How I Turned a Grass Lawn Into a Garden Plot

I used manual tools like this loop weeder to remove the grassy sod and create a nice garden plot for vegetables.
I used manual tools like this loop weeder to remove the grassy sod and create a nice garden plot for vegetables. | Source

This year, I converted a large area of grass lawn into a nice, usable garden space. It was very satisfying, but it also makes me want to rant just a bit.

Can someone please tell me why people ever thought lawns were a good idea? To me, lawns are a waste of good gardening space. They're labor-intensive, yet reap little reward. Turning a field of green carpeting into a productive vegetable and herb garden has to be one of the noblest tasks humankind can do. Or at least, that's what I told myself this year as I set out to turn our grassy lawn into a vegetable and fruit garden. After all, everyone in our household has to pull their own weight - shouldn't the lawn have to do the same?

So that's what I did. With my own hands (yes, me, a born Chicagoan) I turned sections of our lawn into a garden plot. I did it the (modest cough) hard way - with hoes, scythes, and hand tools. I turned both previously untilled lawn and soil that had been tilled the previous year but now was overgrown with grass and weeds into soil that we could grow things in. May I just say - yay!

How Tough is Your Garden Lawn?

The hardest part about turning my lawn into a garden plot was the thick sod filled with weeds and tough clumps of grass. Is your lawn challenge like that?

  • Yes, the grass and/or weeds are impossible to dig just with a shovel.
  • Nah, it's a sissy lawn, with a grass layer that's easy to remove.
  • Not sure yet, but I fear the worst.
  • The grass is fine - it's the soil that's the problem! Clay soil doesn't move for much, ya know!
  • Other (please share in the Comments)
See results without voting
Manual tools I used to turn lawn into garden.
Manual tools I used to turn lawn into garden. | Source
A lasagna garden in progress
A lasagna garden in progress | Source

Because I am not inspired by using gas or electric powered equipment, I did not use a rototiller, string trimmer, or anything else that could run off madly on its own if I lost control of it. Because I am impatient, I did not use the pleasurably lazy "lasagna gardening" technique in which you lay down straw or black plastic mulch over cut foliage and then let it all stew for six months to a year. Although I like lasagna gardening in other areas, I was in a hurry to clear up space on the lawn to plant, so I didn't want to wait. My goal was to get the grass out of the way, make the soil nice enough not to strangle the roots of the plants I wanted to grow, and plant 'em. Maybe I'd even mulch with bark or coco coir or black plastic to tell those weeds they weren't comin' back, no way.

Garden hand tools I used, including Red Pig tools, a Japanese ika hoe (second to left), a mighty Wilcox All-Pro camping trowel (upper right), and a Hoedag (left)
Garden hand tools I used, including Red Pig tools, a Japanese ika hoe (second to left), a mighty Wilcox All-Pro camping trowel (upper right), and a Hoedag (left) | Source

My Experience As An Amateur Gone Ambitious

So that's what I did. I did it not knowing a thing about garden tools, weeding, digging, or - let's face it - gardening. I was fortunate that my sister-in-law spearheaded the project in terms of figuring out the plans for the garden and providing the types of soil amendments needed. She bought most everything - except the tools I ended up using the most. And somehow or other, it got done - a large space to plant. Maybe not the most aesthetically pleasing garden ever, but - wow - food we can eat! Grown right here! On formerly-useless lawn! What could be better?

It occurred to me that other people might want to know how I got rid of the layer of grass - not because I did anything particularly amazing. I mean, it's just gardening, and I can't exactly take credit for reinventing it - but because it was, well, hard, you know? I would have LOVED it if someone could have just told me right at the beginning what I would need to have and do. Then I wouldn't have had to research and try all different sorts of tools before I found the right ones. I wouldn't have had to learn ALL the important techniques through the trial-and-error method.

Rogue 80S Scuffle Hoe - A triangle hoe sharpened on all 3 sides, canted at an angle to use as a push-pull weeder.  It took me several tries to learn to use it effectively.
Rogue 80S Scuffle Hoe - A triangle hoe sharpened on all 3 sides, canted at an angle to use as a push-pull weeder. It took me several tries to learn to use it effectively. | Source

I Needed Old-Fashioned Type, Durable Tools, Not Sissy WalMart Tools

As an example of my trials and errors...when I started this project, I'd hardly ever used a hoe, and then only a lame, bone-jarring one. I decided early on to get a quality Rogue hoe. Rogue is an inexpensive American brand and they make STRONG hoes. They also have a wide assortment to choose from. I ended up getting several - about five (yes, I took this seriously!) I ended up using primarily four in the garden-to-be and ignoring the last. Plus, I learned from experience that two (the 40X and 55A) were essentially interchangeable. I sure wish I'd known that when I ordered them. Below, I describe the tricks and techniques I discovered for using all the equipment that I had no clue how to use when I started.

