The Idiot Gardener

WARNING: This site contains information on gardening, brewing, curing meat,

building shit and hunting, all done in a piss-poor manner. It is not suitable for the

feeble-minded, the weak and lame, those of a nervous disposition, vegans and

vegetarians (and those other ones that only eat fish and the occasional bacon

sandwich - I think they're called 'hypocrites'), those who practice any

manner of folk singing or dancing, people named Colin or fans of Barry Gibb.

Sod off!

The Idiot empire is expanding. See all that land? That’s mine. Well, okay, it’s not mine, but 250 square metres of it is mine to rent! Now, those amongst you with cataracts might not have spotted that it’s a bloody great big field with nothing in it except some overgrown grass. If you did spot that, well, go to the top of the class, because that’s what it is.

Some people take on cultivated allotments and within days are sowing their seed. Some people take on overgrown allotments and spend a few weeks renovating before sowing their seed. Only an idiot takes on a field. Did someone call?

This is the new allotment site. It’s a private site, so there’s no big help from the Council. It’s a bunch of like-minded people with no money turning a field into 26 allotment plots. It’s what it is – an exciting opportunity. Around the edges of the plots there are plans for a community orchard and maybe a vineyard. It’s not what I expected when I was told I could have an allotment plot, but in a way its a hell of a lot better.

There’s no one to do anything for anyone. We’ve got a field, and that’s the extent of it. We’ll have to fund and fit deer fencing, run water pipes, mark the plots out, basically do everything ourselves. There also seems to be a collective interest in brewing and wine making too, which is worrying, in a good way. I’ve never had an allotment, but I’ve a feeling that even by allotment standards this project is coming in a bit off-centre!

Now, I accept that I’m a bloody idiot, but at times my idiocy is tempered by a basic understanding of what I’m trying to achieve. This time it’s not so clear. This time I am at a loss, I am perplexed, I am stretched to a point that an idiot should never be stretched to … by sod!

How in the name of Barry Gibb do I deal with this? Where do I even start? I googled ‘sod’, and my eyes bled for a few hours.

Now, as I see it, I have five options.

OPTION 1: I can remove the sod, dig over the ground and get planting. I can either remove the sod by hand or use a turf cutter. Then all the turf can be piled up, wrapped in black plastic, and left for a year to turn to loam. It will be hard work, and I’ll lose a few inches of topsoil.

OPTION 2: I can dig down, turn the sod so the grass is under the soil, and then spend the rest of the year battling with the grass that resurfaces. It’s hard work, and could be a continual pain in the arse.

OPTION 3: I can wait until no one is looking and then soak the entire area with glyphosate, wait a few weeks then dig it over. It’s easier work, I keep my topsoil, but it will be saturated with herbicide.

OPTION 4: I can cover the area with newspaper and a layer of topsoil and let the grass die off underneath. It’ll be easier work, but I’ll need a whole bunch of topsoil, and there’s no vehicular access to the site so I’ll be forever barrowing the stuff in, plus it could be detrimental to anything that grows more than a few inches deep.

OPTION 5: Someone (that’s you lot) has a better idea!

Come on then, share the wisdom you gardening folks!


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18 thoughts on “Sod off!

  1. Sue

    I’m sorry-but there is NO easy way, unless you wish to poisen it with herbicides. I HAND DUG my garden, removing the sod. It took forever. It was immensely satisfying when I was done. But, I am also glad it’s over with and I’ll never have to go through that kind of hell again. My advice-hire out a few college kids or buy a lot of aspirin and liqour!

  2. joebloggs

    Have you thought about hiring a mini digger, if you all club together you should be able to make it affordable. A 1.5 tonne from homebase tool hire is only £280. For a week. And between you you should get all plots done in that time.
    Also would allow much opportunity for carnage and injury for all of us to have a good laugh at!

  3. Nome

    How exciting! I don’t suppose you know what kind of grass it is? If it’s shallow-rooted and can be cut and lifted easily and put aside, that’s what I’d do. If it’s couch grass, with long thick white creeping roots, that will be more difficult and I reckon the no-dig method would be ideal – I wish I’d done it myself. It IS a lot of topsoil/compost though, which is why I never have… On the other hand, the glyphosphate option would be massively, massively easier and would really make sure you’d got rid of the couchgrass roots, which are a nightmare on my plot even after six years of digging. Glyphosphate is supposed to break down quickly in the environment (see Wikipedia), so shouldn’t hang around in your soil. It’s not ideal, but it’d only be a once-off, right?

