Hardiness Zone: 5a
Gwen Wynder from Chesterton, Indiana
I would definitely avoid any and all chemicals in areas you want to plant edibles in. Not only are they a health risk, but anything strong enough to kill grass will also kill beneficial insects, earthworms and soil microorganisms, ultimately leaving you with "dead", unhealthy soil.
On the other hand, solarizing the soil (covering it with plastic, or newspaper and leaves, etc.) works great and is probably the easiest way to kill off the grass. I've also pre-soaked the area for a few days and then sheared off rolls of sod by slicing it just under the roots with a sharp shovel and "peeling" it off the length of my plot. This is more work, but it in my case it was worth it. I used the leftover sod on some patchy areas in my lawn that needed major repair. That particular plot was only 12 x 12.
You might also consider leaving some grass between your planting beds. For example, you could leave a strip of sod, then a dig a row or two and then leave another strip of sod, etc. That way you'll have less grass to kill (or remove), the sod will choke out any weeds between your beds, while providing you with a nice, mud-free walking path. When you mow it you'll have instant mulch for the garden. Just don't forget to keep your strips at least as wide as your lawn mower.
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Place black sheets of plastic over the grassy area if you're not planning to till before the grass turns green. Be sure not to leave the plastic on too long because the sun/heat will kill all the beneficial earthworms in the soil. If you're tilling early, you don't have to bother with the plastic, but either way, you still have to remove the clumps of perennial grass. If you're a beginner gardener, I recommend that you start out with a smaller garden, because while gardening is wonderful, it's still hard work until you get your plot established.
I don't recommend any pesticides because you'll be planting edible foods there, and that's just not healthy for anyone.
The Lasagna Gardener tells us to layer wet newspapers over the area to be planted... Pile on various type of materials you would use for compost... Grass and weeds need sunlight to grow.. By blocking sun rays the grass will die and enrich your soil. Its a natural fertilizer.. Its best to prepare the area you want to use in the fall of the year because by spring its all ready to go, but anytime will actually work... No tilling necessary. Read books by Ruth Stout to learn more.. Also, a book called the Lasagna Gardener... Best of luck..
I second the "lasagna garden" wholeheartedly...it is a great method. I used cardboard instead of newspaper and left it on over the winter, and by spring I had a perfect area of dead grass where I wanted to plant!! I don't think that you need to leave it on all winter though--a few weeks should do the trick!
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