A Simplified Method
Sod Top Gardening
Sod-top gardening is a top-of-the-ground method of gardening that is non-invasive, quick, relatively painless, and does not require hours of back-breaking work with a spade, or the use of a noisy, smelly, huffing, chuffing, power rototiller. It opens gardening to that segment of the population that is ... "Machinery and Tool Challenged".
Pick your site. Mow the ground. Cut anything to the ground that you don't want in the garden, and cover the area with wet newspaper. Soak the paper in warm water. A five gallon plastic pail works well, and lay the paper on the ground four to six layers thick, and over-lapped generously. On top of the paper put a layer of old horse dressing, manure of any stripe, municipal compost, or any of the commercial potting or planting mixes four to six inches in depth.
Except for the planting, your garden is done. Very few plants in the sod will be able to penetrate this layer of newspaper and horse dressing. The result is that the grass and weeds die. An ambitious set of worms with an interest in digesting the news will turn the remnants of the sod, the newspaper, and the covering into a rich friable humus in a matter of months. The complete break-down process seems to take 18 to 24 months in our area. At that time nothing is left of the sod or the newspaper and if a one inch layer of old manure is added yearly, the weed problems will be nil.
With "Sod-Top Gardening" there is none of the character building aggravation of delayed gratification. You can plant immediately after laying down the newspaper and horse dressing. You can have your garden NOW, and build your character and tool handling skills elsewhere!
To plant, open a hole in the layer of newspaper, put some good soil in the opening, and set the plant in a depression in the newly placed soil. Small plants can be set in a shallow depression on top of the newspaper. Be sure to use good soil directly around the plant, and poke a few holes in the paper for drainage. To offset the nitrogen loss during the initial decomposition you may find it necessary to temporarily use a commercial source of replacement nitrogen like Miracle Grow, or 10-10-10.
If you are one of those hard driving workaholics, and this all seems too easy, there are a few things that you can do to work up a sweat and get the muscles satisfactorily sore. You could haul rocks and just have a good old time making a garden border. The size of the rocks can be used to adjust the amount of extra work you feel you must do.
Undoubtably, there is a way to make this process much harder. We just haven't discovered it yet, and to be truthful, we're not putting a lot of research time into it.
(Disclaimer); Standard, medium and dwarf Iris do not seem to like the sod-top method, and should probably be planted using traditional methods.