Monday, January 21, 2008

Where Does All that Sod Go?

I have two basic ways to create a new garden. One involves hard back breaking labor and the other I call the lazy gardener's method. I have only voluntarily used the lazy gardener method once. The other times I have used this method are because I was gardening under trees with close to the surface roots.

I first lay out the new area with a hose as an outline for the new garden bed, then I begin hand digging all of the sod out of the area with my trusty shovel. Some people have better luck using a flat shovel, but I find the curved shovel works best to dig into and remove the sod.

Once the sod is all removed I place it in a wheelbarrow or my lawn cart for transplanting elsewhere in the garden. I estimate I have transplanted about 10,000 square feet of sod in this way. Sometimes I wind up moving sod more than once! The reason why I end up moving so much sod is I continue to make the mistake of planning new gardens too small. I am finally beginning to realize it is best to go ahead and go large to begin with, and save myself work further down the road.

The hardest part making a new garden for me is removing and transplanting the sod. I get so impatient I sometimes start planting before all of the sod is removed. It is a bad habit I have had to work on. I am doing better and enjoy it so much when the garden is done all at once and is completely ready for planting and planning.

Then the fun part begins with designing and planting. I almost never plan a garden on paper. I used to diligently plan the vegetable garden on paper each year, but now have a procedure of rotation which does not require and in depth plan. Thank goodness because I really just want to dig. Flower garden plans ALWAYS change once planting begins anyhow, so what is the point?

The garden in the pictures was created in 2006. I found it was too small to adequately circle around the oak, so I decided to enlarge it this past fall. It really would have been so much easier to have made it big to begin with! I would like to say I learned a lesson and will plan big from now on, but realistically I know that I won't. I think that the beauty of gardening is change. Reworking a garden is change so I am trying to go with the flow. Really, what I am trying to say is even if I plan big, it is likely I will change the garden somehow at some point. That is just the way I garden. I once heard you are not truly a gardener unless you move plants around, but I don't fully believe that because I know people who actually do plan well and never move plants. They are few and far between though as I KNOW most gardeners move plants around. Trees, shrubs, decks, bulbs, vines-you name it and we have moved it!

Once the sod is safely removed and replanted, I then use my shovel to hand turn the soil. I give the soil a really good working over and when I am done, my soil is raised about four inches above the surrounding sod. Making sure the soil is good and moist helps in this endeavor. I then add some compost (if available, if not then just a layer of good mulch), greensand, and plants. Greensand is an organic amendment which helps change the composition of clay soil. Something we have a lot of in Tennessee.

Once all is done, I mulch with either shredded wood mulch from Bi-County or with leaves and/or pine needles. If the garden is next to the house the mulch will never be shredded wood mulch. It takes a few years for the garden to grow in but I find the time is passing rather quickly, and I try to be very patient.

The far garden in the top picture was created in February 05. The mulch still showing on it is the initial mulch I used when creating this garden. I purchased it from Bi-County for just $10 a pickup truck full. I think it took about three truck loads. What a chore on my poor back! I will not mulch it again in this way, preferring instead to use leaves and pine needles once the garden is set in.

The second method I have used in creating a garden is the lazy gardener's method. It requires no digging initially. This time of year is the best time to make a new garden using this method. All I do is layer a bunch of newspapers (5-6 layers) over the sod in the new garden area, then cover the newspapers with a thick layer of shredded leaves. The garden sits all winter, then come spring I turn over the whole area and re-mulch. I don't like this method as well as the first because you wind up with many more weeds as lawn grasses are tough to kill, even under a deep layer of mulch. It takes about two years to get this type of garden established to the point the first type is in just one year. By being established I mean with very little weeds left to grow through the mulch and with the soil being friable and workable.

The number one mistake I see people make when creating new gardens is to rototill or turn under the soil without first removing the lawn and/or weeds. It is pointless to begin a garden in this way because you will spend more time pulling weeds than you do enjoying it. If you are digging under a tree and there are roots close to the surface, you should not remove the sod. I usually lay sod down over the area upside down, cover with newspapers and lots of mulch and use the lazy gardener method to garden in this type of location. Plants I use close to trees and roots are going to be different than what I would use in another garden further away from the tree. I do try to balance the trees needs with my need to cultivate and grow beautiful things but this can be tricky. I will talk about gardening under trees in another post sometime.

