Preparing a new garden

gardening

The ideal time to prepare your garden is in the spring or fall; however, it is possible to start a new garden bed anytime during the growing season.

You do not have to dig up or till the grass, as soil disturbance in fact interrupts soil systems and structure which took years or decades to establish. Tilling soil can also bring up weed seeds to the surface where they can germinate. There are two popular methods widely used today. Read through the descriptions below to determine which is best for you.

The sheet mulching method

  1. Dig out existing large rooted weeds, as they may grow through the newspaper/cardboard.
  2. Dig a shallow trough a few inches deep around the edge of the planting area to provide a buffer zone.
  3. Mow the grass very short, leave clippings in place.
  4. Wet newspapers in a wheel-barrow filled with water, and then lay them on top of the grass about six to ten sheets thick. Make sure the papers overlap each other so that no light gets through. Cardboard can also be used; place it over shortly cut grass and wet with water.
  5. Spread a layer of compost 3 to 6 inches deep.
  6. Plant! Dig a hole, cutting into and digging under the newspaper layers if required.
  7. Spread 2 to 3 inches of mulch (wood chips, bark, leaves or straw) on top of the compost and around your newly planted garden plants!

The solarization method

This method will kill mostly everything in the soil, including soil organisms (i.e. worms) and tree roots. This method is advised only in very weed infested sites.

  1. Mow the area very short.
  2. Dig a shallow trough a few inches deep around the edge of the planting area to provide a buffer zone.
  3. Cover the area with thick black plastic and seal the edges with weights (rocks, wood, or soil) to prevent heat from escaping.
  4. Leave the area covered for at least 6 weeks so that the high temperatures under the plastic kill all weeds and seeds. Remove debris and rainwater that accumulates on the plastic. Do not leave the plastic down for too long as high temperatures will destroy beneficial biota in the soil.
  5. Add a layer of compost if desired.
  6. Plant!
  7. Spread 2 to 3 inches of mulch (wood chips, bark, leaves or straw) on top of the compost.

Troubleshooting

If there is a worry the plastic was removed prematurely, use the sheet mulching method beginning 
at step 4. If the temperatures under the plastic were too high apply a layer of compost to eintroduce beneficial biota back into the soil.