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Removing grass & weeds Toplef10Removing grass & weeds 1zd3ho10

Hello Guest!
Welcome to the official Square Foot Gardening Forum.
There's lots to learn here by reading as a guest. However, if you become a member (it's free, ad free and spam-free) you'll have access to our large vermiculite databases, our seed exchange spreadsheets, Mel's Mix calculator, and many more members' pictures in the Gallery. Enjoy.

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Removing grass & weeds

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Lavender Debs
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Removing grass & weeds Empty Removing grass & weeds

Post  plb 3/8/2010, 11:53 am

In the SFG book, I read I need to remove grass and weeds before putting the box in a location. Does that mean I can just mow it and put a weed barrier cloth between the soil and the box, or does it mean I need to dig out the upper layer of the soil to remove the grass?
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Post  rob.emenaker 3/8/2010, 12:01 pm

You need to remove the grass completely down to dirt just to be safe. Then put down your weed barrier. I dreaded doing this because it seems like a lot of work, but head to your local hardware store and buy something called a sod-knife. If you can't find one of those get a linoleum-knife. It has a hook blade that is really strong. Build your boxes, set them down where you want em, then run that sod-knife around the outer edge of the box. Then take the box away and proceed to cut 10" strips or so. Then start one end of where you cut with a shovel and just pull it up with your hands. Mine came up easy as carpet! Of course it's nice and moist here in Indiana so your results may vary. But do yourself the favor and take the time to pull up the grass and weeds instead of mowing it low. It's an afternoon of assurance that you won't regret later.

Rob Emenaker
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Post  boffer 3/8/2010, 12:02 pm

Hi plb,

Welcome to the forum, and thanks for the question.

The correct answer is: it depends. If you have normal, well-behaved grass, you could lay your weedblock right on top of the grass, and it won't grow through. Some forum members scattered around the country are plagued by tenacious, ruthless weeds that a nuke barely slows down. They've gone so far as to dig the lawn out and pour a foot of concrete to keep their weeds at bay.

You'll have to decide where you fit within that spectrum. Have you been able to find vermiculite in your area for your Mel's mix?
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Post  boffer 3/8/2010, 12:04 pm

LOL, Rob beat me to it! His advice falls in the middle. Decisions, decisions...
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Post  SirTravers 3/8/2010, 12:05 pm

With grass being as aggressive as it is I would want to remove it from the area. If your back and shoulders are like mine though I'd think putting down some cardboard like other folks have suggested and then stapling weed barrier fabric to the bottom of your box would be an option.
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Post  boffer 3/8/2010, 12:06 pm

3 answers in 3 minutes-kewl
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Post  plb 3/8/2010, 12:28 pm

*Sigh* As a beginner, it's hard to judge how bad the weeds are... I guess I should make the effort to dig it out, just in case...

As for the vermiculite, it took a while, but I found this:
http://www.william-sinclair.co.uk/industrial/products/vermiculite/v4_coarse
I emailed them, since only their finer grade vermiculite is marked as horticultural grade, but they said that the only reason why they don't mark the V4 as horticultural grade is because nobody in this country uses it for it (well, except me now). They assured me it's the same grade as the finer horticultural one, and that it has been tested to be asbestos free. They gave me the address of local retailers, and offered to ship some to me at a reasonable price if I couldn't find it locally. I bought it from a local building materials company, easy peasy.
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Post  marylinb618 3/17/2010, 6:15 pm

Since the start up cost of this method is SO HIGH (looks like about $100 per 4x4 box) I decided I was not going to skimp and would follow all directions to the letter. Everyone seemed to be indicating that it was not too difficult to dig up the grass and that it was the best choice.

After an hour an a half of backbreaking work I have managed to cut around the outside of one 4x4 box and remove about 12 square inches of soil. There is NO WAY most people are going to be able to do this. Anyone with even the slightest back problems shouldn't even try.

The other HUGE problem with removing the grass? Now your box is sitting in the lowest point in the area where all the water will gather. This can't be good.

I'm thinking of ways to get around this problem other than adding to the already very high cost. (The huge startup price will be made up over the years, right? I keep telling myself that.)

