How to replace grass with a garden

Don’t dig up all the grass – you will end up with more weeds.

Sheet mulching method (spring or fall)

  • Mow the grass very short, leave clippings
  • Dig a 15-centimetre (6 inch) trough around the planting area
  • Dig out existing weeds
  • Add a layer of compost
  • Lay down sheets of newspaper on top of the grass to completely cover the area you want to plant into—make sure no light can get through-wet down the newspaper if needed to hold it down
  • Add a layer of mulch or compost up to 10 centimetres (4 inches) on top of the newspaper.

You can plant right through the mulch and newspaper or leave the area over the winter so it’s ready in the spring.

Solarization method

This method is not advised unless the area is infested with weeds. It will kill almost everything in the soil, including tree roots, worms and other beneficial organisms.

  • Mow the grass very short, leave clippings
  • Dig a spade length trough around the planting area
  • Cover the area with thick black plastic and weight the edges using rocks or wood to trap the heat under the plastic. Remove debris and rainwater that accumulates on the plastic.
  • Leave the area covered for six weeks and the heat will kill most weeds and seeds.
  • Remove after six weeks to avoid killing beneficial biota in the soil
  • Add layer of compost and start planting.
  • Add a layer of mulch up to 5 centimetres (2 inches).

Start in the fall

Many perennial plants, shrubs and trees prefer to be planted in the fall when the soil is warm and it rains more often; you use less water while helping plants become established. Cover exposed soil with leaves or mulch to moderate soil temperature, add nutrients and retain moisture over the winter.

New plants need more water at first

Choose the right plant for the right spot and when they are established you won’t need to water as often.

For new plantings, keep the top 2.5 centimetres of soil moist for three to four weeks and water weekly for the rest of the year if needed. Use mulch to prevent weeds and retain moisture.