How do you remove sod for planting fruit trees?

I’m wondering if its worth getting a better tool than my digging shovel.

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I bought one of these and they work great once you get the hang of it. This company sells quality tools, heavy duty.


I have a sharp field hoe, similar to that, but maybe not angled towards the handle as much. I should give it a shot.

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The angle makes a difference. I bought a grape hoe at the same time to remove weeds specifically.

The videos they provide are informative. If you are on their website long enough (I pretty much watched every video cause I have nothing else better to do), you may get a discount code.

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I think it may be best if you don’t remove it… instead use it.

This takes time, but is worth it.

I created a 4 ft wide 90 ft long bed in the summer of 2019… and spring 2020 filled it up with fruit trees, berry bushes… apples, apricots, jujube, peach, che, goumi, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries…

It was sod… part of my field when I started… it had been bush hog’d a month earlier and had new grass, mostly fescue about a foot tall when I started. I started off by mowing that foot tall grass with my riding mower, on highest setting first, then lowering it to continue cutting the grass as short as possible… blowing all of those grass clippings off to the side… Then I worked up a 8 ft wide x 90 ft long strip with my tiller, only about 4-5 inches deep (my good top soil zone)… also all of that sod, grass, grass roots were in that layer (lots of good organic matter) and I broke it up good.

Then I used my mower to push all of those grass clippings back over onto the new worked up bed. It had a thick layer of fresh grass clippings on it when done.

Over the next couple months I mowed the area around that bed and put more an more grass clippings on it… then after a couple more weeks, I broke it up good again with my tiller and then raked it all up to create a 4 ft wide by 90 ft long bed. I did that with a good stout garden rake.

So when I pulled all of that dirt together to make that raised bed, the inside of that bed was just full of grass clippings… and when I had it all raked up and leveled out nicely, I put 12 bales of hay on top of it… this was late July best I remember… then late Fall… I put another 10 bales of hay on top.

The next spring, I planted it full of fruit trees and berry bushes and all grew exceptionally well.

This pic I think was in early May last year.

This one was 3/31/2021.



We used a steel shaft fork from Ace of Spades. Removed all sod from front median. Had to deal with lawn sprinkler plumbing. Otherwise, I’d rent a tiller and till a foot down and incorporate compost as well. That hoe looks interesting.

Another vote for creating black gold (sod in place, cardboard on top, compost and woodchips/straw/hay on top). I’ve done this for all of the planting beds I’ve installed and plan to continue with my mini backyard orchard and additional beds.

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Someone recommended a Rogue hoe with a hickory handle. I plant a lot of bearing age fruit trees with massive root systems so I have to bust up sod to make room for the roots. I agree about not carting off the sod and smothering it to provide nutrients and water for the establishing tree, but sometimes you need a good sod buster, and this is one. I have one I like even better that I purchased from forestry supply a quarter a century ago. It was made by an Amish company and they squared off the hickory handle so it doesn’t roll in your hands when slamming into sod or soil which ingeniously increases the power of the tool. I store it outside and it still works great, but I can’t find it any more so the Rogue is the next best thing I know of.


This is the guy I have, just went out and gave it a shot. Worked pretty well, much better than shovel. Of course this is probably the best time of year for it - doesn’t hurt.

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Your planting strip looks great, well done. How do you deal with deer?

I’m working with individual trees in cages or tree tubes.

I pressure can them in the fall and eat them all year… :slight_smile:

That is true… but so far the worst deer have done to my fruit tree plantings is the occasional buck rub… and so far all have survived that just fine. A crab apple 20 yards from my back door has survived 2 real thrashings.


I use a sharpened spade to cut it and then flip it upside down. If it’s a tree I mulch with wood chips after planting. If a row or garden, I broadfork after flipping the sod.

don’t bother with tilling, cutting, or turning. do a simple sheet mulch by trimming the grass down short, layer in compost, carboard, and wood chips. you will save time and a lot of effort and build excellent soil.

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