Create a New Garden Without Digging up the Grass

I found this article in a recent issue of Canadian Gardening… describing a method to make a new garden right over top existing lawn, so you do not have to spend hours of back-breaking work removing the grass.

I mentioned it to a friend of mine, who thought she would like to give it a try in her backyard.  Her backyard is small, but it features a gorgeous rock wall that must be at least 12 feet tall along the back edge.  The home is in a subdivision build on a rocky ridge, so the rock wall was created instead of carting the huge boulders away.  The only drawback it that her yard is substantially lower than her neighbours’ behind her, giving her yard a “fishbowl” setting.  I am told that when we receive a heavy rain, the water cascades down the rock wall in several spots.  I will have to choose plants that like damp soil for  these spots; I have several in mind.

There are two maple trees and a few sumac shrubs that will eventually provide some privacy along the back.  One side of the yard is walled off by a tall, full cedar hedge and the opposite side has a wrought iron fence.  In my plan I will add a few small trees to the side with the fence, possibly lilacs, as they grow quickly, are inexpensive, hardy and a favorite of my client.  For now the yard receives a lot of sun, but once the trees get larger, they will provide some shade with the privacy…

The old, single level deck was recently replaced with a beautiful, multi-levelled deck with two sets of steps leading off it.  The plan is to have a walkway between the two sets of steps with a small patio (just large enough for a small table set and a lounger) on the ground level between the cedar hedge and one set of steps.  The deck builder was kind enough to leave us this area bare, you can see it in the first picture.  I recently found two colors of patio stones for sale at a great price on Kijiji, and will keep looking for more inexpensive material to create a pattern for the patio and walkway.   The rest of the yard will be a combination of garden and river rock; no grass.

This seems like a large, expensive project, but with the method outlined in the article and the use of many recycled products and donated plants, we hope to keep the budget at a minimum.  It is also a plan we can work on in stages as time and budget permit…

The first step was to get rid of the grass.  To do this we cut it short, then covered it with several layers of newspapers, which in turn was covered with a triple mix of soil, peat moss and compost.  The final layer consists of leaves that I collected, bagged and ready for pickup, from my neighbors curbs on garbage day.  I used the leaves as an inexpensive (free) substitution for the mulch suggested in the article.

I did not disturb the perennials that were randomly planted; I simply applied the layers of paper, soil and leaves around the plants, and will move the plants to their new homes in the spring when we get to the planting stage…

It did not look very pretty when we were done this stage, but we managed to get the layer of leaves down before the snow arrived.  I am anxious for spring to see how well the process worked.

I will keep you posted!

2 thoughts on “Create a New Garden Without Digging up the Grass

  1. What a good idea! I have a couple of places in my yard that would really benefit from an expanded bed, and I wasn’t looking forward to removing the grass. I will definitely read the entire article, but I have the idea from your photos. I hope you’ll come back and let us see the progress. 🙂

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