70F Field Hoe by Rogue Prohoe moves our water-logged clay soil like nobody's business, and isn't fazed by the occasional rock.
70F Field Hoe by Rogue Prohoe moves our water-logged clay soil like nobody's business, and isn't fazed by the occasional rock. | Source

My Challenges - Why Digging the Garden Was So Hard

I found my biggest challenge was finding tools that could handle the work. The next biggest was staying uninjured - which largely came down to the tools, as well.

  • We are in the Pacific Northwest, with damp, muddy, dense clay. This means I needed strong hoes and digging implements that wouldn't break when used to pry up the dirt, like the cheap chain-hardware-store strawberry hoe I broke trying to dig out lawn.
  • We have a thick, fibrous layer of thistles, Himalayan blackberries, weeds, and tall grass (we're talking eight feet tall in places) taking over our lawn. Our sod is mighty sod. I needed tools that were sharp and fast for getting out both thick, deeply-rooted weeds and long, tortuous roots.
  • Our lawn has rocks, from pebble sized to brick-sized, buried in it. So the blades of the tools I used had to not be wimpy, but able to withstand the occasional impact against a rock.
  • I have overcome chronic back, knee, and foot pain in the past, so I needed the physical work to be ergonomic enough NOT to set things off again. I was careful to keep my posture healthy and use tools that I could handle with ease and that were the right size for me (I'm petite). I did manage to hurt my knee at one point due to wearing my otherwise beloved Muck boots instead of my favorite moccasins on a rainy day. (Tell you more about that another time.) But it just confirmed my overwhelming experience that to prevent injury, the right tools were absolutely essential.

Tools I Used to Transform the Lawn Into Garden Soil

Tool Name
Rogue Hoe - 55A and 40X
For powerful digging/turning of sod
Though slightly different shapes and weights, these turned out to be functionally very similar. You don't need both.
Rogue Scuffle Hoe - 80S
For push-pull weeding and loosening dirt
You kind of slice this thing through the soil in any direction you want. It's super sharp and does what I imagine a Japanese sickle weeder can do if you tilt it at an angle.
Rogue Hoe 70F, Field Hoe
For moving dirt fast
This long-handled tool has a long reach and a big face that allows me to carve and shave clay dirt almost effortlessly into fluffy dirt, then pull it along. It also cuts well and has a hefty weight to it.
Japanese Kusakichi brand Ika (Squid) Hoe
For removing stubborn grassy clumps, sifting weeds, and breaking up chunks of dirt
Very heavyweight for its size.
For cultivating dirt (especially breaking up clumps of sod), targeting young/new weeds during planting and generally taking around with you
This is a convenient, lightweight hoe I found easy to lug around and use often.
Wilcox All-Pro trowels
For digging out rocks, slicing deep roots, and sifting through dirt
I didn't use these a lot, but occasionally they were "just the tool."
Rock Rake - brand unknown
For raking weeds and dirt
I used a sturdy rock rake mostly for smoothing dirt in the last stages of preparing the soil.
Glaser Stirrup Hoe
For weeding and sifting weeds
Because I was weeding a wide swathe, I used the largest one with the 7" head. I probably should have gotten the slightly smaller one to use for weeding in narrow areas once things were planted.
European Scythe
For cutting down high grass, thistles, and blackberries
Honing stone and peening anvil highly advised!
For moving large clumps of weeds
Particularly helpful if you have a lot of high grass when you start.
Landscape Anchor Pins (Ground Staples)
These nifty mega-staples hold black plastic down for composting or mulch
Black Plastic Mulch
For lasagna gardening/composting large or small plots
This is so not green, but so convenient...what can I say?
Garden Gloves
For protecting the hands from thistles, thorns, poison plants, blisters, and yucky things.
I highly recommend your keeping at least 2 replacement pairs if your soil gets muddy. That way you'll always have a pair available when the gloves get too muddy and water-logged to use.
Coco Coir, Planting Soil, Fertilizer, and other soil enhancers
For making the soil airy, light, fluffy, rich, and water-retaining without being water-logged
What you use as a soil amendment depends on your particular soil conditions.
I used these tools to remove the thick layer of grassy lawn and replace it with nice dirt for planting a garden.

