Ministry Of Controversy

Removing Sod, Saving Earthworms, and Obsessing over Make-Overs

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With lawn reduction growing in popularity, email groups are lively with discussions of how to remove the stuff.  There are basically four choices – digging, using a sod-cutter, smothering and spraying with herbicide.  I’ve removed a far bit of sod over the years, always using that first one – great exercise, and it’s fast enough for this impatient gardener.  (Who can wait for smothering and decomposition?)

In that article on the Fine Gardening site, I noticed this tip:  “Once the sod is gone, look for and destroy potential pests, such as the larvae of May/June beetles. ”  Curious, because all I found in my latest sod-removal project were these glorious earthworms deep in the turf, much too ensconced in it to simply be shaken off.  So each clump had to be turned over and shaken, then left for a while to give the worms time to escape.  Imagining their fate at the mulch-making facility where I was taking all the sod forced me to slow the hell down to give them a chance.  Earthworm-killing isn’t my idea of fun, and anyway, I want them here in this new garden; they’re my best workers.

Fine Gardening goes on to mention the good stuff that can be tossed away in the turf-removal project.

One drawback to sod removal is the significant loss of organic material, which greatly contributes to the health of plants. It must be restored as compost, as aged manure, or in some other form. Usually, topsoil must also be replaced. Some of it may be shaken out of the sod that was removed, but you will probably need more.

Agreed, and organic mulch will help a lot but by shaking off as much soil as possible and rescuing dozens if not hundreds of earthworms, this new garden is off to a good start.  Sure, I’m bringing weed seeds to the surface and I’ll be doing plenty of weeding this first season, but by next year the evergreen groundcovers (Sedum sarmentosum on the sunny side and and variegated Liriope on the shadier side) will have covered most of the island and weeding should be snap.  Anyway, I enjoy a bit of weeding.

Before and After

So here’s a couple of views of a little fence between the parking lot and a large lawn in my 10-townhouse court, where a neighbor had contributed two trees and three shrubs some years ago, but there was no one to tend it.  (The good news being that the plants have demonstrated their ability to survive total neglect.)

I wish I’d taken a photo before marking the new bed with orange marking paint coz it already looks a bit more orderly.

Ten days later, voila!  See how much work an obsessed gardener can accomplish?  I hauled 3 CRV-loads of weed and sod to the compost dump, leveled the grade a bit, added perennials and groundcovers donated by neighbors, and finally hauled in 3 CRV-loads of mulch and put the island to bed for the season.  Loved every minute of it.

Like the last neighborhood make-over I showed off here, this one cost nothing.

I’ll try to keep from adding more plants to it until the fall, but I’m not making any promises.  My gardening patience has proven to be limited.

Posted by

Susan Harris
on June 13, 2014 at 7:20 am, in the category Designs, Tricks, and Schemes, Lawn Reform.

5 Comments

  1. I am an impatient gardener, too, but I have found the lasagna method to be very quick. I begin by skinning down the sod as much as possible, then spread some compost and water well. Then I layer on cardboard. I prefer cardboard rather than newspaper because the weeds have to work harder. Water the cardboard. Then add loam enriched with compost. I have never gotten any loam that really very good. I can also add rock phosphate, greensand and lime if I want to take advantage of this big soil project. Then I plant whatever, seeds, or small plants. I can break through the cardboard for a shrub. Mulch. AND I have kept all my worms!

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