Year 1 – The strawberry patch, preparing the larger garden.
It all began with some free strawberry plants. There’s nothing like getting free plants to make you hurry up and prepare some ground! And so, my garden began with a little patch that had once been home to some bulbs and weeds, but was now a strawberry bed. It was July when everything old was pulled out, and the plants went in.
The strawberry bed was a quick start but I knew the rest of the garden would take much longer to prepare. Since I was going to turn grass into bare soil, which meant getting out as much green as I could, I began preparing the main larger area the summer before planting would begin the following spring.
The first job was to cut the lawn as short as possible. Then I laid down huge clear plastic sheets. During the hot TN summer months the temperature underneath the plastic will kill off the grass, weed seeds and other pests in the soil. (In cooler locations this won’t work as well so black plastic might be a better alternative.) It’s important to keep the rain out and since we tend to get big showers in Nashville (as opposed to drizzle), I used a lawn edger to dig shallow trenches, popping the sod out, then tucking the plastic down and placing the sod back in the trenches. I had some old logs I laid around the edges to help keep everything in place.
These pictures were taken at the beginning of August. 6 weeks is a good amount of time to leave the plastic down so by the middle of September it was pulled off. The ground was then tilled and raked to remove as much of the dead and dried out grass as possible, especially the awful crab grass we have so much of here.
If my garden was flat I would have left it there but I had a grander scheme in mind for the long term which involved creating two flat tiers in the garden instead of leaving it on a slight incline, with steps going up to the top tier which would home a patio. Even though I knew it would likely take a few years to get to that point, I wanted to move any soil I needed to now, before planting began. It was incredibly hard work but fortunately a neighbour who saw me had a bob cat (!!) and in a couple of hours had moved most of the dirt. Then I used some wooden boards I already had, wrapped in plastic to make an edge (which would also provide a border between the lawn and the soil making it easier to mow and difficult for the grass to slowly creep back onto the soil), and finished off leveling out what would eventually become the bottom tier, moving earth up to the top of the yard. Now it was ready.