Steps I Took In Turning Our Lawn Into a Garden

To turn our lawn quickly into a garden plot, I did the following. (This is the short version.)

  1. I scythed the grass and weeds to a manageable height.
  2. I dug out the sod.
  3. I put the weeds and grass where they could compost.
  4. I added soil enhancements.
  5. I shaped the dirt into raised, sloped beds (about 10" high)
  6. I planted and mulched.

Bit 'O Lawn, Bit 'O Lasagna, Bit O' Garden

One Section of the New Garden, formerly lawn, now ready for planting in raised beds.
One Section of the New Garden, formerly lawn, now ready for planting in raised beds. | Source

How to Turn a Lawn Into a Garden Plot - The Long Version

So all of that sounds really easy, summarized in six short steps. Not gonna lie to you here - it's not. If you don't like to sweat and work for hours on end, you probably want to go rent a rototiller and skip to step 4. It'll still be hard work, just not to quite such an, um, spiritual level.

Step 1: Taming the Tall Weeds

If your lawn is neat and well-managed, you've already got a head start - just mow your lawn in preparation for Step 2, digging.

However, if your grass is wildly overgrown or the weeds are more than a foot tall, you probably want to do something about that before you start breaking into the sod. Sod, by the way, means the top layer of lawn dirt - the part with all the grass, weeds, and roots tangled up in a big thicket.

Scything Isn't Just for the Grim Reaper Anymore

If you have a lawn that gets out of control, or you hate using lawn mowers, consider the old-fashioned scythe. You can scythe in the rain, you can scythe for just 5 minutes, there's no big equipment to operate or store, and,'s therapeutic, a gentle workout, and fun!

Scything isn't mandatory even if your grass is out of control. I mean, if you like to use (or aren't intimidated by) a string trimmer - also called a "weed wacker" or "weed eater" - to handle that level of roughage, then go ahead and use that. The idea is simply to get the grass and weeds down to less than a foot, and ideally just a few inches high.

Because I am intimidated by power tools, I opted instead to use a scythe to mow my lawn to a reasonable level. I'd started scything our field last year. The grass had grown out of control and was taking over the property, along with some Himalayan blackberries, thistles, and other aggressive intruders. I found scything to be incredibly efficient, cost effective, and convenient.

So when I went to tackle the neglected lawn area to turn it into a garden, the scythe was my first tool for taming the highest weeds and grasses.

What is This...Scythe?

A scythe is a long crescent-shaped blade attached to a long handle called a snath that you swing along the ground from side to side to cut grass and weeds. It's not the same as a sickle, which is typically short-handled and wielded anywhere you put it. You need to keep the scythe well-sharpened, which means peening (hammering out the edge of the blade) periodically and honing with a whetstone every ten minutes or so. It's not as intimidating as it sounds, honestly!

One advantage of using a scythe is that you end up with the grass cuttings that you can use for compost. In my case, some of the cut grass went into little compost piles, and the rest went toward my own version of lasagna gardening in another area of our property, which is another kind of composting.

Which Type?

You have two choices if you're going to use a scythe: American style with the grass blade or European style. The European scythe is lighter. We have both. I use the stronger, heavier American scythe where there are a lot of thick blackberries and coarse weeds to cut. I use the finer, more easily honed, but needing more frequent honing, European scythe to cut regular grass and light weeds like wild peas, thistles, and SMALL blackberry vines.

How to Use

Scything is kind of an art, and I highly recommend this site by a long-time scything family for learning how it's done.

Raking and Piling All The Weeds

After you cut the grass, you need to do something with it. Raking is almost an afterthought. You forget you're going to need to do it, but after scything or hacking down an abundance of weeds, you're left with a huge, messy pile of foliage, and you realize it's in your way.

You can discard the foliage for composting, or use it on your own compost pile. I raked much of it onto other sections of field, covered it with black plastic sheeting, pinned the mulch to the ground, punctured holes in the mulch with my pitchfork to let in moisture and air, and that area is destined to be a lasagna garden.

As to style of rake, I used a rock rake/bow rake. DO NOT USE A LEAF RAKE - the kind with long metal tines that flex. For this job, such a rake is a wimpy, difficult, and ineffective tool. Use instead one of those long, wide rakes with short, rigid, widely spaced tines.

A pitchfork is useful, but not necessary, for heaving the mass of grass onto the compost heap. It all depends on your volume.

