Converting Grass to Garden

Why make a lawn into a garden?

If you have had to take care of a lawn you probably know the struggle to keep it well-manicured. From having to mow and water, to dealing with gophers. Although having the ideal lawn is a goal held by many, using this space for other means can also be a great option.

Every year the average American family uses around 320 gallons of water per day with 96 gallons of that being used outdoors. That equates to about 35,000 gallons of water per year per household with lawns accounting for a substantial portion of this. This irrigation along with mowing and addition of lawn chemicals accounts for about 1,048 pounds of CO2 released into the atmosphere each year for a lawn sized just over half an acre. It is estimated that lawns cover around 40 million acres of land in the US.

Converting a lawn into a garden can be more sustainable, reduce carbon emissions, and save water and money. In fact, in Albuquerque the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Authority (ABCWUA) offers rebates to convert lawns to xeriscaping. If all the ABCWUA requirements are met residents can receive $1.00 off each square foot of lawn converted. Gardens also offer an opportunity to have flowers, pollinators, and fresh produce right outside your doorstep. Of course, before taking on this project there are some factors one should consider. Firstly, an initial investment of money and time is needed, and it’s important to consider whether it’s feasible based on your housing restrictions or HOA requirements. Depending on these factors, different methods for creating your garden can be used to work around restrictions you may face.

Where to Start?

After deciding whether to take on this project to make your garden, you then need to decide on the size and best location for your garden.

A few factors to consider for this are the kind of plants you want, the amount of sunlight needed, if irrigation is easily accessible, the quality of the soil, and how much time and money you can put towards this project.

It may help to use a hose or rope to map out the area. If you’re not sure you can commit to transforming a large space, you can first experiment with a small section first. This will also be helpful to try different methods and experiment with what works best for you.

Helpful Guide:

What Materials are needed?

For this project, a variety of different tools can be used for the same purpose. The tools you will need will be highly dependent on the method you decide to adapt to convert your grass into soil. However, having a few basic tools such as a shovel, gloves, and a wheel barrel may be helpful. Compost and/or mulch will also be needed.

What methods should you use?

There are a variety of methods that can be used to remove grass. The best choice for you will be dependent on a case-by-case basis. There are video links in each title.

Raised beds– This option involves putting in raised garden beds over your lawn. Depending on how deep the beds are it may not be necessary to kill the grass first.
Materials: Soil and/or compost, wood, other materials to make beds or pre-made ones, shovel
Pros: Good in areas of poor soil quality, can plant immediately, easier plant maintenance
Cons: More expensive, may still have to remove grass or mulch under beds, typically more water needed

Sod removal– This method involves digging up and physically removing the grass.
Materials: Spade/shovel, compost
Pros: Can be quicker and able to plant sooner
Cons: Labor intensive, loss of organic material

Sheet mulching– This method involves putting mulch over the grass
Materials: Wood chips/mulch, compost, cardboard, lawn mower, shovel
Pros: Can help with soil improvement, keeps organic material in ground
Cons: Takes longer time (5-12 months)

Image Credit: Flickr, mwms1916

Lasagna gardening/ Smothering– This method involves putting newspaper or cardboard over the grass to smother it.
Materials: Newspaper and/or cardboard, scissors, compost/mulch, lawn mower
Pros: Less labor intensive
Cons: Takes longer (3-12 months)

Solarization– This, like the smothering method, involves covering the grass with a plastic tarp to heat and kill grass and weeds.
Materials: Plastic tarp, compost
Pros: Faster than smothering, less labor intensive, kills weeds and pathogens
Cons: Still takes longer (4-8 weeks), not aesthetically pleasing, less environmentally friendly

What should you do next? After removing the grass, the next things to consider are improving your gardening soil quality, setting up an efficient watering system, and designing a plan for planting.

-Posted by Gloria

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