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 home grown 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 skip this step. However, our whole yard was quite a bit uneven and we wanted to level it. We also learned through experience that the quack grass does come back especially in areas where we had not tilled as good, but it is very easy to pull when the plants are young. Just covering, as many no till books recommend, does not work with quack grass (This is probably also true for other aggressive weeds). If you do not want to till, get does weeds out first. With quack grass you might as well till, because the roots will be everywhere. You have to till with a rotter tiller like you mean it to get rid of the quack grass. Otherwise you just propagate the roots even more.
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, 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
Here we used the lasagna garden method. Since we wanted raised beds, the straw was great for gaining some height. In one bed we added another layer of straw and compost, but the main beds have just straw underneath. We would recommend though at this stage to build raised beds or to cover the whole area with a lasagna garden. To build raised beds without support did not work as well. 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. Every year we also add some chicken manure.
5. Cover with mulch
Mulch prevents the weeds from growing, keep moisture in, and improves the garden soil. We used wood chips, in the fall we also add leaves. Back to Eden the Film explains all the benefits of wood chip mulch.
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.
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-to’s under Growing food. See you there.
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