So you want to get rid of the grass and turn it into a veg plot or maybe you just want to create a new lawn because your lawn is in poor condition and you want a new lawn. In either case, time and nature is / are your salvation!
In a nutshell, If you want to remove (kill off) grass & other vegetation, you need 3 things :-
a. Black plastic or other “light obscuring material” e.g. mulch, cardboard or old carpet etc.
b. Time! if you’re in a hurry, you’ll need to use other methods.
If you have the patience and the time to wait, the use of black plastic will remove (kill off) the grass and all other vegetation. Covering the grassed area with black plastic will stop any light getting through and in time, the grass and roots will also disappear but you will need to allow 6 to 8 weeks (often longer) for this to happen.
When the grass and root system have been killed off by the lack of light, the soil can then be easily worked. Rotavate by all means, it’s easier than digging and by all means work in some organic matter and / or manure and then rake and level to your hearts desire 🙂
1. Hard work 🙂 Cut the grass as short as possible and then do some “double digging”. This means digging a trench* and then dig another alongside but fill the first trench with the grass turves upside down along with the turf / sod free soil. Dig another trench and repeat. Continue until you have done all the “site”. You will probably be left with a pile of earth and turves from the first trench, use this to fill the last trench. Indeed hard work but if you’re planning a veg patch, it will be the best option if you’re in a hurry. You could include some manure into the trenches and this will be a good start to your veg growing aspirations 🙂
*The trench would normally be “1 spit” deep (the length of the spade blade), width would be the width of the spade.
NOTE. If you are preparing for new lawn using grass seed or turf, you only need to prepare the soil to about 4 inches (100mm). If your soil is heavy, the use of organic matter (manure / compost) will help break down the clay. You could introduce “grit sand” but you would need a lot of it, otherwise the clay could form clumps. You need to create a “free draining” soil, adding “organic material” is usually better than adding grit sand.
2. Lot of effort! Cut the grass as short as possible, then use a spade or edging iron to cut the turf into manageable sizes, then use a spade to get under the turf or hire a turf lifter*. Lift and stack the turves upside down, if you cover with “black plastic”, the stack of turves will “rot” down over a year or so and should be suitable as grass and root free loam to use in your garden.
If you don’t have any suitable place to store the turves, This could be a problem.
*using a turf lifter could be a good option if you are wanting a new lawn but if you don’t have anywhere to store the old turves, this could be a problem 🙁
3. Systemic Weedkiller e.g. Glyphosate. This is a good option for killing weeds generally and it does indeed kill down to the roots. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to destroy the root sod (for grassed areas) so this isn’t really a good option 🙁
4. Weathering. This is a slightly easier method than “double digging”, It’s a bit like “ploughing”. Cut the grass as short as possible and then just use a fork to turn over the grass turves, then let the frost and winter weather help breakdown the “root sod”. This method is probably more suited to preparing for a veg patch and needs patience. It’s not a good option for a new lawn preparation.
My project and the mistake(s) I made.
I had a wooden deck that covered a previous grassed area and concrete paving slabs patio and left us a grassed area that we called the lawn. The deck sub frame was now rotting so I decided to rip up the wood decking and go back to having a bigger lawn and re-use the concrete flag patio! The “lawn / grassed area” was in poor condition and needed leveling. The soil was heavy and moss was a problem due to water logging. So the idea was to create a “new (extended) lawn” that we could be proud of!
I considered hiring a turf lifter and buying new turf but I haven’t anywhere to store the (old) turves and the “lawn area” needed some serious leveling to remove bumps and hollows. So it was decided to kill of the grass and then then seed it.
I used a systemic weed killer (glyphosate) to kill off the the grass and it did work after about 10 days (Mistake 1). The grass and roots were indeed “dead” but the roots still formed a “sod”. The soil that was covered by the deck hadn’t seen any light for some 12 years and was completely free of any vegetation and “sods”, it was in principle, “barren” soil in need of some fertiliser but easy to work.
I hired a heavy duty rotavator with “driven wheels” to turn over the grassed area to break up the root sod to allow raking and leveling (mistake 2). The rotavator did indeed break up the root sod but not enough to make the soil workable. The area where the deck had been installed was completely grass and sod free and the rotavator did a good job.The hired (petrol engine) rotavator was very heavy and not at all easy to use. It didn’t do the job I thought it would do on the grassed area. I purchased a lightweight electric “Tiller” but this only really threw the sods about and didn’t do much to break them down. I could see that where the ground was free of sods, it will do a brilliant job of working in the manure / organic matter.
Project now ground (no pun intended) to a halt.
The rotavator didn’t do the job I was expecting it do. The hire shop(s) couldn’t offer anything different and the new electric tiller didn’t break down the root sod 🙁
I’m not as young as I was and have a dodgy back and dodgy knees. Everything seems to take 10 times longer to do so I had to find a way to finish the project without killing myself. I could have dug a few trenches and buried the sods but that would be hard physical work.
After much thought, I decided to revert to the “black plastic” idea and let nature take its course! I’ll keep the black plastic in place until all the “root sods” have “broken down” enough to allow me to rake and level, with no “sod or roots” to get in the way. I’ll then introduce some manure / organic matter to break down the heavy soil. The project will take longer than I had hoped and may go over to spring of next year before I get to putting grass seed on to the “new lawn”.
With hindsight, I would have been better off not using the (expensive) systemic weedkiller and just used the “black plastic”. Patience is a virtue but at my stage of the life cycle, time is an expensive commodity 🙂
Converting a grassed area to a veg patch or to prepare for a new “Lawn” won’t be easy. Black Plastic, time and patience are your friends. If you are in a hurry, “hard work” is the answer.
I did consider artificial grass but the cost put me off and I haven’t been able to find any plastic grass seed 😉
Hopefully my rambling will give you some food for thought and hopefully your veg patch will give some food to eat!