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Turning a lawn into a flower bed.

I have a gardening question I can't seem to find an answer to. I want to turn my front lawn into a flower bed. It's about 10 x 3 metres and on a slope. I thought of no dig raised beds made of sleepers but the slope would make that difficult. Then I thought of no dig over the whole area as one bed but it slopes towards the house and I have visions of four tonnes of compost sliding off the cardboard layer into the house should we have downpours. Also, though I try to avoid digging, it's been a lawn for fifty years and is compacted so maybe needs to be dug. Then I thought I could hire a turf cutter and skim it off, but it occurred to me that that would be a waste of organic material and I could just turn the turf over and bury the grass side, put on a good couple of inches of compost and plant into that. I did that on my last allotment, but it was under a "lasagne" bed so had a deeper layer of top stuff to plant into. My question is - would the decomposition process of the turf temporarily damage the fertility of the soil? Would it be best therefore to skim it and then dig it? 


  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 46,425
    Have you got some photos?
    It's really quite hard to visualise this sort of site, and you're asking several questions  :)
    In answer to the question about the turf though - turf will break down no problem, but the depth of the beds and what you put on top, as well as what you plant, will determine how easy it is.
    It won't affect any fertility.
    I'm not sure what you're digging - do you mean the ground after removing the turf?
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • AnniDAnniD Posts: 9,664
    With regards to lifting the turf, l would skim it and if possible stack the turves to rot down. It's difficult to say much more without seeing some photos of the site, that would be a great help  :) .
  • Here’s a photo. Thanks for your responses. I meant should I skim the turf off and then dig it, but I don’t want to skim it unless I have to. My core question, which I did ask in a long-winded way, was if I turn the turf over so the grass surface is about 8” under the surface and add a layer of compost on top, would the decomposition process of the turf cause nitrogen depletion in the soil while it was going on and therefore affect the new plants I plan to put in place? 
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 46,425
    It won't cause any problem to the soil one way or the other. You're just returning the grass back into soil over time.  :)
    It isn't really much of an incline. A single retaining wall would work - sleepers or a block or brick wall or whatever your budget allows. That way, you can use any turf taken off to build up the lower areas. 
    That's probably easier.
    Adding around 8 - 10 or 12 inches of soil  over the top of it will be fine for most plants too. You'll have to add more soil, as it will settle anyway, and more organic matter whenever you can.
    It's also worth adding some paths or stepping stones of some kind if the whole area is going to be planted up. Otherwise, you'll be constantly trampling on plants.
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • Ok thank you for the advice. Yes got some nice stepping stones planned for it.
  • SuesynSuesyn South Somerset Posts: 548
    We added another bed into our lawn about 3/4 years ago. It was a hot summer and the clay soil was baked so hard that it was impossible to take the turf off so we covered the grass with cardboard and layered it up with straw and compost. One end is raised as we wanted to add a bit of height to the flat garden for which we used local stone that was lying around. We were able to plant it up straight away and the only problem was that the grass tried to grow out from under the cardboard. 
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 46,425
    Yes - you need a decent amount of soil over the top for it to work, but scalping the turf really hard first helps too. I've done that with around 6 inches of soil without too much problem, but you have to be vigilant, and it depends what you're planting, and also the time of year can make a difference. Doing it in winter means it's less likely to grow readily. 
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

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