Dear Master Gardener, We have a long, thin bed in front of our building that is south facing. On the north side of Sheppard avenue, Toronto. At the moment, there are weed grasses growing in it. We would like to start growing Ontario Native flowers in the bed. Could you please tell me the “best way” to get rid of the grasses to make the bed ready for planting? Since I am now in my 60s, I actually mean “the easiest way”, that will take the least amount of heavy labour to achieve this purpose. I would also prefer a method that does not take months and months so that we can plant the bed this spring/summer. Many thanks.
Thank you for contacting the Toronto Master Gardeners’ with your question about preparing a grassy area for planting. Smothering or solarizing your proposed garden bed is the least labor intensive strategy for converting an area of turf / weeds into a workable garden plot. It also avoids the use of herbicides. This strategy does take some time but saves the top soil and your back! The attached post from the University of New Hampshire describes both methods. You may have workable soil in a shorter period of time than is described but allowing enough time will prevent the most grass / weed re-growth. Solarization with clear plastic will kill weed seeds effectively but with enough time may also kill desirable organisms in the soil. If you start in the spring, you should be able to plant in early fall. Mulching around new plants will provide further protection against weed and grass re-growth.
It’s always good to check for any underground utilities before you dig in a new space and this can be easily done through Ontario One Call (link below).
Best of luck with your new native flower bed!