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Turning a Grass yard into a Food Garden: A Fast No-Till Method

Welcome to Good Chicken Gardens! Today, I’m excited to share my experience of transforming a section of my grass yard into a thriving food garden plot using a simple no-till method. This technique is not only environmentally friendly but also incredibly efficient. With just a few hours of work, you can set up a productive garden bed that will yield a bountiful harvest. Here’s how I did it.

The No-Till Method: Step-by-Step

Materials You’ll Need

  • Cardboard or paper chicken feed bags
  • Mushroom compost (optional but recommended)
  • Cow manure compost (optional but recommended)
  • Chopped leaf litter for mulch
  • Water source (hose)

Step 1: Preparing the Area

Start by selecting the section of your yard you want to convert into a garden plot. In my case, I chose a sunny spot with good drainage. Lay out your cardboard or paper feed bags directly on top of the grass. This layer will smother the grass and prevent weeds from growing through.

Step 2: Laying Down the Cardboard

Cover the entire area with cardboard or paper bags, overlapping the edges to ensure there are no gaps. It’s essential to soak the cardboard thoroughly at this stage. Wet cardboard breaks down faster and helps the compost layer adhere better.

Step 3: Adding Compost

Once the cardboard is soaked, spread a layer of mushroom compost and cow manure compost over the top. I used a mix of both to provide a rich, nutrient-dense base for my plants. The compost layer should ideally be about 3-4 inches thick.

Step 4: Mulching

Cover the compost layer with a generous amount of chopped leaf litter. Mulching helps retain moisture, suppress weeds, and eventually breaks down to add more organic matter to the soil. Make sure the mulch layer is about 2-3 inches thick.

Step 5: Planting

After preparing the bed, it’s time to plant. I decided to grow a Three Sisters plot, which includes corn, beans, and squash (or in my case watermelon). The corn provides a structure for the beans to climb, and the watermelon spreads out to cover the ground, acting as a living mulch.

To plant the corn, I poked holes through the cardboard layer directly into the soil beneath. Because the cardboard was soaked and mushy, this step was easy. Plant the corn seeds about 1-2 inches deep and cover them with compost and mulch.

Step 6: Watering

Give the entire bed a good watering to settle the layers and ensure everything is moist. Keep the bed well-watered, especially during the initial weeks, to help the seeds germinate and the cardboard break down further.

Results and Benefits

2 months after planting! Corn, watermelon, and okra around the edge.

After just 2 hours of work, I set up a garden plot that promises a harvest this season. This no-till method has several advantages:

  • Soil Health: It preserves the soil structure and promotes beneficial organisms.
  • Weed Control: The cardboard layer effectively suppresses weeds. (you can see plenty of violets poking through, they are edible!)
  • Moisture Retention: Mulch helps retain moisture, reducing the need for frequent watering.
  • Ease of Setup: It’s a quick and straightforward method that doesn’t require heavy machinery or intensive labor.


Turning a grass section into a food garden plot using this no-till method is a rewarding and sustainable gardening practice. With minimal effort, you can create a productive garden that enhances your soil and supports healthy plant growth. I’m excited to see the results of this plot and look forward to a bountiful harvest and healthier soil going into next season. Give it a try in your own yard and enjoy the benefits of a no-till garden!

Happy gardening!