Getting rid of grass in your lawn with a shovel may be quick, but it sure isn't easy. Digging can leave you with an aching back, blistered hands, a lot less soil than you started with -- and probably plenty of grass root fragments waiting to re-sprout. Spraying the area with an herbicide avoids digging, but may not be the best option when children and pets are in the picture -- and a questionable beginning if you plan a veggie garden in the cleared space. Sheet composting kills grass naturally by depriving it of light and oxygen, without ever having to lift a shovel.
Mow the area of lawn that you want to convert to garden as short as you can with your lawn mower. Do not rake up or bag clippings.
Water the grass well, saturating the area.
Sprinkle a high-nitrogen fertilizer such as blood meal or cottonseed meal or a urea-based product over the area at a rate of 1 cup for every 20 square feet. The fertilizer kick starts the decomposition process.
Cover the grass in the treated area with cardboard or stacks of newspaper -- no glossy pages -- six to seven sheets thick. Overlap the cardboard or newspaper by 6 inches as you lay it out so you have no gaps and so slight shifting won't expose any grass. Thoroughly wet the cardboard or paper to keep it from blowing around.
Spread a 3- to 6-inch layer of compost or composted manure over the cardboard or newspaper. Add 6 inches if you want to plant the area immediately, rather than waiting the three to six months it can take the roots and layers of paper to begin to break down.
Plant or seed any plants you want to begin growing immediately, breaking through the cardboard or newsprint and the sod for larger plants, digging a hole twice as wide, but just as deep as the root ball. Fill back in with the compost.
Top with a 2-inch layer of mulch. Keep the mulch at least 4 inches away from the stems of any plants.