Sod Removal 101 – Garden Evolution

This spring brings the fourth growing season in my new garden,  I guess it’s not so new anymore!  The garden is really beginning to settle in and look the way I pictured, for the most part.  The next step in the evolution of my garden is some sod removal to create a new planting bed in my big back yard.

Garden evolution

The evolution of my new garden – erasing the straight line

Ever since I first established my shade garden along the southern fenceline it’s been irking me.  That long, straight, boring line marching down the yard leading to my compost box made me grit my teeth each time I looked at it.  At the time however, it was all I could do to create that ‘backbone’ for my future plans.  When you’re landscaping a biggish new garden without heavy equipment or much of a budget, all the work must be done by hand and it takes a lot of time and energy.

I enlisted the help of my family to build that garden, including my sister, who hauled her share of wheelbarrows full of soil during one of her weekend visits back in 2009.  Now it was finally time to erase that straight line.  I began to suss it out last fall (2011) by laying my hose out and playing with various configurations.  I knew that I wanted to bring the garden well out into the center of the yard and that I wanted to see generous curves instead of straight lines.

Scribing the circular lawn

Scribing the circular lawn

In March of 2012 I began to lay out the garden and remove sod.  I was inspired to create a circular patch of lawn towards the back of the yard, so with a stake and a string I scribed an 18’ circle and began cutting.  Anyone who has removed sod without the benefit of power tools knows how back-breaking this labour is.  Between me and my husband we chipped away at it, eventually clearing this huge space for my new curvy garden.

Beginning sod removal

Beginning sod removal

sod removal

The keys to easier sod removal are; a sharp spade and cutting small pieces!

I tried to do some of the digging, but soon tuckered out and suggested that we rent a rototiller to break up the rocky clay. My energetic husband decided that he could use the exercise and said that he would just dig it over.  He did a great job, but I still think we should’ve used the rototiller, it didn’t do his back any good (mostly because he works like a demon rather than pacing himself!).

After sod removal comes the hard work of digging

After sod removal comes the hard work of digging

Deep cultivation will make it easier for the new plants to spread their roots.

Deep cultivation will make it easier for the new plants to spread their roots.

At any rate, it was finished lickety-split. Then I bought a dump truck full of topsoil mixed with fish compost to spread atop the garden.  We spent a day wheelbarrowing it from where it was dumped at the side of the house into the garden and raking it out.

Sod removal and digging almost completed

Sod removal and digging almost completed

And then it rained... a lot!

And then it rained… a lot!

Phew!  That was a lot of work, but now that the sod removal and soil prep is done I can plan and plant the new garden in my backyard. This will be the fun part!  And instead of an annoying long straight line I look out onto a big, bombastic, curvy bed.  Truly an evolution of my new garden!

Sometimes its best to enjoy a cool beverage while making the teenager do the work!

Sometimes its best to enjoy a cool beverage while making the teenager do the work!

Almost ready for planting!

Almost ready for planting!

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About hortophile

I am a very opinionated, slightly obsessed gardener with decades of experience in the retail nursery industry. A lucky resident of the "Wet Coast" of British Columbia I tread a muddy path between practicality and beauty, with my veggie patch, herb garden and fruits vying for position with the beautiful trees, shrubs and flowers that I can't resist. DON'T ask me to choose between them! I believe in environmental responsibility and common sense.
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16 Responses to Sod Removal 101 – Garden Evolution

  1. I thought you’d built a pond there until I re read the post. Love the black soil…wish we could get quality soil in Portugal. Love the fact you are making the use of young muscle :) Pelase can I borrow him for our next project?

  2. tammyheff says:

    It looks great, can’t wait to see pictures when it’s planted!

  3. Ohh It looks lovely! Keep us updated :)

  4. barb19 says:

    Wow – I’m exhausted just looking at the photos of all that hard work you’ve done! I must say, it looks great, and I can imagine what your new garden will look like when you have got all your plants in and got it well established. I’d love to see some pics later on.

    • hortophile says:

      Thanks Barb, I am tired and I didn’t even do much of the heavy stuff! I look forward to sharing the development of this garden. This is one of the reasons I started this blog – to track and share the changes over time because it’s tough for people (including me!) to visualize how a new garden will change in just a few years. In fact, at the end of this growing season I think it might be time for some posts showing how some of my first plantings have developed – watch for it!

  5. Ruth says:

    That looks fantastic. I know exactly how hard that kind of work is since I just made 3 new beds for vegetables. Looking forward to watching your garden develop..

  6. Bibliopharm says:

    Congrats on your ambitious project; it’s looking great. What are you going to plant in your beautiful new beds?

  7. Having dug sod out for a couple of small beds in my previous garden, I can attest to how hard it is to do that. Your husband truly was a gem to clear all that out with a shovel. I think, in future, I will try a rototiller — I can’t imagine doing it by hand again. Am looking forward to seeing what you plant in there and how the new part of the garden turns out. I love your pics and the description of what you plant. It’s fun to live vicariously through your gardening. I think we are close to buying a place (this year) and I will be gardening, if not this year, then hopefully next, and will be able to contribute some of my own gardening experiences on my blog sometime soon!

  8. thinmac says:

    My back hurts just looking at all the digging. (If it weren’t for the internal combustion engine, I would have a much much smaller garden.) Great result, though. It will be a beautiful garden.

  9. Wilts says:

    Yupp, my back hurts too. That’s why I’d always hire a rotovator :)

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