How to Remove Sod – Quick and Easy!

So good to be back in the garden!

I really wanted to expand my beds this year but was dreading all of the back-killing digging involved.  I don’t know how you dig new spaces in your yard, but I have always done it the usual way – one shovel full at a time.  I dig up a section of sod/dirt, turn it over, beat as much dirt off as I can, and throw the sod into my wheel barrow.  It’s a slow, painful process.

A few weeks ago we had one of those warm, sweet spring days that made me forget my dread and grab my shovel.  Actually, I grabbed the garden hose and some spray paint first.  I used the hose to define the shape that I wanted for the beds, and then marked the outline with spray paint.

And then I started digging.  And digging.  And sweating.  The usual.

Lucky for me, a neighbor stopped by and put an end to my madness.  There is a much, much easier way of doing this, and I am giving Deano all of the credit for enlightening me. :)

Here’s the secret – use an edger!

Which, ironically, I bought because I read somewhere that it’s the tool for sod removal.  But I couldn’t figure out how I was supposed to use it – the method described in the article was just as back-breaking as my shovel method.

This is what my edger looks like…

I thought that maybe I bought the wrong type since it was rounded instead of squared (and i figured that was why I couldn’t get it to work!).  As it turns out, the shape really didn’t matter.  I actually think that the rounded edge probably requires a little less effort – so cheers for a rounded edger!

Side note – I imagine that this process will be very different depending on your soil type.  Ours is pretty compact – lots of clay mixed with some decent silt.  If you have looser soil, your task may not be as labor-intensive – lucky you!!

Warning – you are about to be exposed to way too many pictures of my old Adidas and super-white ankles.  Sorry.

Deano started by cutting through the sod along my paint lines.  An added bonus – he’s an artist, so he tweaked some of the curves and it looks better than my original outline.  (Of course I gave him grief about not staying in the lines though!)

Once the outline is cut (edged), work in small sections.  Cut a strip of sod (about as wide as your edger), from the beginning of the grass section to the outline that you’ve already edged.  It sounds confusing, but think of it like cutting a sheet cake.  In this step, you’re cutting the width for all of the slices.

Now cut the strip into chunks (cutting the cake into individual slices!).  I do one chunk at a time.

Once  the piece is loose, turn it on it’s side (hold it in place with your foot), and slide the edger under the grass so that you slice the grass off, and all of the soil remains in your bed.

This takes a little bit of practice – I kind of tap the edger up and down under the grass to get it started – if you try to just push it through the clump falls over.

You lose almost no dirt with this method.

Using this method honestly saved me hours, and my back took very little abuse!

Tomorrow I’ll be sharing how I finished the beds to get them ready for planting.

Until then – get out there and dig!

Much love,




  1. I should try your method because we’ve got lot’s of grass that has turned to weeds. However, between our type of grass and the weeds, I’m not sure there is any decent way to do it, other than to let someone else have that chore. Unfortunately it’s getting mighty hot here. I think I missed my weather window of opportunity. At least I have your method to try should I finally get around to it. Thanks,

  2. Oooooo Thank You. I have one of these and I too had no idea how to use it. Thanks for the great info. I’m looking forward to seeing your finished beds. : )

  3. This makes perfect sense and I do have some areas to be worked on. I’ll be sure to show your post to the hubs!! ;-D


  4. I can’t wait to see what you do with the expanded beds Brenda! We’re thinking about expanding the garden, which would involve tearing up sod to make room…thanks for the tip! It’s not a task I was looking forward to and I’m glad that it doesn’t have to be as hard as I thought it would be.

  5. Thank you for the great tutorial! I’ve been scouring the internet for hours trying to figure out how to do this very thing. I’ll be buying an edger in the morning. :-)

  6. Perfect! I was just out breaking my back and googled a better way to remove sod and there you were! Im going out to buy an edger right now! Thank you!

  7. Thank you soooo much. Looks like something this old gal could actually do!

  8. Love it! I think I can do this. I always have to wait for my husband to strip the grass where I want to plant. No more waiting.

  9. Wow, thanks for the tip! I am half way through one 8×4′ garden bed and was spending way too much time getting the dirt off the sod; even trying to be careful not to decapitate worms with my trowel. I’m buying an edger on my way home tonight.

  10. OMG…Wished I had found THIS a week ago…now here I am out there WITH that edger, a spade and my wheelbarrow….I edged 1st, used the spade to loosen the sod, then rolled it by hand, HOISTING it with my pitchfork into the barrow…LOL…and I LOVE cake too! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU from the bottom of my back to my neck! Today I wanted to get MORE done, but didn’t because, well, after yesterday, I just got lazy and tired of killing myself doing it….I will head out there tomorrow and cut up the cake! BRILLIANT! AND I didn’t even THINK of spray painting my lines…will have to do that as well…you are GENIUS! ;)

  11. Thanks for the tip! I can’t wait to try it!!

  12. I’m going to be putting in an above ground pool and found your blog on sod removal, this is a way better idea than what I was fixing to do. I was gonna do it the hard way as you started out doing to get my spot leveled out. Thanks to you and Deano for this tip.

  13. You’ve mangaed a first class post

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  15. Wow, thanks for the tip! I am half way through one 8×4? garden bed and was spending way too much time getting the dirt off the sod; even trying to be careful not to decapitate worms with my trowel. I’m buying an edger on my way home tonight.

  16. Teresa Thompson says:

    I can’t tell you how glad I was to find your site and these tips. Thank you.

  17. sygxaritiria ston kyrio mbarka…panta o kwstas mbarkas htan einai kai tha einai konta sto synanthropous mas.alwste to exei apodiksei einai o monos vouleftis pou exei to thl pantote anixto gia ton opiondipote kai asxoloite me ola ta provlimata tou kathe agapi /O GERMATIS.

  18. Ohhhhhh Thank You. Thank you for sharing information. I have one of these and I too had no idea how to use it. I’m looking forward to seeing your finished beds :)

  19. Do you think it’s possible to remove monkey grass this same way, with this tool?
    One yard has monkey grass going wild all over it….
    and the other yard is just plain old boring grass ( centipede I think) all the way to the edges of the corner lot.
    I want to make a border of monkey grass all around all the edges of the yard, by transplanting the monkey grass to the corner lot. Think it will work?
    I guess I can use this tool to remove the grass on the edges of the corner lot, as well, right ? and make a ditch like place where I can move the monkey grass to plant?

    And if all this works, and isn’t too hard for me, I’d like to put monkey grass all in that sidewalk street area too all around that corner lot. Then maybe I won’t have to cut that strip of grass on that street strip any more?

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