The Best Time to Begin is Right Now

Of all the mistakes I’ve made in my journey into urban native yardscaping, probably the biggest is inadequate preparation.

Good preparation is the most important step in making your garden a success. It greatly reduces competition from weeds and grass, and gives your soil an extra boost of organic nourishment. Insufficient preparation is the mistake most often cited by gardeners.

What You’ll Need

  • Cardboard or newspapers
  • Scissors
  • Landscape Fabric (make sure it is NOT waterproof, you want the rain/snow/moisture to go through)
  • Landscape staples or pins
  • Mulch (optional)
  • Fallen leaves, if you have them
  • Twine (optional)

First, decide where you want the garden to go. You can always add on more as time goes by, so decide on a section of lawn which will be manageable. In the example shown below, you can see I marked out a section with some twine, but this is totally optional.

A section of grass yard which has been selected and marked out with a length of twine

You’re going to cover the area with sheets of cardboard or newspaper. If the leaves are falling where you’re at, leave them right there on the grass. In fact, if you like, you can rake more over to nourish that garden of yours. Any insects or caterpillars which are sleeping in those leaves will have a nice little winter slumber party in the bed you create.

Next, arrange the cardboard or newspaper right over the grass. If it’s windy, it might be helpful to pin it down with the landscape pins or staples.

Unroll the landscape fabric and tack it down over the cardboard/newspaper using your lawn staples/pins.

A section of lawn partially covered with newspaper and lawn fabric. I used lawn staples to tack it down.

The final step is to leave it! Leaving it to overwinter like this will kill the grass and weeds and give your spring plantings a great start.

A section of yard with mulch over the landscaping fabric. Note I like to use removeable landscaping stones, as the shape and size of my garden has changed many times as my garden grows.

Though this article was written with fall in mind as the starting place, this is something you can do at any time to prepare a section of yard for native planting. The important thing to remember is to allow the covering to stay in place for a minimum of eight weeks. If you don’t, you risk subjecting your new plants to too much competition from grass and weeds.

My biggest gardening mistake: not leaving the grass covered long enough. I’ve paid for this many times over in weeding toil.

Once a minimum of eight weeks have passed, you can move aside the mulch and lift and remove the lawn fabric. There may be some cardboard or newspaper which has not yet decomposed. If that’s the case, you’ll also want to remove that. Then, after a quick rake to remove any dead grass/weeds, your garden should be ready for planting.

I hope you find these suggestions helpful and inspiring. It’s a simple step that will go a long way in creating a successful garden!

One response to “The Best Time to Begin is Right Now”

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