I'm going to try placing my boxes on top of those "puzzle piece" foam flooring squares or 4x4 squares of indoor/outdoor carpeting. A 4x4 piece of plywood is quite expensive and wouldn't fit in my car at any rate, but if you can use a plywood bottom then I guess you could also use something like this.

Anyone with other ideas please post. I'd appreciate it as I've already spent too much to abandon this project.
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Post  Lavender Debs 3/17/2010, 6:46 pm

Oh! What a cool idea. Now I'm wondering how hiking foam would work? Probably the seams would let sneaky shoot through.... but if there was plastic under that ....hummm.

Anyway, I like the way you think ....now where is the lady from Holland?

Deborah ....who gave up multi day hiking because of her sternum so I have it sitting about.
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Post  timwardell 3/17/2010, 6:47 pm

@marylinb618 wrote:Since the start up cost of this method is SO HIGH (looks like about $100 per 4x4 box) I decided I was not going to skimp and would follow all directions to the letter. <edit> I'm thinking of ways to get around this problem other than adding to the already very high cost. (The huge startup price will be made up over the years, right? I keep telling myself that.).

YES, the price will be made up over the years. Very Happy You won't have to do much of anything next year, or the year after that, or the year after... you get the idea. Mel says he's had the same Mel's Mix (or does he call it "My Mix"?) in his beds for 15 years. ... Don't know if you've ever done a vegetable garden the old fashioned way (using the traditional row method)... if you haven't imagine doing all the hard work you're doing right now ALL SUMMER LONG. Sad The weeding never ends. Once you get over the "start-up hump" it does get easier and more fun.
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Post  timwardell 3/17/2010, 6:55 pm

@plb wrote:In the SFG book, I read I need to remove grass and weeds before putting the box in a location. Does that mean I can just mow it and put a weed barrier cloth between the soil and the box, or does it mean I need to dig out the upper layer of the soil to remove the grass?

As others have said, the only sure way to have no weeds is to remove the weeds. In Texas, we have this evil thing called bermuda grass. It sends off runners, is VERY invasive, and is used by practically every freakin' home builder because it creates an "instant" yard because of it's aggressive nature. That said, when I installed a 18' x 18' butterfly garden last year I rented a sod cutter. That is NOT for the faint of heart. Imagine wrestling an alligator and you'll have some idea of what using one is like. After that I was done with cutting and removing sod. Soooo... when it came time to install raised beds I put them in place then used a LOT of newspaper under the weed barrier. I did this in February while the dreaded bermuda grass was still dormant. The hope was that the newspaper would smother and kill it before it ever started growing in the spring. It worked for the most part. 98% of the grass was nuked. The remaining 2% I eventually removed by pulling and digging down to the roots. If I had it to do over again, I'd probably use cardboard AND newspaper.
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Post  LupinFarm 3/17/2010, 7:09 pm

I didn't remove the grass in part because I started putting my beds in when the ground was still frozen, and also because it seems that when you pull the grass out you just ask the weeds to move in instead out here. I put down newspapers under my beds, and will probably mulch the heck out of it.

My front raised kitchen garden I didn't even use landscape fabric or newspaper, just threw the soil on the ground LOL and we had some weeds, not a lot though. Not unmanageable.

The 'grass' my beds are on is alfalfa-grass hay because it used to be a small hay field.
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Post  choksaw 3/17/2010, 11:54 pm

Lazy man weed removal

Get an old Torch (the type plumbers use to sweat copper joints) keep a hose near by and just light em up lol in no time flatyou will be down to bare scroched soil.

thats i used to do it in my old house for inbetween the patio blocks although i have a stand up type with a BBQ tank on wheels but it took an all day job and dropped it to about 10 minutes.
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Post  camprn 3/20/2010, 9:35 am

Whilst sod busting, one doesn't want to remove too much soil BY digging. Only the top layer of grass, thatch and roots, a few inches at most, are to be lifted. When I remove sod I cut into the lawn with and edger and make squares approx. 6" x 10" then I run my garden fork just under the roots and perpendicular to the surface and pry up the sod. The sod patches either go to fill in bare spaces elsewhere or I stack them root side up near the compost and leave the pile there to die and rot on its own or I will slowly incorporate it into the compost heap.
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