Looking for advice on grass in my garden.


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So I moved into a new home last winder that had a large 25x25' garden area. It's sort of "raised bed" in that it has wood beams squaring it off and is slightly above the rest of the surrounding yard.

Anyway...I planted a bunch of vegetables, that did okay, but early on it became clear that this garden area probably had not been used in a few years. The prior owners appear to have let whatever grow in there, including a bunch of grass and weeds. So I dealt with it all summer, ripping it out about five or six times when it grew. I tried "smothering" it with cardboard which worked okay.

But my questions are about fixing this for next year, now that I have cleared out the remaining vegetable plants. My running strategy is to shovel out all the dirt that spawned the grass and start fresh with new potting soil. The theory is that new soil, untainted by grass should remain clear...right? The other benefit is that the dirt that is in there now doesn't seem to be that great for growing...kinda sandy and rocky, light brown stuff. So a fresh, deep layer of good planting soil should kill two birds with one stone. I wonder though, to be extra sure, if once I have dug out the bad dirt, if I should spray the remaining layer with vinegar or something natural to make sure before bringing the new soil in on top.

Also, is there any benefit to getting the new soil in now during the fall as opposed to next spring? I live in Wisconsin so there will be quite a bit of snow involved...

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
 
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Bet you get a good few replies, the idea of throwing away dirt and replacing it is a strange one to me. However, regarding snow, my aged next door neighbour, who won prizes with his veg. , used to say "A good snowfall is worth a coating of manure all over." I have never worked out exactly why, does snow catch more atmospheric nitrogen? But my anecdotal observation is that it's true
 
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I agree with Oliver. There is no need to replace your soil, with time your soil will improve. Every year add organic matter to your soil and it will become richer and more fertile.
Mulching has a host of benefits, and one of them is weed suppression. This can be accentuated by mulching with several layers of cardboard, overlain with compost, bark, wood-chips, or whatever. Yes, there will always be some hand-pulling of weeds, but it will diminish with time, as weed prevention efforts take effect.
Also do compost somewhere onsite, either hot and cold, whichever works best for you. Cold composting is much simpler and less laborious so it what I usually recommend to anyone who is not a gung-ho composter.
 
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Shows what I know...but that is why I am here haha.

I mean, my theory was that I had grassy soil...and anything short of replacing it or using a chemical (which I would like to avoid) means it will always be grassy. I do like the advice of just working the soil with compost and such to improve its quality and hopefully transform it so the grass doesn't come back.
 
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Here is how I might do it.

Now in Fall, I would gather up any free and available organic matter, such as fallen leaves, and thickly mulch the bed. In Spring, I would add more compost (made or bought) and turn it all into the bed. I would then do my Spring planting and mulch the bed. I prefer bark or wood chips but other organic mulch materials work well too. Areas that are not directly planted, including paths, would receive layers of cardboard under the mulch to suppress the grass. There will certainly still be some grass emerging from seed or rhizome, so plan to pull as necessary. With vigilance and cardboard mulch, there will be less every year.
 
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I tend to hoe rather than mulch, if you do it regularly you catch the weeds as two leaves and they never get to flower and make seed. At the same time you create what is called a tilth, a layer of loose soil. This acts like a mulch, it moves about easily under the hoe and does not give weeds a good base, and it protects the surface from drying out in summer. I will mulch if I am going to leave a plot for a while, then rake it off and plant when I get round to it. Some always gets left behind and some will have been pulled down into the ground by worms and such. Mostly I add compost when i plant things like runner beans or potatoes that like a lot in the soil and dig it in. With runners you can dig a big trench and line it with that cardboard Marck loves, they like it damp and stuff like that holds the water, they make their own nitrogen so it does not matter so much that the microbes will rob a bit out of the soil rotting it down. With potatoes I mulch heavily with grass cuttings after I have earthed them up, it keeps the weeds down and also keeps the ground cool which they like. When I dig harvest the halums and most of the grass go in the compost heap, but there is always a bit stays in the soil. Runners and potatoes are both good first time crops, you can put plenty of organic material in, and at a time when you are still beginning, and don't have well rotted compost, they don't mind if it is a bit raw. Then they both grow like stink and don't really give most weeds much of a chance. Also with the potatoes you dig over to plant, earth up, and then dig to harvest, three digs effectively and good weed control. In the old days of Medieval strip farming they used to have a fallow year. People think that meant just not doing anything, but weeds have to be controlled, they ploughed fallow land at least three, sometimes four, times a year. That also buries all those weeds in the soil, green manure is not all that new an idea some ways. If you chop weeds from their roots effectively when you hoe, you can leave them in the tilth too.

NB. I am in no way saying that one way is better than the other, I would bet Marck's way work s great. In gardening there are always different ways of going about things, but the main aim is not to let the weeds make seed and to add organic material and nutrient to the soil.
 
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Wow. Thanks for the great advice. I will definitely look into everything said here. I would assume I would need unpainted mulch from the store. Cardboard...does it matter if I use Amazon boxes or should I look for cardboard with no printing on it?
 
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Yes definitely unpainted mulch. You might be able to get free wood chips for local arborists and municipalities.
The printing on cardboard boxes is fine. I mostly use regular brown cardboard, but even white or colored cardboard will work. I bury it under other mulch so the appearance isn't important. I peel off the plastic tape, flatten the boxes and lay them down. If a small amount of hard-to-remove plastic tape is left on, I don't worry. I usually find it a few years later after the cardboard is long gone.
 

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