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Kill your lawn or death by asphyxiation

Congratulation! You’ve┬ádecided┬áto kill your lawn. For those in San Diego county there is a turf replacement program that actually pays you to remove your lawn. There are many different ways to do this ranging in time and cost involved. Here is a breakdown of the different ways and what we went with.

Solarizing the lawn (what we are using)

This is the easy way to go on your back, but it takes at least a month. We have been living with a front yard with plastic sheeting for two months since we started in the winter. We keep promising our friends and neighbors that it will look better eventually.

  1. Mow your lawn first.
  2. Water your lawn (for us it was winter and so we did it after a rain storm).
  3. Buy black plastic sheeting and lay it out (overlaping by at least a foot where needed). We placed rocks and wood down to keep it from blowing. The sheeting was about $10 each. We are using 3, but probably could have used 4.
  4. Let the sun bake the seeds (our lawn was mostly weeds) and grass killing the root system. This will take a minimum of six weeks, but possibly longer if it isn’t sunny or warm out. Just keep checking under periodically
Kill your lawn with black plastic sheeting
We decided to kill our lawn with black plastic sheeting

Shovel it out

When we removed the parking strip from our first house we picked this method and even though the section was small, it took three people and was exhausting. It did get done removed in a day though so it might be the best option with those short on time. Unfortunately the topsoil is tossed out with the lawn and roots so you will want to amend before you plant.

  1. water lawn (not a requirement, but having it moist but not saturated helps the shovel penetrate easier).
  2. Work in sections removing the lawn with a spade shovel making sure to get all of the roots. Another option is to rent a machine much like a lawn mower that removes the lawn in sheets.
  3. Dispose of in a compost pile with roots to the sky or in yard cans.

Please note that using a rototill will not kill the lawn, and if you plant after you rototill it might make it more difficult to remove in the furture when the lawn is then mixed with new plants.

Compost your lawn with mulch

After we already started killing our lawn with the plastic sheeting I started reading Larry Hodgson’s book, Making the Most of Shade: How to Plan, Plant, and Grow a Fabulous Garden that Lightens up the Shadows. In this book he stated mulching as the preferred method of killing your lawn. The benefits being that it looks decent during the transformation and the lawn ends up becoming compost to enrich your soil as an added benefit.

  1. Save up a bunch of newspaper or cardboard and lay 4-6 layers overlapping covering the entire surface of your lawn.
  2. On top of the paper add four inches of much. This can be found at home improvement stores at around $5/bag, but a much more economical option is to get it by the truckload if you have access to a truck from a nursery. I know in San Diego County, you can get free mulch at the local dump. I have heard though that sometimes there are nails in it so check that our first if you have small kids or pets. What you save in cost could end up being an expensive trip to the emergency vet. I know this from experience. Once, our dog buster stepped on a galvanized nail and it went through his paw. Ouch.
  3. Keep the much moist, but not wet. Watering with a hose 1-2 times a week.
  4. In a few months you will be able to plant directly in the much with little or no extra prep. Did I mention that I wish we went this route?

Better living through chemistry – Kill it with poison

We used round up on some outlying areas, but I have to admit that I am uncomfortable with the stuff and using it in large quantities. Plus, I think that it would take quite a bit of the stuff to kill an entire lawn. If you do decide on this do one round and then wait a week and go back again to make sure that all of the lawn has been killed.

I have heard of people who use vinegar on their lawn to kill it. This may be worth trying on a small section of lawn and then wait a few days.