Hello! And welcome to our Illustrated Guide on How To remove grass / clear sod for a garden or flower bed using a shovel, by hand.
***If you are interested in other ways to remove grass (besides just a shovel) see this new post! ===> 5 Ways To Remove Grass for a Flower Bed / Garden
A Dirty Job….Removing Grass
One of the hardest jobs in the building of a garden is to remove grass to build a flower bed, vegetable garden, or to clear an area for a patio. There are many different methods you can find online to guide you from renting a sod cutter, to placing cardboard over the grass in the fall so that the grass is all dead/decomposed come next spring.
I have found an easy and efficient method for removing grass/sod. It doesn’t take too much of the soil, and although it is still work – much easier on your back/body than other methods that I have seen and tried. The method to remove grass I will teach you just requires a pair of gloves and simple garden shovel. It is by far the fastest method to remove grass or cut sod/turf by hand.
With a bit of gumption and patience, you can clear a large area by removing grass with a shovel. I’ve tried many, many methods, and this is BY FAR the EASIEST method to remove the grass. This method is particularly great when you can cut straight strips of grass.
Tools and Materials
The materials you will need are pretty straight forward. I’ve listed them below;
- D-Handled flat garden spade
- Leather work gloves
- Wheel barrow (for moving sod pads)
- knee pads (optional)
The Method to Remove Grass
- Create Your Layout. Before you put shovel to turf, (and I’m sure you already know this if you are reading this article) lay out the area you want to remove the grass/sod. If making a vegetable garden, some stakes/flags and twine or rope help greatly. A 25′ (8m) tape measure can help too in setting out the distances. Also, if doing a square or rectangle you can help keep square corners by measuring the diagonals (aka corner to corner). If the distance between two corners that are opposite/diagonal are the same as the distance between the other two corners, you can be sure that your garden will have 90 degree corners.
- Prepare the site and get your tools. Get your shovel. Also, don’t forget to water your grass if it isn’t really moist already.
After that, it is a matter of repeating this process until your strip is done. I don’t cut the width of the pads until I’m ready to remove them. As when you work backwards you can ‘hide’ the cut you previously made. It also changes up the work a bit, which makes the job easier in the long run.
Related – This is also a great method to use for fixing low spots in your lawn.
More helpful tips
The reason to work ‘backwards’, in that you take pads in a backwards direction, is for leverage. Specifically it is that you the grass available to use for leverage when prying up the pad as you go backwards. If you work in a forward direction, you won’t have this leverage available. And lifting of the grass will require more effort and be harder on your back.
You can use the sod removed to fill any low spots in your yard, or even give them away to neighbors or friends. I was able to fill two large depressions in my yard, then to top off with some topsoil (for leveling) and seed grass on top.
For more details, and to see the method in action, watch our video below. I’ll show you how long it takes to clear a 12′ x 36′ flower bed. (It doesn’t take as long as you think!)
Other Methods to Remove Grass
Still need some other ideas for your grass removal project? Check out OUR 5 WAYS TO REMOVE GRASS FOR A GARDEN OR FLOWER BED.
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