While mowing the little lawn that was still left, I was hot and sweaty and mosquitoes were bugging me. I could not help but think how much work lawn mowing actually is. Thankfully, we turned our yard into a garden and replaced all our lawn with food production. It was work too, but seriously not more than mowing is, and it is bringing us an abundance of homegrown food. At Northern Homestead, we grow food, not lawn.
Here are 7 simple steps of how we replaced our lawn with food production using a sheet mulch no till gardening methods. It is well worth the little extra work to have great soil down the road.
1. Till the new garden area
Even though we were planning on no-till garden methods, we decided to till the lawn area first. This is not recommended for most no-till methods.
You can and in some cases should skip this step.
Do a site survey and see if tilling or no-tilling is better. Please head over and read no-dig or double dig first.
We decided to till for two reasons.
Our whole yard was quite a bit uneven and we wanted to level it. To get the layout the way you want it upfront saves work later.
We also were dealing with an old and weedy lawn. We were not sure that just covering, as many no-till books recommend, would work with quack grass and other aggressive weeds.
After converting a hayfield into a garden and also the front yard without tilling, we do know that it does work. But you have to be willing to weed the first few years. Since the covering weekends the plants, it is easy to do, however.
2. Cover the area with cardboard or newspapers
Some gardeners prefer cardboard, some newspaper, and some say you need both. We went with cardboard. We made sure the cardboard was mostly brown, with not too much ink on it. It was a nice calm day, so the task did not take very long.
This layer of cardboard is there to prevent weeds (and lawn) from growing. We did not use Roundup weed and grass control to kill the lawn. Roundup is a very aggressive chemical, not good for any garden. Over time the cardboard will decompose and turn into soil. In the process, it will kill the weeds and feed the worms, a win-win.
3. Add a layer of straw
For our first beds, we used the lasagna garden method. Laying down natural materials in layers to build soil. Since we wanted to raise the beds, it was great for gaining some height.
When using straw, you want to find an organic source, or a trusty farmer to make sure it is not sprayed with chemicals that would stay in the garden soil.
We would recommend though at this stage to build the actual raised beds or to cover the whole area with a lasagna garden. To form raised beds without support did not work as well for us. We added wooden boxes later on.
4. Add a layer of compost
Compost is good for any garden. If possible, use different kinds of compost. For example, we used mushroom compost (we have a facility close by that offers free compost to whoever wants it), and food waste compost.
When adding several layers, the bottom compost does not have to be of great quality. It will continue to break down along with the straw.
5. Cover with mulch
Mulch prevents the weeds from growing, keeps moisture in, and improves the garden soil. We used wood chips to start with. Back to Eden, the Film explains all the benefits of wood chip mulch.
Over the years we switched more to compost mulch, it just is easier to plant small seeds into compost than wood chips. see what works better for you.
6. Plant the seeds and seedlings
New beds are better prepared in the off-season so the soil has time to settle and micro-organisms and worms move in and make the garden even better. But it is okay to plant right away, too. To plant we put the wood chips aside and plant the seeds into the soil.
7. Harvest and enjoy an abundance of homegrown food
There is nothing like homegrown food, even expensive organic produce does not come close. It is well worth the effort.
If you wonder if it is even worth it if you only have a backyard garden, see our homegrown food storage update.
What about you, do you still mow your lawn or do you grow an abundance of homegrown food? You will find lots of information and how-tos under Growing food. See you there.
See an update on our yard transition here.
We would love to hear from you, where and how do you grow food.