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What do I need to do to transform part of a compacted lawn into a vegetable garden?


Before starting any garden anywhere, you'll want to conduct a soil test to check on nutrient and organic matter levels, not to mention possible soil contaminants like lead. If your ground is really compacted, you can either till it with a rototiller or loosen it with a digging fork or broadfork. The chances are good that your soil could benefit from the addition of some organic soild amendments, the best of which being organic compost.

Question details

Is this question generic, or is it from an individual? The advice on soil safety & soil composition is good & basic. From there, further advice about an approach depends a lot upon the disposition & circumstances of the owner gardener. There are many different ways to get to good outcomes.
I heard about an idea, no till gardening. I just started mine, so I have no feedback for you, but there are several sites that talk about its effectiveness. I've a pile of mulch I am watching decompose. Basically, it is providing the nutrients needed for the biological organisms to thrive and the symbiotic relationship so prevalent in nature provide the mutual supports for the other to survive. Perfect concept for the lazy gardener...
How do you conduct a soil test?
Take samples from a few areas. Dig down a couple of inches for this soil. Mix the samples and then either send to your Agricultural Extension Service, or buy a soil test kit at a local garden or hardware store. Note that most test kits only give you results for pH, nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus.
We took out half of our backyard for a garden. A friend had her sons sod cut the lawn and she took it for her backyard. We then mantis tilled the areas we wanted to plant and used sheep manure and compost. We also have three raised beds from before. I asked our neighbor for their grass clippings and am putting them around the plants to help keep the ground moist and to cut down on the mud. Next year we will till this in. I figured this would only help to make the soil better each time. For a fairly modest size area we now have 9 different tomatoes, 3 kinds of peppers, 2 kinds of squash, pole beans, rhubarb,beets, radishes, lettuce, carrots, apples, peaches, apricots, elderberries, grapes, and broccoli. I also have iris, marigolds, lilies, and a pretty ground cover. We took our time this year and I am having hopes with God's help (He is a much better farmer than I am) that we will have a good crop with lots to share with family and friends. Now if it would just get a bit warmer. Heres to Happy, Healthy, and Bountiful Gardens and Contented Gardners!! :)
When you are not working in your garden read everything on this site & any book from "Organic Gardening Magazine/ Rodale Press, Emmaus, Pennsylvania. There are at least 3 variations of new raised beds. 1) Remove grass & weeds then cut up the top 6-8 inches(15-20cm), then mark the end of the beds with 4 stakes.  Now till or turn the bed with a spade, breaking up any cumps as you go. Remove the left half of the bed with a spade, put it on top of the right (other half )of the bed. You should end up with a 2-3' ditch the length of yout bed. You can till the bottom of the ditch or turn itwith the spade, then cover the ditch with any compost or yard waste, before puting the topsoil that you put on the right of the bed, back on the yard waste. Smooth out with a rake, then repeat on the right half of the bed. 2)Remove the grass & weeds, then till up the whole plot, mark off 4-6'(1meter20cm-1meter-80cm) & 18-24"  (46- 61cm)paths between each bed. Remove the soil from the path 12"(30cm) deep, put the soil on the bed. when you have finished the beds you should use broads or rocks/blocks as a wall to keep the soil in place. Rake the soil smooth and add compost. 3) I have seen this form of raised bed only once, a framer had a tractor. He plowed a 3'(1meter) ditch by cutting & rolling the soil out of the ditch,then he fulled the ditch with leavse,grass,starw,twigs & manure. He let it set for a month the ran a shallow plow over it to brack up the top. he repeated this every month for 4 months. It was spring at this time & he plowed & planted the bed. He now mulches his beds in a no till system. I have used 1&2 for over ten years, #2 is easier, but  #1 works better. I always leave one bed void of ALL plant life each winter & pile on the brown matter to refreash the soil, also helps keep bad nematodes at bay. They can live in weeds or cover crops root systems, but die out with out the plants to eat. Good nematodes that compost rotten & dead plant matter will grow. You can do this in any season but winter is easier for me.



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