New hobbyist here. I'm planing a raised garden bed (about 4' by 6' or 8') and I want to clear the area. My thoughts were to make a bed that would be a 12" high hollow frame, that I would "sink" about 3" in the current soil, so only 9" would show. I want to install that on an area that currently has grass (well, snow at the moment, but underneath is grass.)

My plan was:

  • Remove the grass (Question to come)
  • Dig the trenches about 3" where the frame would rest.
  • Fill the inside of the frame with soil (mixture like suggested here)
  • But a wooden grid on top just for a frame of reference even though I'm not doing 100% Square Foot Gardening.

My question: What's the best way to remove the grass. I'll be using a shovel and a mattock, but I've read that I should lay a tarp or something to kill the grass to make it easier to remove, but is that relevant since it has been covered by snow all winter? If possible I'd like to "shake the removed grass" to keep some of the soil, and then compost the grass/roots, but I'm not sure if it's a good idea or not because I don't want to end up with a 2nd lawn inside the raised bed...


2 Answers 2


A turfing iron is the best, though it means cutting into sections anyway, but failing that, if you have a lawn edger (also known as a half moon edger because of the shape of the blade), cut the turf into manageable sections, penetrating about 2 inches down, then lever up the sections with a spade (rather than a shovel - I think in the States, shovel and spade mean the same thing, but they don't in the UK. A shovel is curved, broader than a garden spade and is really useful for shovelling stuff like gravel, sand or wet concrete, but useless for digging the ground; a garden spade usually has either a straight edge at the bottom, or sometimes a pointed, curved one). You can shake some of the soil off if you like, but otherwise, just stack it somewhere with the grass side face down - in 18 months to 2 years it will have turned into useable compost. Removing the turf in this way means it's much less likely you will miss any sections of grass and roots which may regrow later on.

The tarpaulin idea you heard about is if you're going to leave the area unattended for a significant period, then the tarpaulin, being in place for a year or more, will have (in theory) killed the grass.

After removing the turf, dig over the soil that was beneath to break it up before filling the raised area with new topsoil.

  • Ok, thanks! I will not waste my time with the tarpaulin then. I don't have a huge lot to stack the grass, but with the small area I'm doing, it should be manageable. Would it be a bad idea to just "flip it", leave it at the bottom of the bed, and then just put more soil on it (the missing 9") or will the grass just grow though?
    – Tipx
    Commented Mar 28, 2019 at 17:05
  • Well,some people do that,but I'm never prepared to risk it after trying once - its deeply tedious if the stuff decides to grow into the new bed.The other thing I found was the bed became uneven as the turf rotted down and needed topping up with more soil in some areas.
    – Bamboo
    Commented Mar 28, 2019 at 17:17
  • 2
    Given that you're going to bury the grass under 12" of soil, you could simply turn the grass clumps upside in the same hole they came from. They'll be effectively 14-15" below the top of the bed, well away from sun and will die. How do I know? Because I've done this many times myself. One caveat - do NOT do this if you have quackgrass.
    – Jurp
    Commented Mar 28, 2019 at 23:26
  • 2
    Another idea that requires less work is to place newspapers about 3" thick (or a layer of cardboard) on top of the grass before you cover it with soil. Do not use colored supplements, though (although most papers no longer use toxic ink, you never know). The cardboard should also have minimal ink, if possible, and no packing tape or copper staples in it.
    – Jurp
    Commented Mar 28, 2019 at 23:28
  • @Jurp Great, thanks! I'll do that :-D
    – Tipx
    Commented Mar 29, 2019 at 2:20

My husband just dug out out bed ,he blocked the grass in section and then removed it ,we had some low spots in the yard and he scheme the top of the low area and put them there & where the rain made a trench from the shed it work prefect

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