I want to reduce grass cutting by making flower and vegetable beds. Can I start digging up the turf now? I have read that you can compost turf upside down – should that be done s part of a compost heap? Your advice would be appreciated.
Jill Furneaux, Devon (And no, we haven’t slipped up here, this is another one from Jill. I thought both her questions were of general interest to other readers, so this is her lucky day.)
If the weather is good enough and if the ground is firm enough for you to work without doing too much damage to the remainder of the lawn, there is nothing to stop you digging up turf now and starting to make your flower and veg beds. I understand your impatience to get going on a new garden – I would do the same.
It is easiest to remove turf if you cut it into long, 4in (10cm) deep slices using a specially shaped old-fashioned turfing iron (the sort of thing that you find in junk shops or at boot fairs sometimes). Think flapjacks. You can stack it up somewhere out of sight, all the slices soil-side up, and cover the stack with black plastic for a year, after which it will have become a pile of perfect, nitrogen-rich, wormladen extremely useful topsoil. Or you can dig it up (in long slices as before) and then dig it back in as you cut out your new beds, creating 12in (30cm) or more deep trenches and laying the slices, green side down, along the bottom of each, with an additional fistful of bonemeal per metre, before backfilling with the soil produced when you make the next trench (reread slowly – you’ll get it…). The grass will rot down underground over the next year and enrich the soil wonderfully.
Good luck with your new garden – I almost envy you.