Here's the picture again, larger this time, of an area that has been prepared with black plastic sheeting.
Here's the picture again, larger this time, of an area that has been prepared with black plastic sheeting. | Source

Step 2 - Digging Out the Sod

This is the step you've probably been dreading: removing the actual grassy layer.

This is where things get hard. Literally. Dry soil can be tough to break up. If your soil gets very hard when it's dry, then try to choose a digging day after a light to medium rain. Water-logged soil after a hard rain, too, can be a pain to dig and turn. Sometimes, though, you just want to work with whatever you've got, because you're in the mood to dig. That's a good reason to have durable tools. It's on days where the digging conditions aren't optimal that it's easiest to break flimsy tools.

Here is a video of me using the Prohoe Rogue hoe 55A to turn turf over.

Note: Sorry for the awful quality of the video. I took it with a 15-year-old digital camera, and to compound the matter, I took it by swinging this hugely heavy hoe in one hand and holding the camera in the other. The first attempt had me knocking the handle against my shin. This version is professional cinematography by comparison.

Me Swinging My Firefighter's Hoe - With One Hand! (Don't Try This At Home)

How to Dig With a Firefighter's Hoe

Why did I use a Rogue firefighter's hoe? (55A) It was very similar to the trenching hoe (40X). Both of these are heavyweight and have blades on both ends. Both have a handle the right length for swinging. The 55A I liked slightly better, because the big adze end is wider and sharpened on three sides. But really, both worked equally well. Just for kicks, I've included some photos so you can compare them.

The Rogue Gardening Hoes I Used to Cut Out the Layer of Grassy Lawn

Two Rogue Hoes for Turning Sod - 55A and 40X.  Either one would do.  You don't need both.
Two Rogue Hoes for Turning Sod - 55A and 40X. Either one would do. You don't need both. | Source
The two Rogue hoes, compared in another view.
The two Rogue hoes, compared in another view. | Source
And yet another view...
And yet another view... | Source
Here is a comparison of their thickness.
Here is a comparison of their thickness. | Source

To dig out the sod, this was my technique:

  1. Holding the handle at a comfortable place, raise the hoe high overhead, but not so far back that it upsets your balance.
  2. Swing the hoe to the ground. This movement is a combination of at first letting the hoe fall and then adding to the building momentum at the end with a surge of power. So by the time the blade hits the lawn grass, it sinks in deeply below root level.
  3. With the blade sunk into the dirt, pry the grassy chunk of dirt out by pressing/pushing on the handle. Flip over the dirt, using the blade as necessary to chop any remaining strands of grass.

You now should have dirt exposed in one small area with a clump of upside-down grassy sod. It has begun!

There are a few things you can do at this point. You can dig a long trench down the length of the lawn using this kind of stroke, then follow your cleared trench at an angle with this hoe, flipping over more sod kind of like peeling a carpet of turf. Or, you can rinse and repeat, taking the tool madly to the lawn and making it look like moles have had their annual party there. I, an undisciplined sort, did the latter.

Bending Woes and What To Do About Them

I don't know about you, but I have chronic back troubles. To be specific, I have spondylolytic spondylolisthesis and neural foraminal stenosis. It was critical for me to keep good bending posture the entire time I was doing this, or my back would go "out." Now, I learned last year that the supposed "correct" way to bend - at the knees - wasn't actually good for me at all. So I learned the truly ergonomic way to bend at the hips (not the knees and not the waist) and that's made all the difference. If you want me to describe how I do it, just ask in the comments.

Loosen the Dirt From the Grassy Clumps

Once your lawn is filled with these intimidating but satisfying clumps of upside-down grassy sod, then you must do some bending. I used a heavyweight trowel (the Wilcox All-Pro 14"), the Hoedag, and the Japanese Ika Hoe to loosen the clods and break the dirt apart. (You may need to wait a day or so for the clumps to dry out if they are very damp.) I used a chopping motion to break off big clumps, then picked up the main clump, gave it a shake, spat out the dirt that came into my mouth, and threw the grass and root part that was left onto a pile to compost later. Rinse and repeat.

If bending isn't so friendly, you could use the long-handled 80S scuffle hoe, or better yet, a heavier hoe like the one that stayed in my garage, to break up and loosen the clods. That was a smaller Rogue 70G garden hoe by Prohoe. I've used it for that purpose before, but when I was doing the yard I was too lazy to make the trip to get it out of the garage! How you use it is you both chop with the broad end, then turn the hoe so the sharpened flat end is on the clump and chop with that, too. Because it has a long handle, you can stand up straight while you work.