    If it was me? I’d cut the sod out and lose the topsoil. (I’m too poor to buy soil in and too proud for weedkiller.) You’ll soon get it back as you add compost, and I think there’s an advantage to lowering the soil level – it seems to stop the grass from spreading back in from the paths.

  4. Kyna


    And here I thought I was filled with delusions of grandeur.

    Holy shit. You got your work cut out for you. Or rather, you’ve got cut out work ahead of you. Or both.

  5. Andy Brown

    As a fellow idiot gardener I had to bust sod last summer, and for some reason had pretty good luck with it. My strategy was two-fold. I broke the sod with a shovel, bashed out as much soil from the roots as I could be bothered to and discarded the rest to rot and be re-incorporated later. Then I planted potatoes, which don’t mind out-competing grass, and later, when you hill them that further discourages it. Then, when I couldn’t bust any more sod, I put in some good creeping stuff like squashes on the edge and covered the rest of the sod with big sheets of cardboard weighted down with rocks. By the time the squash were really ready to invade, the grass under the card was thoroughly discouraged, I could get rid of the cardboard and the squash could spread and finish the job. This spring I’ll plant the potatoes in the demoralized sod, plant regular vegetables where the potatoes where and continue. Slow, remorseless colonization is the key- though I don’t have the sense that’s your style.

  6. ~Gardener on Sherlock Street

    Land!!! Congratulations!
    I have used all of the methods you list in our little garden. I will never again simply till the grass into the soil. It is a headache for years to come.
    I prefer the smothering approach, but let it set a year before trying to plant in the space. That delay is not going to work for you here.
    I’d strip the sod off, plant and then bury the soil around the plants with mulch to smother the weed seeds that are bound to sprout once they get sunlight.
    Whatever you choose, will be work but you have land!
    Good luck.

  7. Britta

    Dear IG,
    congatulation that you got your allotment!
    Its form is surprising (for my eyes – in Germany my father had an allotment: I remember a lot of pear trees (and my mother conserving those pears that nobody liked so very much) and a lot of rules.)
    The exciting thing is that you have no rules, but a lot to discuss with your neighbours. And a lot of toil, but that can be exciting too: to create something from scratch. Or sods (I remember my father telling of three-phase cultivating). From your options I would NOT choose the one with glyphosate. But I can say that easily from the fictive armchair.
    I’m looking forward to listen to your adventures!

  8. banksy

    That’s a nice looking blank canvas to start off with. As for the grass, option 1 would be my preference. I have and do use glyphosate, but only on paths and non food growing areas.

  9. Iam Mudrock

    How exciting, I reckon you need to sod off, get the sod off. Losing a few inches makes the paths a bit higher and easier to manage.
    Looking forward to seeing this evolve.
    We just turned 125sqm and it’s taken more than a month of weekends Mudrock & 5olly’s Allotment
    I’m jealous but not jealous at the same time.

  10. Gorilla Bananas

    I would get some herbivores to graze there until no grass was left, and then stampede them until the soil was thoroughly kicked up. Hope you’re planning to grow plenty of green vegetables. Greens are good for the bowels.

  11. Sharon Longworth

    The whole thing sounds brilliant – claiming your territory, with the promise of beer to come. I have no wisdom to offer, unless you fancy covering the whole plot in carpet – that worked for us on our allotment.

  12. Mal's Allotment

    You need a few pigs. They’d churn up a patch in no time! A pen the size of a plot then move it on to the next one. Depending on how many pigs, you could clear the whole site in a year!

    Failing that, as already recommended, grow lots of potatoes this year.

  13. scottweberpdx

    LIke you said, it all depends on 1) How much you want to sweat, 2) Availability of amendments and 3) How soon you want to plant. If you don’t mind waiting…then the “lasagne” method is great, however, if you’d like to plant this spring…then you need to get rid of the sod. It’s hard work, but I’m a big fan of completely removing the sod…turning it over is a nightmare, as the grass resprouts continuously for years. Good Luck!

  14. Shyrlene

    I’ve scraped sod and I’ve smothered it (both are back-breaking), but never in my life have I seen a plot of land THAT size in need of sod-bustin’?!! I’d suggest the John Deere 9400 – to start, but can you “rent” one of those babies out by you?!! 😉


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