Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Introducing the Sod Cutter

In my last post you saw a partial list of my new plant purchases.  They've got to go somewhere and in an attempt to decrease my time spent digging I rented a sod cutter this year.  If you haven't used one before, a sod cutter is a gas machine that cuts off the top layer of grass and soil.  It does not remove tap roots or turn the soil.  I chose to rent this machine because sod removal was exceedingly time consuming last year.  I considered just renting a rototiller but tilling the ground would have meant that weeds and grass would have still been in the beds and required removal by hand.  I also worried about hitting hidden objects with a tiller.  Thus far this season I have found glass, 6 inch long nails, scrap metal, pop bottles and a penny in the dirt.  Not to mention rocks. 

We rented the machine for an entire day and worked like we have never worked before.  I had imagined that rolling up sod and moving it to the compost would be a fairly easy job.  Not the case.

It is insanely heavy. So I thought I would give the sod cutting a shot since it looked like the easier job.

Nope, that wasn’t easy either. The sod cutter is a heavy machine and although they say it’s self propelled I’m not so sure about that. I had to push my entire weight behind that thing to make it move and even then I couldn’t seem to get the blade to dig in and cut. So back I went to hauling sod around.

After a full day of work we completed the following areas.  The flower bed around the garage.

We created the smiley face bed also behind the garage.

We added more vegetable beds.

In front of the house we added a small circular bed.

And we expanded the entrance bed.

You're probably thinking this sounds like an awful lot of beds.  It is.  The reality is that I will not likely use all these beds this year.  The idea was that while we had the machine in our possession we would cut as much as we could in the time we had.  The machine cost just over $100 for the day so I wanted to get my value out of it.  If I don't use the beds there's no harm done.  Those beds I'm not able to turn over will be covered with cardboard and semi-finished compost where they can wait until I'm ready to make use of them.


  1. When the going gets tough, the tough get going!! That looks like grueling work Marguerite! A good gardener plans ahead (now if only I could do that!)

  2. The joy on your face..that's the story!! Right to make as many beds as you can when you have the sodder.

    You can also just use layers of newspaper instead of cardboard and then either compost or manure. I used to expand my beds like that..but right on top of grass.

    Did you reach for the advil after all that? a ha..

  3. You seem to have gotten your money's worth! A lot of sod up! Personally, I love sod cutters! They are heavy, though, and go in a straight line a lot easier than curves. You did good!

  4. I am duly impressed with all the beds you created in one day. I would be so sore!!!

  5. That's hard work! Hope you had a relaxing evening, after all that!

  6. I had heard that sod cutters were hard to use, and this confirms it. There is just no easy way to get rid of turf.

    What a lot of work you both got done --- very impressive!

  7. Good planning ahead! Now that you have those extra beds you will be able to dream during the winter months of how to fill them. Now, time for a spa day? :)

  8. You might be the hardest working home gardener out there these days.

  9. you both did do a lot, very sensible, I have been digging off turfs so yes I know how heavy they can be also if they are moist they are heavier, you will have some good loam when they breakdown, I hope you had a nice relaxing break after all the hard work, Frances

  10. Definitely worth hiring a tool, though it doesn't make the job easy, just easier! I've been wondering how you were getting on with your garden while I was out of touch, loads of progress, wonderful! And easier to dream about future planting schemes with beds marked out even if they are not going to be dug over yet. Exciting. and the turf will make great loam once it has rotted down.

  11. Jane - I know it looks like I planned this but you'd be surprised how little planning was involved! I knew I wanted the entrance bed done and had a shape in mind but most of the other beds were done on a whim.

    Bren - when we got that entrance bed done I could have wept with joy! After working so hard last summer and getting so little done I was really frustrated with this spot. It was amazing to see the shape spring up in a matter of hours with this machine.

    Holley and Janet - all credit goes to my wonderful helper. I'm much better at hauling stuff around by hand but when it comes to machines I'm hopeless. Although that machine was heavy Jody willingly kept cutting and cutting. I wouldn't have done near as much without him.

  12. Aagaard Farms - we definitely collapsed in a heap at the end of the day. hot baths for everyone!

    Laurrie - I think you've hit the nail on the head. When I was researching how to go about this work I kept coming back to the fact that removing sod is hard. If you have the time, covering it and letting it break down is the best option but I was impatient and wanted garden beds immediately, not in a year from now.

    Ms.S - oh how I wish. I haven't gone to a spa in a couple years! bright pink toenails for summer would be immensely wonderful right now. Unfortunately I just spent the grocery money on plants! LOL. Maybe another time.

  13. Jess - Thank goodness for my trusty sidekick who is easily bribed into doing work for me!

    Frances - I was really surprised at how heavy the sod was. It has all been piled or put into bins with other compostables to break down and hopefully in a year we'll have some nice compost to work with.

    Janet - isn't that true! Easier than digging by hand but still hard work. I was happy that we accomplished so much more in a shorter amount of time. and seeing the beds marked out really helped me visualize what it is I'm trying to do.

  14. Yes, might as well make it worth your while. I'm sure it won't be hard to fill the garden beds once your start. Even just a toss of poppy seeds this year will yield a beautiful showy spot to gaze at.

    With the rain today I'll work indoors. Making table toppers for our Royal-Tea. I'll post an update every so often

    I hope your seedlings are coming along.