The best way to convert a lawn into a garden does not employ a shovel or a sod cutter and will save wear and tear on back muscles. Sheet mulching—a simple technique that involves layering cardboard, compost, and other organic material right over the turf—kills the grass and leaves behind beds with rich soil. A considerable amount of organic debris goes into the bed construction, so stockpile plenty of autumn leaves, composted manure, and garden waste before beginning. Beds that are sheet-mulched in the fall will be ready to plant the following spring.
Use spray paint or powdered lime to mark the perimeter of the new bed. Scalp the grass within the outline with a lawn mower.