Note the Red Pig Tools hoe on the left, next to the red-handled Wilcox All-Pro Digging Trowel, and the forked Japanese squid hoe and hoedag in the background.  Any of these would work well.
Note the Red Pig Tools hoe on the left, next to the red-handled Wilcox All-Pro Digging Trowel, and the forked Japanese squid hoe and hoedag in the background. Any of these would work well. | Source

Composting the Weeds

I won't say a lot about composting here, mostly because I do not know a lot. I do know, though, that what I did was fairly easy to do, and cheap. It hasn't had a chance to fully compost yet, but I don't see why it wouldn't. I basically stuffed a huge black plastic contractor's bag full of the dirt & weed clumps, then turned it over so the open face was on the ground. Pierce a few holes in the top to let in water and air, and then...voila, instant composting bin.

Using the Rogue Triangle Scuffle Hoe

The scuffle hoe is a push-pull weeding hoe. That means you don't so much chop with it as pull it toward you and push it away from you. I used the Rogue 80S, one of the bigger scuffle hoes, and got fairly proficient at using it after about an hour. The main thing to know is it's actually harder to use when you keep it level and exactly horizontal. At that angle, you have to press down to make it effective. However, if you tilt it at an angle, then push and pull, it slices under the plants at the roots with its sharp blade edges and points. It's very satisfying. Not what I'd call effortless, but not too hard, either.

Rogue Scuffle Hoe
Rogue Scuffle Hoe | Source

Step 3 - Prepare the Beds

With the hardest part over, what you do at this stage depends on your soil, the size of your garden, and what kind of garden plot you want. What I did was this:

There were still a lot of weeds in the now-bare-faced yard. I weeded these stragglers mostly using the Rogue 80S scuffle hoe (it's shaped like a triangle) and the hula hoe - actually called a stirrup hoe or loop hoe - by Glaser. I also chopped at them with the Hoedag and ika hoe. Then I rather laboriously raked the weeds into the compost pile.

Note that while I tried to get out all of the roots, many small bits and pieces of weed and grass remained. This was as good as it was going to get, though, as I didn't see myself sifting the soil pint by pint.

Then, when the dirt was mostly dirt at last, I took the 70F Rogue field hoe and the rock rake and moved dirt around. Most of the dirt I was dealing with had been soil enhanced the previous year, so I was mixing that with the natural clay ground. If your soil needs enhancement, this is the time to add it.

The 70F cut and moved dirt like a dream. I took a short video and have included it here, but I don't think it adds much because the quality of the video camera and my filmmaking was lacking. Note, though, that this huge hoe was cutting dirt even though I was only wielding it one-handed (using the other hand to hold the camera).

Me Using the 70F Field Hoe By Rogue

Using the Stirrup Hoe

Unlike the Rogue 80S, the Glaser stirrup hoe - and I presume any hula-hoe style tool - takes just a few minutes to figure out how to use. You lay the sharpened blade end of the head (the bottom part) on the ground and begin sliding the hoe toward you and away. The hoe is ratcheted in such a way that it rocks back and forth on the handle - that's how it works, slicing patiently at dirt and plants. Although it's easier when you start on a patch of dirt, you can actually get to work on top of short foliage, and if you do it long enough, you'll eventually scrape away the weeds and hit dirt.

Sometimes the hoe will catch on a root or stem; when this happens, don't try to force it. Just keep sliding back and forth, and if that doesn't work after a few tries, get a different tool, like the Wilcox All-Pro trowel, the 55A Rogue garden hoe, the Red Pig Tools hand hoe or dandelion weeder, or anything that chops or pries and is convenient.

Note that this push-pull weeder, and the Rogue 80S, both are for removing weed tops and only roots that are just under the soil, not deep.

Hoes I Used to Move Dirt and Weed in the Almost-Ready Garden Plot

Long-handled stirrup hoe
Long-handled stirrup hoe | Source
Rogue Scuffle Hoe 80S 8" x 5" x 5"
Rogue Scuffle Hoe 80S 8" x 5" x 5" | Source
Rogue 80S again
Rogue 80S again | Source
Dirt-moving Field Hoe 70F by Prohoe (Rogue line)
Dirt-moving Field Hoe 70F by Prohoe (Rogue line) | Source

At this point, I piled dirt a couple of feet high into long hills about 2-3 feet apart. Then I walked along each hill with my rock rake and spread out the dirt, pulling it toward me (easier) and occasionally pushing it away (harder). The goal was to create beds 3-4 feet wide, with a foot-wide path between them.

