For me the weather has been fairly warm but even if it is freezing planting is right around the corner.
Hopefully you have beds somewhat ready to go for spring but if you are like me there is still a lot to do. I have plans to expand an existing bed and to make a new bed. Depending on your situation of course things will be different. If your ground is still frozen or too muddy (I’m muddy) you will need to let it thaw or dry up, if your soil is too dry either let it rain or wet it a few nights (at night will reduce evaporation).
After the soil conditions have been assessed we have to ask what’s on the surface. Obviously rocks and sticks need to be removed, but what is growing? Plants like clover should just be turned in but not many of us have that unless it’s an old bed and you were planning. For most new beds you will have grass of some sort on it. You do need to consider what type of grass is there, is it domestic or invasive? Invasive will be harder to deal with but it can be handled with a little more work.
Some basic steps for changing an area with grass into a garden are:
- Remove grass
- Form out the beds
- Rake out debris
- Loosen subsoil
- Add amendments
- Prepare beds for planting
Grass removal is a pain. I normally want to cut it low and till it but that’s not the best way. I don’t like using chemicals but sometimes plant killer can help a lot. If I use chemicals I do it several months before tilling and planting. What is better is mechanically removing the grass. This can be done by digging it up with a spade or by using a sod cutter.
Earlier I had a post about covering grass with plastic, that kills grass well too and doesn’t introduce chemicals into the soil or use burning fossil fuels but does take time. For the purpose of this post we are trying to get a bed in pretty quickly.
A sod cutter can normally be rented for $65 or so for a day and would be much easier than digging by hand.
Run the cutter in straight lines and then remove the sod. Depending on your situation that could be a big deal. If it could be piled close to the bed for decomposition that would be ideal, later it could be put back in the bed with the organic matter in it next year or so. Otherwise there will be a lot of hauling.
Tilling will be covered tomorrow.