Convert Your Lawn to a No-Till Permaculture Garden

| 6/29/2016 12:54:00 PM

Tags: no till agriculture, permaculture, lasagna gardening, hugelkultur, lawn care, sustainable communities, Utah, Felicia Rose,
flowers and vegetables in garden

When we bought our homestead, the only gardening area was at the bottom of a fairly steep hill. Though fine for growing a winter’s worth of potatoes and squash, it’s less convenient for greens, which we harvest daily in the summer and so prefer to grow close to the house. With this in mind, we decided to turn part of our front lawn into a garden.

Having read about a method called "lasagna gardening" (named for its layers; learn the basics here), we decided to try it. Egged on by its success, we extended the garden the following year only this time incorporating hugelkultur techniques. Here’s how we did it.

Step 1: Smother the Lawn

Our initial effort involved trying to dig out the grass. But with only shovels, we found the process arduous and ineffective. The grass roots were so thick we had the impression of digging wire. After several hours, we’d managed to uproot a few square feet of lawn. No doubt we left roots and seeds intact.

So, instead, we decided to smother the lawn. We began the process four summers ago by placing large sheets of cardboard onto the area we wanted to smother. (Our source of cardboard was the dumpster, but if dumpster diving doesn’t suit you, a large-appliance store may have boxes to spare.)

Step 2: Add Layers of Brown and Green Organic Matter

We tucked compostable kitchen scraps including organic coffee grounds and loose-leaf tea under the cardboard. We piled rhubarb leaves, comfrey leaves, weeds and other organic matter from the garden on top.

Next, we hauled wheelbarrows full of leaf mold and other composted material from the garden and dumped it onto the cardboard. Fortunate to have a ditch full of rich soil, we hauled wheelbarrows full of that as well. Each time we mowed the remainder of the lawn, we added grass clippings to the heap. We also added composted manure from our hens.

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