As I smoothed out the raised beds, I removed additional weeds as they came up. I mostly left the grass blades and leaves, and focused on those ominous white, slim root strands that are so tenacious with grass.

Cutting or Prying out Surprise Roots

Underneath the surface, lawns are messy, busy things, with lots of meandering, active root systems that will surprise you. Occasionally, I'd see some thick roots sticking out of the ground. I'm not sure if these were grass roots (we have every inhospitable kind of grass there is in our yard, I suspect), or other weeds' roots. Whatever they were, I disposed of them by wielding the heavy ika hand hoe, the Red Pig hoe (that thing is MIGHTY) or, when the big guns were needed (usually, when the roots went deep into the clay soil), the Rogue 55A or 40X again, as described above - raise tool overhead, control the fall-swing, pry out of ground.

My four workhorse hoes.  The fifth one I'd bought (a general garden hoe) remained in the garage for this project.
My four workhorse hoes. The fifth one I'd bought (a general garden hoe) remained in the garage for this project. | Source

Amazon Carries Some of The Tools I Used

Prohoe Triangle Head Rogue Hoe with 42" Fiberglass Handle
Prohoe Triangle Head Rogue Hoe with 42" Fiberglass Handle

This is exactly the hoe I used. It is very much like the 40X, with a short handle that wields a lot of force, but I prefer this one because it has a broader head.

Hoedag Planter Mattock
Hoedag Planter Mattock

This was all-round useful to carry around with me, especially for the actual planting. It wasn't essential, though. It's very strong and well-built, but not as thick or heavy as most of the other tools I used.

Garden Trowel - Stainless Steel 14" Long Works Perfectly for Every Hand Digging Situation. Indestructible. Made in Iowa. Includes a 6" Incised Depth Gauge. Lifetime Guarantee.
Garden Trowel - Stainless Steel 14" Long Works Perfectly for Every Hand Digging Situation. Indestructible. Made in Iowa. Includes a 6" Incised Depth Gauge. Lifetime Guarantee.

In my photos you'll see the 12-gauge version of this tool, but I also used this 16-gauge version, and it's actually a bit better for digging in the garden, as the slimmer stainless steel cuts a bit easier. Wow, what a trowel. I used it for cultivating (it really thrusts easily into clay soil) as well as getting at deep, stubborn, thick taproots.

Garden Accessory Stirrup Hoe Weeder D9500 (Red) 5 Inch Blade With 5 Foot Ashwood Handle by David's Garden Seeds (pv14)
Garden Accessory Stirrup Hoe Weeder D9500 (Red) 5 Inch Blade With 5 Foot Ashwood Handle by David's Garden Seeds (pv14)

I'm pretty sure this is the same as my Glaser "hula" hoe, only this one's 5" instead of 7". Mine came with the handle separately, and it wasn't oiled, and boy, was it hard to get on - I had to let my husband do it.

Dewitt AP75 6-Inch by 1-Inch by 6-Inch-Gauge Anchor Pins
Dewitt AP75 6-Inch by 1-Inch by 6-Inch-Gauge Anchor Pins

These ground staples are for fastening black plastic mulch to the soil - you may or may not need them, depending on whether you use plastic sheeting or not.

Warp Brothers 12-4CH10B 4 Mil Black Plastic Sheeting, 10-Foot by 25-Foot
Warp Brothers 12-4CH10B 4 Mil Black Plastic Sheeting, 10-Foot by 25-Foot

We have a lot of area to lasagna garden (it's kind of a farm) so we used Home Depot's big roll of black plastic sheeting. This is mulch on a smaller scale for regular gardens.

Prohoe Field Hoes - 7" wide blade - cotton hoe
Prohoe Field Hoes - 7" wide blade - cotton hoe

This is the 70H, a slightly heavier weight field hoe by Rogue than the 70F that I got. If I had it to get again, I'd get this one, at about a pound heavier, because I've really started to like using the heaviest tools available. They help decimate the grass and weeds very nicely.


Disclosure & Copyright

I did not receive any freebies or payment for any reviews here. My opinions are as honest as opinions can be. If I said I used something here, I did, and if I said I liked it or didn't, and why that is, well, that's the way it was. This content is free for you to read, but not to copy, except insofar as embedding YouTube videos legally. Please ask for my permission and terms if you want to use my text or images. As the creator of this article, I may receive compensation for items bought through links on this page.

Thanks for reading and looking! I hope this was helpful and that you will let me know how your lawn transformation goes!

