My adventures in making a large (hopefully) first year successful garden bed began today.
Today I covered an approximately 25 x 15 ft area in a single layer of cardboard, weighed down by rocks/stones/boards/bricks. It's due to rain for 48 hrs or so, and the idea is to try to keep it wet for a month or two until planting time, to rot the grass below.
My mom and I (mostly my 60+ year old mom, who always makes me feel like a slow, lazy "lunchbucket layabout" in comparison when we work together) also raked up all the leaves in the yard and on last years gardens. The leaves will be piled on top of the cardboard once it's saturated enough to hold itself down and I can take off the rocks/boards/bricks. My mother has also volunteered my services for raking up and wheelbarrowing away the leaves in the back corner of a neighbours' yard. Yay, i think?
We may have another load of wood chip mulch delivered, as well. I think the apocalypse must truly be here - I was stating a 15x 15 foot bed, and my mother kept egging me to make it as big as possible (and providing more cardboard). She maintained a 60x 40' bed for a few years, and always swore she never wanted to do it again, and is usually after me not to make too large of a garden! I think watching how my mulched beds last year performed has changed her mind. We'd both rather spend a few days putting down mulch in the spring then hours weeding in the height of the summer.
I don't want to buy topsoil/soil, so for fine seeds (carrots, turnips, parsnips, etc), I started cutting sod with an edger, spearing it into the wheel barrow with a digging fork, and wheelbarrowing it away to compost and kill the grass/weeds before returning it to the garden. The goal is a 5 x 15' garden with fine, weed free soil to start carrots, parsnips, and turnips in the coming weeks. I've so far done about 5 x 3'. I shook what soil I could back into the bed with the fork. By cutting the sod off, then letting the soil sit for a week or two, it allows some weed seeds to germinate, then get raked out before I plant. So long as I avoid walking on it (will probably put down boards to stand on when I plant) it actually looks like reasonably loose, fertile soil. After the seedlings come up, I will mulch between the rows with leaves/woodchips. I will note that I would MUCH rather be prepared a year a head, and smother the grass with mulch rather than cut and remove it. Much less work, much better for the soil.
I am realizing the advantages I have over someone truly trying to "first time" garden. Including good somewhat non-standard tools (nice edgers, a digging fork, a variety of rakes, etc). Also including my mother's advice. I'd planned on turning in the grass and double digging, but using the edger and removing the sod will mean much less weeding down the road.