Sheet Mulching Is The Easiest Way To Convert Lawn To Garden

Want to plant a new flower bed in the middle of your lawn? Time to break out your sheet mulching skills.

May 12, 2017
sheet mulching to create a new garden bed
Ozgur Coskun/getty

The best way to convert a lawn into a garden does not employ a shovel or a sod cutter and will save wear and tear on back muscles. Sheet mulching—a simple technique that involves layering cardboard, compost, and other organic material right over the turf—kills the grass and leaves behind beds with rich soil.

A considerable amount of organic debris goes into the bed construction, so stockpile plenty of autumn leaves, composted manure, and garden waste before beginning. Beds that are sheet-mulched in the fall will be ready to plant the following spring.

(Whether you're starting your first garden or switching to organic, Rodale’s Basic Organic Gardening has all the answers and advice you need—get your copy today!)

starting a garden bed
Mitch Mandel
How To Get Started

Use spray paint or powdered lime to mark the perimeter of the new bed. Scalp the grass within the outline with a lawn mower.

Spread a 2-inch layer of compost or composted manure over the bed. This helps encourage microbial activity in the soil and speeds decomposition. Moisten the compost well.

Related: The Best Way To Transplant Seedlings To The Garden

adding cardboard to a garden bed
Mitch Mandel
Add A Layer Of Cardboard

Cover the compost with overlapping pieces of cardboard to smother the underlying vegetation and prevent light from reaching any weed seeds. Soak the cardboard with water.

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layering compost onto a garden bed
Mitch Mandel
Add Layers Of Organic Material

Spread a 2-inch layer of compost over the cardboard and top it with up to 18 inches of mixed organic material (grass clippings, leaves, straw, seaweed, garden debris, farmyard maure).

Include vegetable and fruit scraps and coffee grounds from the kitchen in the layers of organic matter. Moisten these layers.

Related: What Every Gardener Should Know About Mulching

watering down a new garden bed
Mitch Mandel
Add The Finishing Touches

For vegetable beds, finish with 2 to 3 inches of straw or compost. Top ornamental beds with 4 inches of wood chips. In arid climates, water the bed occasionally. Soil microbes and earthworms will toil through the winter to decompose the organic material, cardboard, and sod.

Related: How To Build The Ultimate Compost Bin