have them. The grasses actually become your green manure and when they break down, under the paper, they release all kinds of good nutrients, and attract lots of worms. I have recently expanded on this concept because not only do I have no money, but I'm disabled and have to clear sod, while sitting on the ground. I have discovered that if I pull up one segment of sod at a time, and carefully fold all the blades to the underside...(you have to get every blade) and put it back on the soil with the ugly roots sticking up like a bad haircut, it serves both purposes: as green manure for the plants I plant, and mulch (with the upside down roots) By the following year it has broken down, the area has been cleared and the plants you wanted to grow are doing pretty well. This is not as effective as double-digging, but it certainly works. The only hang-up is that it needs to be done in hot weather, or at least not rainy season. If you have too much rain, some of those upside down roots will thrive. Another way to do it is just to dig up clumps of sod, and then go through each clump, removing all traces of grass, weeds, and especially roots. (These I put in black plastic bags, with a little water and let it sit in the sun and cook, and it turns into better potting soil than you can buy. Kathy
     
  13. Cyngbaeld

    Cyngbaeld In Remembrance Supporter

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    The amt of time it takes for things to break down depends on a number of factors, but in TN I would expect cardboard that is on the ground, covered with leaves and kept damp would break down in just a few months. I have seen it take years to break it down in CO, and in AK it might not for decades. In MS the paper and carboard I put down was gone by the end of the season. If you keep that grass completely covered with mulch and don't let it break thru, it will rot with no digging or tilling.
     
  14. beginablarp

    beginablarp Member

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    Thank you all for your helpful suggestions. My aversion to using round-up is mainly based on my general distrust of monsanto corp. and some of the far creepier than round-up things they have created. I just don't want to send my dollars their way. I double dug, and used raised beds when I had a garden in the city, but I'm looking at a much bigger plot here- like 2000 sq. feet. I know I should just focus on what I can get done properly in time for this season, and gradually work on the rest- but I am just excited and impatient. We compost, and it helps that we are vegetarian-we have just that much more useful waste-but it takes a while to build up a significant amount. One of the things I was sad to leave in the city was my giant pile of compost. I am still looking for ideas, so if you've got any- keep em coming.
     
  15. moonwolf

    moonwolf Well-Known Member

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    If you can load your pickup with that compost gold, I wouldn't hesitate to move it from the city to your other garden plot. It would be worth the effort in my opinion.
     
  16. beginablarp

    beginablarp Member

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    I wouldn't hesitate for a second if it were a city nearby, but it's over 1000 miles away. Significant other made continuous jokes about how we would not rent a bigger U-haul for the pile. Whoever moved in there has probably already paved over the whole thing, and put some impatiens in a little hole at the edge that they will pay someone else to water.
     
  17. southerngurl

    southerngurl le person Supporter

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    :worship:


    Oh, I hadn't seen abou the bermuda grass. You might try solarizing it? Burning it? I don't guess burning would kill the roots. It would just be a beautiful sight. :D
     
  18. sancraft

    sancraft Well-Known Member

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    If you don't already subscribe, get a copy of you farmer's market bulletin available through your AG dept. There are always people in there with composted horse and chicken manure. It's usually free for the hauling. In our new town, there's a man that delivers a dump trailer full for $10.00. I have him scheduled for a load a week. I will be starting a new garden on virgin soil this year too.
     
  19. Windy in Kansas

    Windy in Kansas In Remembrance

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    "My aversion to using round-up is mainly based on my general distrust of monsanto corp. and some of the far creepier than round-up things they have created. I just don't want to send my dollars their way."


    While Roundup was indeed a Monsanto product, it has become public domain, i.e. to say that the patent has expired so that any company can formulate the active ingredient and make it available for sale. A web search for glyphosate will give you data on glyphosate and some other trade names if that makes any difference.

    Gardening on sod should not be a problem in and of itself, it is the Bermuda grass that will be the problem---and ongoing until erradicated by strong control methods. Some dig it and rake out the roots. However the small roots they miss will allow it to start right back up.
     
  20. southerngurl

    southerngurl le person Supporter

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    I say listen to your intuition when it comes to that stuff. You know it just ain't right. ;)

    Often these unnatural things seem fine, then we find out some terrible thing about them years later.

    If you stay natural, you never really have anything to worry about. Natural things that are harmful (like snake venom, botulism, ect.) are nice and strait forward- "Yes I'm deadly". Except for perhaps uranium? I know they put that in toothpastes and all kinds of things... until people started DYING. Apparently nobody checked that one out first.