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Comments? Questions? Want to Share How YOU Turned Lawn Into Garden? 21 comments

Jean Bakula profile image

Jean Bakula 3 years ago from New Jersey

Wow, very impressive! I live on a wooded lane with terrible soil, and fight with it every year. I think those perfect, green, rug like lawns were the 1950s ideal, until people got wise to how bad all the chemicals they were using for that perfect lawn was destroying the environment. My soil (if it can be called that) is mostly clay and rock too. I have so much shade all I can really do are some herbs and flowers, but it does give me a lot of satisfaction. My fave tool is my Father's old rock hammer, but my area of work is not as large as what it looks like you tackled in your excellent pictures. You should be proud, you did something useful, by growing food, and something better for the Earth, by getting rid of the lawn. There was a lawn here when my husband and I bought the house, but on further inspection, the seller just put down those strips of green sod, and there wasn't enough light to support them for long. Mulch is great for unsightly areas where you really can't do anything, and I also use planter pots to add a little color or something else to look at. Great job!

Chris Telden profile image

Chris Telden 3 years ago from Pacific Northwest, U.S.A. Author

Thanks, Jean. I'm amazed at how many stories like yours I've been reading - of people turning soil that's hard and difficult to work, for whatever reason, into productive soil. I think in these tough financial times, people are looking at their own labor differently and thinking, "You know, people way-back-when might have had the right idea, doing things by hand!"

We do live on quite a sizable area, at least, small for a farm, but large for a city girl! It's not ours, but I'm free to garden it as I want. I've been thinking about other areas of the property that don't have any soil amendments. I'll probably need to go a bit deeper into the dirt and do more work and will need something to aerate the deep, compact soil - so I'm getting a broadfork to try. Here's hoping it doesn't wreck my knees!

Jean Bakula profile image

Jean Bakula 3 years ago from New Jersey

A lot of towns are beginning community gardens in my area, in N.J. It's fun and provides fresh veggies, and just looks good too. Then many realized food banks would really like to add some fresh foods to what is usually canned goods given to food pantries for people who need help paying for food. One near me let gardeners just put little flags on areas of what they grew that they were willing to give away, so the gardener doesn't even have to be there. Just a thought. I never found a good way to not wreck the knees either. You could kneel on a mat of some type, but then you have to keep moving it.

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lesliebyars 3 years ago from Alabama

Nice hub and the layout was perfect. Love the videos, pictures and the poll.

Chris Telden profile image

Chris Telden 3 years ago from Pacific Northwest, U.S.A. Author

Lesliebyars: Thank you so much! I really went all out trying to dig up all the stuff that I'd have liked to see before I started this project (pun intended). I just wish my video quality were better. Must do something about that!

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Chris Telden 3 years ago from Pacific Northwest, U.S.A. Author

Jean: Yes, it does seem like community gardens have gained a lot of momentum in the last 10 years or's exciting to see people taking their food intake into their own hands, so to speak. Regarding my bum knee...the problem isn't so much kneeling, because, well, I don't kneel anymore...too risky. It's twisting the leg while bearing weight. I don't THINK a broadfork should exacerbate it, but I haven't tried one yet. Does anyone know...?

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kalinin1158 3 years ago from California

I'm totally for turning the lawn into something useful like a vegetable garden. People are so precious about their lawns, watering them, trimming them and putting up the "no poop zone" signs. What for? What's so great about your sprayed or artificial grass no one can walk on? Now I'm ranting :-) It seems like it took a lot of effort on your part to turn your lawn into a garden. Great job! Thanks for the useful hub.

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Thelma Alberts 3 years ago from Germany

Congrats on the HOTD! Great hub! A very well deserved, too. I agree with you that having a grass lawn is just a waste of space. It´s good if you turned it into a very productive garden. Thanks for sharing this very useful hub. Have a great day!

Marsha Musselman1 profile image

Marsha Musselman1 3 years ago from Michigan, USA

Voted up and funny although it's also informative and interesting. Also pinning.

I have hopes of turning a portion of my front yard into a flower garden although I will probably use a rototiller for most of the work, or hire that part out. By the time I will have the resources to get this done I will be close to retirement age, and I'm sure I won't have the energy to work at it as you have.

I think you cold put some of your Amazon ads near the areas where you discuss their implementation.

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pstraubie48 3 years ago from sunny Florida

Great instructions. There are so many possibilities when we have large yards. I hope to begin turning sections of my yard into homes for food. The soil is excellent here.

