From Lawn to Soil

Oh yes, it’s time for a little bit of bragging here. My central and eastern friends might want to ignore this post, because it talks about that much-awaited season: spring!

Yes, it’s turning into spring in the Pacific Northwest. It’s not quite here, and I’m sure that we’ll have a few more days of winter yet. However, right now there’s no snow on the ground, so this weekend I worked to set up a garden plot.

I’m gardening in two yards around my neighborhood, where the neighbors have been kind enough to allow me to grow vegetables in their unused gardens. It’s a wonderful trade, and I’m very thankful for it.

This weekend, I set up a new garden bed on top of a plot of grass. Although I do like digging, it’s much easier to mulch, so mulch I did. If you have a lawn that you’d like to convert into a garden space, you can easily do the same.

What do you need? You’ll need some cardboard or newspaper, some straw, and some well-aged manure. You may also want to have some finished soil on hand to make things look pretty and smell good.

Mark out the area where you’d like to have a garden bed. If you have rocks, bricks, or waste wood, you can use these as sides for the bed, since you’ll be making your soil a little bit deeper.For the one I made on Saturday, I used an old brick pile that was sitting unused under a tree.

Next, cover the grass with cardboard or the non-glossy parts of the newspaper.Make sure that it’s well-covered and overlapping. You don’t want any weeds to sneak through!

First, put in a layer of up to three inches of compost or manure. The manure can’t be fresh: first, it’s smelly, but most importantly, the high nutrient levels will damage your veggies. It must be well-aged.

Then put on a layer of straw, about 6 inches. This will keep things moist and provide rotting organic material. The bed I made this weekend was a hugelkultur, which means that I also used rotting logs as the base to maintain moisture levels in the summer.

If you want to make your beds look fancy, you can also place a layer of “finished” soil on the top.

And there you have it: a garden on a lawn! Mine was small, so it took me less than three hours from materials collection to completion.

Image Credit: Oakley Originals / CC by 2.0