No garden will be truly weed proof, but ensuring you properly prepare the garden prior to planting will prevent much heartache later on. The double benefit of removing the lawn is you have new instant sod to replace thin areas of your yard. If there are only weeds in the new garden area, then put them directly in the compost bin and don't bother transplanting them. Sometimes I like it when I have only weeds to remove because it saves on the labor of transplanting the sod. Even with all of my hard work on the sod I do still have thin and weedy areas so I always try to create gardens here first. So where does all the sod go? it goes....

in the garden....expanding my gardens and moving sod.


  1. Great explanation --I like the garden in the front --around the oak. Hope you all are staying warm. Boy is it cold again today! Yikes! Took the kiddos out for a walk yesterday --they said they don't mind staying in now:)

  2. "Happy Blue Monday to all." No blues on here folks. Just a good post and good conversation.

    Well Dawn I guess you feel a whole lot better today than you did 15 years ago today. Happy Birthday to my grandson.

  3. Hi anonymous and mom,
    Good morning to all. I am not a big birthday person (not even a small one) but let me say "HAPPY BIRTHDAY" to my nephew Zach. 15! Hard to believe. Yes, I bet she is feeling a lot better-though I don't know because he is a teenager now....if he is anything like the Jimster-OMG!

    Your kiddies like the cold anonymous! You mean to say they have finally been cured?! Nope, I bet they are outside again. At least today it is due to get more manageable and I plan to be out there (once the dreaded housework is done-Yuck!)

    Good news. The blog editor, Alane, emailed me with a message from a reader in Florida, Lola. I hope she joins in on the conversation but even if she doesn't-great to have you on board Lola!

    Lola is originally from Paris Tennessee and I suspect a big gardener. While Florida is so much different from Tennessee, maybe I can share some Tennessee gardening and remind you of home. Paris is not far from here (just to the west) and is a lovely place.

    I saw some great gardens there this summer on my way to Jackson Tennessee. I seem to recall getting stopped by a police officer....thankfully I had some great friends in the truck that kindly explained I was distracted while driving and did not realize my speed. No ticket then! Still happy about that one as I am NOT a speeder and hadn't had a ticket in eons! Thanks again for letting me know you are reading Lola!

  4. Hi Guys, yeh I feel alot better than 15yrs ago. As old as he is, he was marveling about having it off, not evey year bucko! Went with his Dad to reward himself, we'll see what he comes home with...
    Tina, the girl that did the coin toss was very cute and tough--what a honor! I did not see it, Jack of all trades was on a call and the kids were sharing the tv before I remembered. Too bad Roger wanted the Packers to win but it should be fun to watch Eli and Tom. Remember the Giants were the team the Pats played when they broke all the records.

  5. That may not be good Dawn as they (meaning the Giants) will really be out for blood. As any team would not be even without that bit of ugly history.

  6. Wow what a game last night. Enough to make a gal start biting her finger nails like a child! Was ugly there for a while but all came out okay in the end. Not sure the Giants can measure up to the Patriots but just glad that Eli finally surpassed that little brother label and can now be Eli and not Peytons little brother. I love Peyton but think the media was not fair to Eli. Maybe now they will show the kid some respect!

    Good explaining on the gardens Tina! I save my grass (sod) when digging up also. Always a bare spot somewhere in the yard that needs it! We picked up slabs of sod to put in many many many bare spots when we first moved into this house! Most of it took root and it looks great now! Well, except for the parts the dang mole keeps digging up! Love my green grass....

    Happy birthday Bucko! Ah, to be 15 and not have a care in the world again!

    Hello Lola…

  7. Hello everyone, we have been in Franklin today for a follow up on the back procedure that my Husband had a couple weeks back. Everything is o.k.

    Tina, some more good information! I have two gardens under trees. The roots are really playing havoc on my edgers making it somewhat unsightly! My Daughter is coming up from Georgia the first of March for a visit and said she would help me expand them. She has some very good ideas and is a tremendous help to me.

    My Mother was from Paris, Tn and I still have some cousins living there. It is a really nice area. Welcome Lola!

  8. Oh, Skeeter, I wish I were younger than I am now but NEVER would I wanna have to be 15 again. And have to go thur the rest of the teens and some other bad years, giving birth (the kids are all great now but having and rasing is not always fun), working hard, ect. Not me.

    Nina, glad your hubby is ok and glad your daughter is coming to help you. Are'nt daughters just great?!!! I have four daughters. Four times I wanted a boy and never got one. Now that they are all grown up I am soooo happy they are girls.

  9. Hi guys,
    Good game I guess. Mom, sometime I will try to explain it to you. I never liked football until an old acquantance explained it to me. Now I can watch if I have to. Mr. Fix it is against the Mannings because they are from Indiana. Remember he hates the state. Too bad because I like it alot. So any team from there or a team with a hoosier as a quarterback will not be on his good side.

