Turf talk

The Daily Telegraph - Gardening - - Front Page -

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.

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