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transforming weeds & crabgrass into a garden

  • Last Updated:
  • May 17th, 2019 9:08 pm
Apr 3, 2008
15 posts

transforming weeds & crabgrass into a garden

We want to fix-up a small backyard that was neglected for years.
The first step is getting some advice on turning an overgrown back lawn into a vegetable and perhaps perennial garden. Though we know almost nothing about either, yet.
- any pointers to helpful info on how to plan & tackle this project would be appreciated. Local knowledge especially welcome.
I have a couple of university students here who can help, but they know even less than I.
I don’t think the dirt under the old back lawn is very high quality, but I imagine hiring someone to dig out the top 12 or 18 inches and swap it for good topsoil would be both expensive and time consuming in this planting season.
- can we simply turn over the lawn & weeds with muscles and a garden fork? Won’t be easy but I think even a big rototiller may have trouble with the thick layer of vegetation. And will weeds and crab grass out-grow anything we try to plant?
- is it even reasonable to expect to plant veggies here this year?
Later we want to design a low maintenance garden around the veggies patch so we can attract some bees, birds and butterflies. And we hope to have the old brick patio at least lifted and cleaned because it’s full of moss and the big weeds have grown right through the bricks.
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3 replies
Deal Expert
Jan 27, 2006
15962 posts
Vancouver, BC
What you are proposing is very easy to do.

Here's what I would do:

1. Remove that top layer of grass/weeds and start a compost pile. That stuff you have there would be a great base for it. Just let it dry out first so everything is dead. Then, once you have the compost pile running well, the heat will kill off any of the seeds that are left from the weeds.
2. Don't remove ANY dirt. Dirt is basically formerly good soil that doesn't have much organic matter due to the fact that all of that organic matter it did have has all decomposed over time. You just need to add a lot of organic matter back it!
3. Get a shipment of compost/manure and peat moss from a local garden supply company. Don't get the bag stuff from a big box store as it's way more expensive that way and generally the quality is lower. You should plan on at least 6 inches over that whole area - think 1/3 compost/manure, 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 dirt.
4. Rent a small roto-tiller and till that mixture together with the dirt. Till the area a few times to get everything well mixed. Congrats... now you have soil!
5. For extra credit, you can get the soil tested for pH as well as how much fertilizer you may need with a soil testing kit. The kit should include instructions on what to add to fix whatever is wrong.
6. Plant and enjoy.

Then start working on that compost pile.
Deal Addict
Mar 22, 2017
1249 posts
West GTA
Dude this is easy. It's a small space. Mow the plants down and bag it, then use a hoe to remove the root system, then till the dirt with several bags of compost. Your space is so small you don't need much. You don't even need a powered tiller, really - you can use manual tools if you want (though the tiller is easier). Rake it flat, then water it deeply, then once dry rake it flat again, then wait about two weeks for the weed seeds to germinate (most soil has weed seeds, and all this mixing up will get some of them going). Then kill those weeds with a hoe (don't need to use chemicals since it's so small). Once that's done, you're good to go - plant away.
Nov 17, 2014
942 posts
Might not be ready for a veggie garden this year be the easiest technique is simply to smother the grass with newspaper/cardboard and put soil on top. In addition to being easy to do you will be left with very rich soil as the newspaper/cardboard and plant material break down adding organic material to the soil. You could definitely plant perennial flowers this year, later in the season.