How To Go From Grass To A Vegetable Garden: A Step-By-Step How-To!

Raised beds are all the rage right now in home gardens.  Raised beds are a great way to easily create a productive garden, but there are a number of reasons I can think of where a traditional in-ground garden makes more sense.  Here are some scenarios where this type of vegetable garden might work better:
1.  You are a renter and do not plan to live in your current house more than a few years.
*I had permission from our previous landlord to garden to my heart’s content in the area where some previous tenants had put in a vegetable garden.  Since they had left, it got overtaken with weeds and crabgrass.  We used this method to put in our last vegetable garden since there was no point in putting in an investment in raised beds for a place that we weren’t planning on living for more than a couple of years.
2.  You are not handy with tools and are short on funds.  Raised beds are not cheap when you buy the kits in stores, and you needs to have a variety of carpentry tools to create your own.
3.  You have a large or unusual shaped area to garden with, and raised bed kits will not accommodate your gardening space.
*I have some raised beds in the downstairs part of my garden since the soil there has never been worked and in pretty bad condition.  I only have a few down there since it is a smaller space that I have prepped for planting, and the pre-made raised beds kits would not work with the garden design that I have in my upstairs, main part of my edible garden.
4.  You have done some soil testing and found that you have surprisingly good quality soil underneath your current grass.  Take advantage and put it to use!  *That was one of the very pleasant surprises I had in our backyard of our new house.  I was shocked to find rich, amended soil, chock full of earthworms already in place for me!
5.  You have a spouse who is good with carpentry projects, but has no time availability to create raised beds for you this season. 🙂
*This is my #1 reason for double digging my whole garden this way right now.  I am hoping that my husband can build me some raised beds to my specs by next spring…once he finishes with more urgent projects, like building me a kitchen, closet, and photo studio. 🙂
6.  You are a first-time gardener and don’t want to make a huge investment.  Try out gardening in a small plot to see if you like it before you invest in tons of extra equipment!

So here is my step-by-step process:
Step 1: Dig up the sod/grass!  Use a shallow, almost horizontal digging action to dig up the grass, roots, and plastic sod mesh if applicable.  I had the fun discovery of realizing that there were actually two layers of sod put down in our backyard over the years which meant two layers of that annoying plastic mesh to dig through.
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Step 2:  Start digging the dirt!  Loosening up the soil allows the plants to have room to expand their roots, and allows proper drainage.  I dig about 1-2 shovel’s lengths deep, and turn the dirt upside down back near where it came from.

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Step 3:  Add a generous helping of planting compost, spread all over the dirt you just dug up.

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Step 4:  Break up large clumps of dirt with the tool shown.  A great way to work out some stress. 🙂  Hit those clumps as hard as you can!

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Step 5:  Break up smaller clumps of dirt with a metal rake, then start to level the dirt with the dirt.

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Step 6:  Add another layer of planting compost, and work into the top few inches of soil with a cultivator.

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Step 7:  If needed, finish leveling dirt with metal rake again.  After that, start planting!

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I do recommend doing some soil testing to see what kind of dirt you have in case additional soil amendments are needed.  For example, I have pretty good dirt in most areas of our garden that was already there.  However, in one area near a retaining wall, there is some pretty horrible clay soil.  I added a lot of rich organic gardening soil to this area to make it a usable area.  I will do a follow-up post on soil testing soon!

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