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Ask Aaron: Starting a Garden

What are your best tips for starting a brand new garden plot (currently covered in grass)? - Bethany

Hey there! What a great question. I think there’ll be a record number of new gardens this year, which is fantastic. Our friend and colleague Erin Higgins went over this in her recent “Spring Planting” workshop, and our take on her process is below! See her full, in-depth workshop here.

  1. Closely mow your planned garden area. Essentially you’re trying to terminate the grass and plants that are currently occupying that spot.

  2. Spread a thick layer of compost over the area. Compost isn’t cheap, but what we’re doing here is introducing super healthy soil and organic matter to your lawn and beginning to smother out the grass that is currently calling the area home.

  3. Wet and cover the area, for as long as possible. We use these silage tarps, but anything you have that's opaque and thick would work. You’re taking part in a process recently termed “occultation” in which weeds are encouraged to germinate through watering, then cut off from their food source: light. This process can take a while and depends largely on moisture, temperature and the snugness of your covering. Try to give it at least a month!

  4. Till / broadfork the area. Which of these you choose depends largely on what you have available and what the state of your future garden is. If it’s looking pretty clean after the tarping, a quick broadforking (or pitchforking, or potato forking, or whatever you have around) will suffice. If there’s still some grass alive, a quick and shallow tilling will help terminate those plants, as well as work in your compost.

  5. Define your garden area! Where will your beds be? Where will you walk? We use a permanent bed system, where the beds and pathways are clearly defined. We’d recommend mulching, seeding low lying white clover, or putting landscape fabric down in your’ll make things so much clearer!

  6. You may have to do some work to terminate grass remnants that continue to pop up, especially on the border of your garden area. But hopefully, you’re well on your way to a verdant, productive garden!

Happy gardening!

- Aaron French | Urban Farm Manager


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