I do several things to prepare grassy areas for spring planting and I start the spring or fall before. The first is to decide where you want the new bed and cover up the grass with wet newspaper and perhaps a tarp (I have also used old sheets of plywood, old carpeting, too). Under the tarp I layer whatever materials we have that will decay and improve the soil. This year I am making a new tomato bed in my back yard- I covered it all summer with a tarp, then my garden drudge (spouse) lightly dug it up to remove persistent weeds (I helped)(a little). Then I started adding stuff- I dug raw kitchen compost waste into it (though the dog found some and ate it-yuck) and sprinkled coffee grounds from my nearest coffee shop on it (ask for “grounds for your garden). Then we layered on pine straw and leaves (NOT WALNUT) from the front yard, and grass clippings from our last mowing this season. I watered it all in and covered it back up with the tarp. I will continue to add coffee grounds to it over the winter, they are high in nitrogen, should help with decomposition and break down quickly. I am looking for a source for animal manure to compost and add in, too (let me know if you have a source for manure in the Richmond area!). I will uncover it in early spring, dig in everything, and water it again…and should have some great soil for my ‘maters!
I also started a flower bed this fall (see photo). I covered the grassy area with wet newspapers, surrounded it by bricks and covered it with spent soil from various pots of annuals I had this year. To this I added clover seeds as a cover crop, to prevent the soil from washing away and to improve the quality of the soil. This bed will be ready for some sun loving plants come spring!