General Discussion:

Front Yard Garden Island

Messages posted to thread:

Lori14-Jul-04 10:18 AM EST 5   
GardenGnome15-Jul-04 05:35 AM EST 6a   
Dawn15-Jul-04 06:39 PM EST 3   
16-Jul-04 05:05 AM EST   
Nancy16-Jul-04 02:04 PM EST 5   
Patricia17-Jul-04 02:43 PM EST 8   
Glen T21-Jul-04 07:47 AM EST 7   
Patricia21-Jul-04 06:02 PM EST 5   

Subject: Front Yard Garden Island
From: Lori
Zone: 5
Date: 14-Jul-04 10:18 AM EST


I am planning a large oval garden in the front yard, and was planning to use the following technique to start it. I was going to overlap 10-12 layers of newspapers on top of the grass, (which would kill the grass and weeds), and add a full foot of soil on top. Has anyone tried this technique, and does it work? Your reply is greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Subject: RE: Front Yard Garden Island
From: GardenGnome
Zone: 6a
Date: 15-Jul-04 05:35 AM EST

Hi Lori.

I've heard of this method and can't say how well it works for others, but when I tried it it just made a mess. The newspaper takes a LONG time to break down (the more layers, the longer it takes). I suppose under a foot of soil this wouldn't be a problem, but around the edges of your bed, the paper will stick out and be chewed up by the lawnmower, erosion, get the drift. I'd suggest using a non-selective herbicide (glyphosate) to eliminate grass and weeds. It's fast, easy, works well, and used properly isn't a danger to any other plants or critters in your yard.

Cheers G

Subject: RE: Front Yard Garden Island
From: Dawn
Zone: 3
Date: 15-Jul-04 06:39 PM EST

Sorry, I have to disagree with GardenGnome. I wouldn't use a non-selective herbicide unless absolutely necessary. I sliced off the top layer of sod on the side yard (faces east) in the fall, laid down about 6-8 layers of newspaper and then put the sod on upside down. This side only gets about 2-3 hours of sunlight. The following spring I planted and I have to say that considering I'm in a colder zone and it takes longer to decompose, the plants that are growing there (hosta, ferns, bleeding heart, etc) are fabulous. So much so, that if I was to do any other renos in the yard I would follow this procedure. Just my 2 cents :)

Subject: RE: Front Yard Garden Island
Date: 16-Jul-04 05:05 AM EST

Hi all.

Point taken about the herbicide. I'm not really a chemical person either but I have to weigh my options - sod is heavy and unwieldy. If you're going to kill it anyway, why not do it the easy way? Glyphosate doesn't have any long-lasting effects (breaks down fairly quickly in soil or when exposed to light and air) and is a whole lot easier to use than a spade or a sodcutter. Anyway, the discussion might be moot since Lori is planning to build up the height of the bed by a foot. You might be able to get away with just piling on the soil - anything at the bottom of a foot of dirt likely won't survive.

Cheers G

Subject: RE: Front Yard Garden Island
From: Nancy
Zone: 5
Date: 16-Jul-04 02:04 PM EST


My best friend did exactly as you plan to do and had excellent results. Didn't dig up and turn the sod and didn't use Roundup.

I started a new bed last year by laying down landscape fabric and covering it with mulch from April to late July/August. By that time I'd not just killed off all the grass underneath, when I pulled off the mulch and removed the fabric, the grass had broken down so far that it was like there hadn't been grass there in the first place. I just tossed on some composted manure for a bit of extra organic material, loosened it with a garden fork and planted.

Subject: RE: Front Yard Garden Island
From: Patricia
Zone: 8
Date: 17-Jul-04 02:43 PM EST

I am in the process of building new flower beds. I am using thick layers of newspaper, after I have taken out the sod. I put a layer of dirt,plant whatever plants, surround plants with newspaper and then add barkmulch. So far its working really well. I got this tip from gardening guru Jo-anne Baskerville who used to write for Garden's west. Its an evironmentally friendly wait to help keep weeds down and retain moisture in this dry, dry summer. Happy gardening

Subject: RE: Front Yard Garden Island
From: Glen T
Zone: 7
Date: 21-Jul-04 07:47 AM EST

Lori and all--this topic is near to many hearts, obviously! Reducing work is certainly near to mine.

I also made a garden "island" recently, using in my case old cardboard boxes opened up and flattened, and laid around the perimeter of the area only. The rest of the island just had the turf mowed as low as possible, but left in place. Like Lori, I was adding lots of new "dirt" so the grass has no chance to grow...only around the edges is there that problem.

I know I could have sliced off the perimeter sod, and thrown that upside down in the middle before adding soil, but this is a remote area that didn't need that much fussing.

The other point I'll add, I just added very old compost, probably a foot or two, to build up most of my bed. A landscaper friend has been doing this for a while on his installations, and gotten much improved plant establishment. My shrubs have really taken off as well, roots seem to love growing out of their container rootballs into the compost, which is probably a lot like the stuff they were already growing in I guess.

Compost absolutely has to be well aged, it can be too salty if it's very "fresh/new". Recent research at the U of Guelph has confirmed that many plants do great in pure compost, quite a surprise as we've all been told it will burn...but then we've also noticed how well the weeds, pumpkins and other volunteers grow right in the compost pile!


Subject: RE: Front Yard Garden Island
From: Patricia (
Zone: 5
Date: 21-Jul-04 06:02 PM EST

Recently, I read an email that referred to a "lasagna" garden - I was mystified. It turns out that a lasagna garden is made up of many layers - soil, compost, leaves, peat - you get the picture. The garden places all these layers on top of the sod which has been lifted and turned upside down. Earth side up, grass side donw. Seems to work for some!

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