    Dawn, glad you saw that girl. She was great and funny too. Was not mad at all for being booed by hoosiers because of the jersey. Patriots should win the super bowl no problem. The newsman just said they are 19-0. Wow!

    Skeeter, I am so glad you save the sod. I bet alot of other people do too. It is such a big help for bare spots in the garden (which to me includes grass). But moving it around is alot of work!

    I got that crepe murder post ready and can't tell you enough thanks for the pictures-accomplice-ur helper- on getting them. It is so much better they are from out of town so as to not offend any particular business or homeowner here in our beloved Clarksville.

    I am glad hubby is ok. Franklin is a long drive for you. I am glad you all made it back safely.

    I hope I helped with the around the tree gardens. I have a post ready on edges too. You will surely like it since you talk about edges. It is very difficult around trees. Sometimes you just have to settle for less than perfect around tree gardens so as to not disturb the roots. I do on edges around trees-believe it or not. This is a working garden and the compost bin is in plain sight, the edges are not always straight, and the mulch is messy, but the plants are mostly happy. So I am happy too. I use many principles all gardeners should use, but can be unconventional-just remember bowling balls in the garden. Not for everyone-right Skeeter?

    Nina does your daughter know Skeeter? I think not. What part of Georgia? You know that is where our Skeeter is located, though from here in Clarksville. Tell her I said hello and it sounds like she is a gardener too. Expanding gardens is not an easy task at all! But oh so rewarding. I truly believe gardens are easier to care for than sod. No mowing, fertilizing or major weeding. Just mulching, dividing and trimming. I care for both the lawn and the gardens and believe me, the gardens are easier and much less time consuming. You'll have to tell her about the lazy gardener method, I just try to skim off some sod and stack upside down on the area near the tree. Cover with newspapers and mulch and done!

    Alane, the editor at the Leaf says our blog platform will switch to another carrier. When that happens, it is possible it will have an archive feature in case this post is gone. I have access to them all but it would be too much to load each time someone logged in. Most bloggers don't do that or if they do they only show the first 250 words of the post, and I think showing everything and the pictures is probably working the best for on here. But anyhow, you should have no problems.

    I'm with you mom. Never would want to go back. Never. Life is what it is. It is so hard to understand that when you are young and dumb. My teenager knows absolutely everything and I know nothing so I guess he is not so dumb right? No, he just doesn't realize what he does not know as yet. Typical.

    Long comment as always. I am so sorry.

  10. That girl was in InsideEdition tonight. The one at the Colt's game that got booed. Her parents were on also. Too bad to be such poor sports but there are lots out there for all teams. Good part of it is that she would not have got to see thePats win yesterday if that had not happened to her. Goodnight all.

  11. I agree that removing the sod is the best way to remove the weeds for sure, but the lazy way has worked well for me! I did it in my front garden bed by my garage and the weeds stayed away. The danger is that weed seeds can germinate on top of the mulch. The newspaper is gone now and has become part of the dirt beneath. I did it that way also in front of our porch. There is still some of the paper left beneath but it kept most of the weeds down and those that did pop up were manageable. When I plant trees I definitely remove the sod or at least turn it upside down so that the grass or sod decays into the soil. I try to give the trees a 3 foot circle to start with. The lazy way can be incorporated into raised beds to prevent weeds and it eventually breaks down into the soil. If your newspaper coverage is thick enough weeds won't make it through. I always try to overlap the edges of the paper so no cracks are left. Sometimes it's good to be lazy!

  12. Hey Mom and Dave,
    Mom, I thought the girl's attitude was the most awesome thing in the whole story. I don't think the hoosiers were being poor sports-just over supporting their favorite sons-the Colts.

    Dave, I am glad to hear you use the same methods as me. Most gardeners probably do, but I do know people who really, really don't know how to make new beds and wind up frustrated with the whole idea of gardening because they didn't properly prepare their garden beds. It can be comical if you don't like the person doing it, but ultimately sad for everyone because I think gardening is somewhat a cure all for many of societies ills, so the more gardeners who stick with it-the better the society. Like you said, always make sure the newspapers are thickly spread in the lazy gardener method-with no cracks.

  13. Nina, Glad everything is fine with hubby. Back issues are so painful. Sorry y’all are having to deal with that…
    Yes, where in GA does your daughter live? She may be near us!
    Wouldn't that make for another Small World story!