Last summer, when I tried digging up a small patch of grass, 5 feet square, to plant a teeny little garden, it was a terrible experience. It took hours a day for two weeks. The youngster wanted to not play outside anymore. Chopping a section of matted grass and roots away, shaking out the soil, and lugging the grass away was ridiculous. I made some raised garden beds last fall.
But here's such a better idea: lasagna gardening. You don't even need a raised bed!
Basically: you compost in place. Here's the steps. You can even start now for spring and summer plantings.
1. Pick a nice, light and sunny spot.
2. Lay down a layer of flattened cardboard box or three layers of newspapers. Water this layer to soak it down and start the decomposing.
3. Alternate "brown" and "green" layers of compost material for a total height of 18 inches to 2 feet.
- "Brown layers" = leaves you've run over with the lawn mover, wood chippings, paper shreds from your shredder, etc. Think dry.
- "Green layers" = grass clippings, kitchen vegetable waste, etc. Think wet.
4. If you're doing this in the fall, end with a layer of brown and walk away. Your garden plot will be ready in the early spring. If it's late winter or early spring, like right now, cover with a layer of black plastic to absorb extra heat and walk away. Your garden plot will be ready in middling to late spring.
And much more info, including how specific crops react, here: http://www.motherearthnews.com/Organic-Gardening/1999-04-01/Lasagna-Gardening.aspx