How to prepare a garden bed Step 1

This is the first in a series of three posts on how to get started gardening in your yard. 

These three posts are from a personal blog from 2016.  Since I have recently had many people ask me how to go about growing food in their own yard, I think this is worth sharing here.  

I’ve been at this growing food thing for 11 growing seasons in 3 different states and 4 different climates.  Certainly there are many other good options out there for building garden beds, but I have found this approach to be what works well for me (and is practical from a cost and maintenance standpoint).  I hope you can too.

When I see people struggle in their first year of gardening ,the most common controllable mistake made is failing to effectively prepare the soil for growing vegetables.  I’d strongly suggest a good soil test.  You can go through your local cooperative extension agent  for a simple one, or go deeper into the dirt by choosing one like this from Logan Labs.  A soil test will help you figure out any adjustments you’ll need to make in pH, additional organic material, and look at some of the more specific needs form a nutrient standpoint.

Once you know what type of amendments you need, it’s time to get the ground ready. 

So here’s the best way I have found to get a productive garden quickly:   

Step ZERO: 

Choose a location that gets some good sun and has decent drainage.  Then, mark out your beds.  I like strips of plantable area with turf in between.  This is visually appealing, highly functional and does well when things are wet.  I could probably get more food out of it in some other configuration, but I settled on this style and will stick with it for now.


Step 1: cut sod…

This has to be my FAVORITE part!

In all seriousness, this part is just plain tough.  The idea is to cut out the edges of the bed (I highly suggest laying this out with string lines first) and then use the square planting shovel to cut the sod.

The sod removal is completed by doing the edges of the bed first, and then “peeling” up the sod just below where the roots meet the soil.

The way to do this is to use the shovel as a “blade” by striking  just below the roots of the sod at an angle nearly flat to the ground.  The secret here is keeping it parallel to the surface in an attempt to get all of the sod and roots up without removing too much of the topsoil (or clay…  depending on your location).



As you can see, this is a labor and time intensive process.  Taking this step seriously helps to get things off to a good start, as well as prevent grass coming up through the garden.

If you’re doing a larger area, save the time and labor and go rent a sod cutter.   You can find these handy machines at your local power tool rental facility.

Here’s a look at the finished product with all the sod cut and raked out of the bed.



Up next, part 2!

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About Mark

I am a busy guy; husband, father, coach, mentor, gardener, outdoors man and cook are the primary hats I wear. To be the best of these I can be, I stay physically prepared for all those pursuits, and feed myself in a way that allows me to keep up the pace. I can help you to take the next manageable step in fitness and wellness to get you closer to your ideal self.