Removing turf for garden beds - Gardening Step by Step

Removing turf for garden beds

January new garden bed

In Scotland, where I am, Spring is hinting at its presence with lighter mornings, daffodils in flower and tulip buds swelling on rising stems. But weather wise, winter’s grip is still quite strong – with snow storms the week just passed and continuing strong winds.

Nevertheless, the lure of the garden, is proving irresistible.

I’ve been trying to create some additional garden beds. In some cases I have been removing turf by hand. The best thing I can say for this job is that it is good exercise. The worst part is that you’re left with piles of turf to deal with.

This isn’t much of a problem in a large garden. You can find a sheltered corner where you can store the turf for a year or two, whilst it breaks down into a useable and valuable topsoil. But it is a problem in a smaller space, because there is so much less room to spare.

One approach I could have tried, is a variation on the double dig method, where you effectively bury the turf deep enough for it to be killed off. But this is probably even harder work than just removing the turf. It also relies on the area being fairly free of sizeable tree and shrub roots, which mine isn’t.

I haven’t yet worked out the best solution to this problem, so I’d be interested to hear any suggestions in the comments.

Anyway, because of the growing pile of turf I was accumulating, in another area of the garden I’ve decided to experiment with a variation of the no-dig method.

removing turf for garden beds - no dig cover

This is involved laying down a two or three inch thick later of compost/soil on top of the turf and then covering this with sheets of weed surpress fabric. This was a bit trick in high winds, but I weighted it down with rocks and banged in some hooped pins that are made for the job, and so far everything is holding in place.

This means I need to be patient, as it is likely to take a couple of months for the grass to die off. I expect I will need to do a fair bit of loosening of the soil as well when it comes to planting, as the dead grass roots will still be binding together.

Nevertheless, this was a lot easier than removing about 20 square metres of turf and should ultimately be better for the soil. This is because all the organic material in the turf is retained, and adding the layer of compost between the grass and the sheeting is also likely to attract worms and other soil fauna. Their activity will help improve the soil structure.

Even Otis the cat is interested in this method

About the Author Martin