Thanks for sharing. Congrats on HOTD ps Pinned Angels are on the way to you today

RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 3 years ago from the short journey

Congrats on your Hub of the Day award and for successfully turning your lawn into a garden plot. You've shared loads of detail here to help/encourage anyone interested in developing their own garden plot. Thanks for info and your experience with the tools.

Chris Telden profile image

Chris Telden 3 years ago from Pacific Northwest, U.S.A. Author

Thank you so much, everyone. I'm so happy about my first Hub of the Day! The garden has been so much fun this year. I did receive my broadfork - a great, big, strong, hulking one by Meadow Creatures - and it's helped make the work of breaking brand new ground so much easier, without killing my back or knees (yet). It hasn't broken even though I've used it in dry, tough clay and rocks. What I've been doing is first using the broadfork to loosen the soil. THEN using a hoe to turn and break up the clumps, then the rake, etc.

Good luck to those of you intending to convert your's truly worth it. Things have obviously changed so much regarding our food supply, but you never know what might happen.

I was just reading a book about food in the middle ages in England. Back then, most home garden plots were a quarter acre in size, and a plot 100 square feet by 100 square feet was considered tiny. Wow, has that perspective changed...

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NornsMercy 3 years ago from Charlotte, NC

How cool! I wish I had such a big yard. I've just started gardening and I'm in love with the idea of going out to pick some food I grew with my own hands and eating it! :) Voted up and AWESOME. Congratulations on HotD!!

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Rusticliving 3 years ago from California

I love gardening and love any information about gardening! This is a well designed hub with so much information. I am one who is truly grateful for you sharing this hub! Voted up and across and shared!


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 3 years ago from Oakley, CA

Congrats on HOTD! Well done!

We have a lawn in front--I like it. It is a cooling patch of green on hot summer days, and makes an excellent "platform" for our holiday display. We get hot summers, and chilly winters (but no snow). We don't live in a bad area, but we are on a path kids use to and from a nearby school, and kids being kids, we've already suffered some mischief--I don't think a veggie garden would survive well in front.

In back, we have a very large lot, but at our age (senior citizens; husband on disability and me recovering from knee replacement), it's already too much to manage, and I have to have my grandson come to mow the green's not true lawn--very weedy, but at least it's green.

Our main problem in both these areas is ROBO-GOPHERS! Nothing we plant is safe! We don't have the money for materials to create raised beds, so, we use a very small side yard to grow a very few vegetables, but this year, we just didn't have the energy or ability. **sigh** and this is the ONLY area (knock wood) that the (shh...gophers)..don't seem to have discovered...

I admire your gumption, and I wish you bumper crops!

Daughter Of Maat profile image

Daughter Of Maat 3 years ago from Rural Central Florida

I've been wanting to do this to my backyard for quite awhile now, but I just wasn't sure how to go about doing it. This is a fantastic hub, and quite worthy of HOTD. I've bookmarked it so that I can come back to it when I start my garden!! Voted up and shared!

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VictoriaSheffield 3 years ago from Georgia

How long did it take you to put together this hub? Great work!

rose-the planner profile image

rose-the planner 3 years ago from Toronto, Ontario-Canada

Congratulations on HOTD, well deserved. Wow...................this was definitely an insightful tutorial on turning a grassy area into a usable garden. The scything video was amazing but swinging that tool around looked a little scary, lol. My father and mother had the same feelings as you towards grass. Growing up we had a relatively large property and my parents, being avid gardeners, removed all the grass from the backyard and converted it into a thriving, unbelievably incredible vegetable garden. They even had a huge Pergola with grapes growing on it. They also had fruit trees and huge pots of colourful flowers. It was really something spectacular to see. This was wonderful! Thanks for sharing. (Voted Up) -Rose

thumbi7 profile image

thumbi7 3 years ago from India

Congratulations on hub of the day.

I loved reading your hub, pictures and videos.

Rozalyn Winters 2 years ago

Great article! This is what I spent my day doing yesterday. I hate clay. Thankfully, it had rained the entire day before I started, which helped a little. But today I hurt all over--especially my hands, from all the digging.

Chris Telden profile image

Chris Telden 2 years ago from Pacific Northwest, U.S.A. Author

Hi Rozalyn,

Gardening does a number on us, doesn't it? When my physical therapist asked if I get exercise, I mentioned that I gardened. She scoffed, "That doesn't count." When I mentioned the same thing to my cardiologist, he wrote on my report that I got regular exercise. I think I can safely guess my PT wasn't a gardener, but my cardio was or at least knew someone who was....!

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