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Sod-Top Gardening

The Martha Stewart Show, September 2010

The problem: your lawn is hurting, the grass is dying, and pernicious weeds seem to sprout up at will. The surprising solution: turn that ailing patch into a sod-top garden, no tilling required.

Sod-top gardening is a simple, eco-friendly way to begin growing vegetables, herbs, flowers, and other plants right in your own yard. It involves placing layers of newspaper and compost over grass to create a new foundation for plant growth. Over time, the grass and weeds underneath die, turning the covering into a rich, friable humus in a matter of months.

While traditional soil tilling can be labor-intensive and pollutive (if using a gas-powered tiller), this method is much easier and non-invasive, so earthworms and other organisms that enrich the soil are not disturbed.

Paul Tukey, a lawn-care expert and founder of SafeLawns, shares his sod-top gardening technique.

Sod-Top Garden How-To
1. Mow the ground at your chosen site. Cut anything to the ground that you don't want in the garden, such as weeds or tall grasses.

2. Soak newspaper in warm water. Lay wet paper on the ground, six layers thick. This is your barrier that keeps the grass and weeds from invading your new garden.

3. Top with layer of compost four to six inches in depth; you can also use soil or composted manure, if that's what you have.

4. If desired, wait several months before planting for newspaper covering to turn into nutritive humus.

5. Plant vegetables, herbs, flowers, or bushes of your choice. (On "The Martha Stewart Show," Paul plants Pink Lemonade blueberry bushes.)

6. Use an organic fish emulsion or seaweed for extra nutrients.

7. Water, and place decorative rocks around the edges, if desired.

Tip: Paul suggests building your sod-top garden in the fall so that the soil will be nutrient-rich and optimized for planting in the spring.

Resources
Get Paul's eco-friendly lawn-care tips.