My little lady and I finally got out of apartment living to buy a
little condo with about 500 square feet of grass that we'd like to
turn into a vedgie garden. So.. .I went out and got a shovel, a hoe
and a pickaxe. We weeded out what wasn't grass and set to work
breaking up the sod.
Now, we live in Hawaii so the sod is thick, thick, thick. So thick,
in fact, when I pull a chunk out and examine the cross-section, it's
hard to decide where grass+air ends and roots+soil starts. It's
coming up like carpet.
How do I break this up to be ready for vedgies?
Thanks in advance.
You have two choices~~ Either, bury the turf inverted and at about nine
inches as you cultivate, or skim it all off before digging and stack it for
a few months to rot before spreading it over the dug soil. The first option
is the best.
First, I'd spray it with roundup to kill it, so you don't have as much
problem of it coming back. Then, trying to dig out that much by hand will
be a real back-breaker, so do yourself a favor and rent a sod-cutter.
They usually aren't much more than about $20 per hour, and they'll let you
take out quite a bit of sod in an hour.
As an example, one of my neighbors took out more sod in a single hour
with a sod-cutter than they were able to take out in 4 hours of working at
it by hand.
I use Roundup sometimes, but in this case there's another possibility. You
can put down a sheet of black plastic, and after 10 days or so when the
grass has died simply cut slits where you want to plant the veggies. Then
remove the plastic when the seeds start to sprout while they're still tiny
enough not to catch on the plastic. The sod rots away and acts as mulch for
the new plants.
It takes more than 10 days to kill the sod. I put black plastic down
over grass for a temporary greenhouse once and it was spongy to walk on
for about a month and a half. Moreover, the growing point is underground
for grass, so it takes more effort to kill it. You might get rid of the
leaves, but once you take off the plastic, the grass will recover (maybe
not to the lush-lawn standard, but certainly to the garden-weed
Why not leave the plastic on the garden when you plant. You can cut
holes for the plants and leave the rest to block the weeds. This works
great for transplants. You might want to put some stones or bricks on
the plastic adjacent to the holes so the plastic doesn't shift when the
wind blows and abrade the plant stems. If you're direct seeding, the
stones will keep the plastic from shifting to cover the seeds you want
Hmm. By my experience 10 days is plenty, but maybe it differs with climate,
type of grass etc. At any rate it's always an option to leave the plastic
down longer, but that makes it harder to water the new plants. Cheers.
Rent a sod cutter. Strip the sod off and compost it. Till the
garden. Removing the sod also removes most of the weed seeds, so
you will end up with a more weed-free garden than you could
If you know what kind of turf this is, the answer will be more accurate. If
it's coming up like carpet, it is probably St. Augustine or Zoysia sod. When I
convert turf to a bed I mow it as low as the mower will allow, and I fully water
it 2 nights before I am going to work it. In Hawaii you don't have to water,
as it rains there almost daily, no?
Anyway, you will need a thin tine fork. Stick that into the sod and bring it up
and the soil will come with. I sit there and pry apart the roots and separate
the soil from the clump. That's painstaking, but you will have beautiful soil.
The chunks which don't break easily I push through a sieve I made from hardware
cloth and an artists stretcher frame...cheap.
Then I add whatever amendments of compost, lavasand, basalt, greensand, etc.
I would not suggest using any chemical method to get rid of turf as I can see
others have. It's nice to get in the soil and feel around. There is a great
sense of accomplishment and when the plants feed you, you know exactly what they
are growing in.
On Fri, 14 Nov 2003 19:43:53 GMT, firstname.lastname@example.org opined:
Many thanks for the replies, gents. Now, when you speak of composting
the sod, is there anything I add to the sod? A bacteria culture,
perhaps. How do I compost something so large and with so much soil in
it? I'm worried that it'll just be an incubator for weed seeds.
Hi neighbor. I'm in Waialua, HI. I recently tilled up my front lawn (about
600 sq. ft.). The only difference is, I plan to replant grass (zoysia)
instead of veggies like you. I rented a roto-tiller and just tilled it all
under. I should have sprayed it with Round-Up first, I suppose, but I did
sift the top 6 inches afterwards through a 1" x 3/4" wire mesh which removed
most of the grass/weed clumps and stones. Most of the grass and weeds were
dead already since we've had such a dry summer and I didn't water that weed
patch at all. After tilling, I used a 2 x 4 to level it using a back and
forth motion like you'd do to wet cement. Then, I fertilized and watered
for a week or so to sprout the weed seeds and the grass stems that were
left. I sprayed that with Round-Up. Two weeks later I gave it a second
spot treatment with Round-Up (there was hardly any thing green by then) and
now I'm ready to plant my grass seed sometime next week. The same routine
should work for planting veggies. You can use mulch and weed cloth to
inhibit weed growth between your rows. The mulch will reduce your watering
as well. Lowes sells 3' x 50' Dupont Weed Block for about $5 a roll. The
cheap stuff at Wal-mart didn't look very durable.
You can get bulk compost from Hawaiian Earth Products (in Campbell
Industrial Park or Kailua) for $40 cu. yd. if you have a pick-up truck. The
general purpose lawn/garden compost & soil mix (60/40) is $32/cu.yd.
You can get free mulch from several locations (I got mine from the community
garden across from Wheeler AAB in Wahiawa).
Composting Info. http://www.recyclehawaii.org/HG-41.pdf
Seeds. A bit more than Wal-mart seeds but a much wider verity and better
descriptions/instructions than the Burpee packaged seeds.
That should about do it. Good Luck.
Frank, I appreciate the follow-up. I'll be lifting the turf out
separate to remove as many weeds from the garden first... and I'm sure
glad you mentioned the Weed Block. We had totally forgotten about
On Sun, 16 Nov 2003 05:53:11 GMT, "Frank Monroe"
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