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-   -   Best online instructions for smothering lawn? (http://www.wildlifegardeners.org/forum/dead-lawn-society-healthier-choice-gardeners/11734-best-online-instructions-smothering-lawn.html)

strangerhere 06-05-2013 08:11 AM

Best online instructions for smothering lawn?
Hi! I have a front lawn/weed patch and want to start converting it into a bird and butterfly garden. My question is... What's the best and cheapest way to prepare the ground/kill the lawn and weeds? Can you share links? I've been poking around in this forum but I am not seeing basic instructions for those starting out.

This area gets nearly all day sun and is along the front sidewalk. I'm a little nervous about annoying neighbors by leaving an empty mulched bed all summer, but I have plenty of corrugated cardboard boxes, so I can lay those out and cover them with mulch.

Do I need to spray first? I'd rather not. Will the weed seeds survive a summer covered with cardboard and mulch? I figure I give it a summer and plant shrubs in the fall. Is that sensible? Or should I lay black plastic under the mulch rather than cardboard? I have no experience with this so I'll be grateful for any wisdom anyone can share.


linrose 06-05-2013 11:38 AM

This is a big topic of discussion here and there are many ways of going about it.

Here is one suggestion for site preparation from Prairie Nursery.

Site Preparation
The first step in soil preparation is to eliminate the existing vegetation. All weeds and grasses on the site must be killed by smothering, cultivating, herbiciding or a combination of these techniques. Smothering weeds on small areas is simple, effective and requires no chemicals or special equipment. Cover the soil surface with black plastic, pieces of old rugs, plywood, or a thick layer of newspapers covered with leaves or grass clippings. Leave in place for a full growing season to kill the plants underneath. Weed-free lawns can usually be killed in two months using smothering. If perennial weeds are present, a full year may be required.

Prairie Establishment Guide : Prairie Nursery Native Plants, Buy Native Plants | Native Seeds | No Mow Lawn | Native Landscape Consulting

Here's another site, basically the same information, but wordier!

PlantNative - How To - Site Preparation

Equilibrium 06-05-2013 02:45 PM

I’m sure there’s all sorts of online instructions out there. Like linrose says…. There are many ways of going about it so I’ll just toss out what’s worked for me. BTW.... this would be a great time of year to start!!! I lay down thick black plastic and solarize the crap out of the grass. If time’s limited…. I pull up the plastic in about a month and literally cut the sod and flip it over so the roots are exposed and let the sun hit them for another week. Then I remove all the tape from boxes and lay them out flat over the area I solarized and flipped before adding a decent layer of compost… somewhere around 6”…. it’ll settle to about half of that once it rains a few times. If I want to plant right away…. I’ll layer sheets of newspaper over my compost… no worries about the ink… all ink is soy based these days as long as we don’t use any of the glossy pages. Then I hose the newsprint down then plant right through it by punching holes through the layers big enough to accommodate plugs or little pots then I add add about 3” of mulch around my plants. When I start by solarizing…. no chemicals are needed.

rockerBOO 06-05-2013 03:38 PM

Waiting till late summer to smoother seems to be the best time as it is still fairly warm out and the grass will be mostly dormant if you have cool season turf grass (Kentucky Bluegrass/Fescue).

Smoothering effectively removes the need to kill beforehand if done correctly. Any light that gets through can cause it to grow through so good coverage is important.

Cardboard/paper creates a barrier for air/light/water and breaks down over a period of time after the grass has died back due to heat and lack of light. Plastic would need to be removed at some time.

I have been playing with planting right into the grass and using a sickle to keep it maintained in height, but this is not socially acceptable I think, since it can look a little weird and weedy.

havalotta 06-06-2013 12:13 AM

I created a new bed last year.
I "Usually" just cut, shake off and flip the sod and let it do its thing over Summer....DIE! but a garden tour had delayed my creating the new bed until August. Not wanting, nor having the time to free such a large area of grass, I decided to cut "just" the sod from around its edge and roll it over upon itself. I went on to smother the rest of the bed with cardboard and at least 4-5 layers of news papers to prevent the stronger grasses and weeds from going through, then topped it all off with soil and amendments to speed up the decay process and hold it all down. The first couple of posts here show how I have rolled the edges over and this years update. http://www.wildlifegardeners.org/for...loral-bed.html

strangerhere 06-06-2013 09:33 PM

Can we get even more basic?
Thanks for the links and sharing what you've done--it's very helpful.

havalotta--would you be willing to expand slightly on your technique? When you say "cut" and "shake off" I am not entirely sure what that means. I have a shovel, can I use that to cut the turf? And what are you shaking off? Shaking what off of what? :scratchhead I suspect this is a silly question but I am a total novice.

I do have a habit of over thinking and researching forever to find the optimal solution. I should probably just get out there with my shovel and cardboard and mulch and get started.

EllenW 06-07-2013 11:12 AM

When I moved to my property I started my gardens by digging up sod and turning it over. I still had some grass grow in my gardens. I use unwanted mail, horse feed bags, pet food bags, anything I have to cover areas were I have weeds and grass that I don't want. It kills everything under it eventually. You can put mulch over it if it is in your garden. Its amazing how aggressive grass is. People spend so much time pampering it while I find it difficult to get rid of!.

havalotta 06-07-2013 12:11 PM


Originally Posted by strangerhere (Post 134253)
havalotta--would you be willing to expand slightly on your technique? When you say "cut" and "shake off" I am not entirely sure what that means.
I have a shovel, can I use that to cut the turf? And what are you shaking off? :scratchhead I suspect this is a silly question but I am a total novice.

I do have a habit of over thinking and researching forever to find the optimal solution. I should probably just get out there with my shovel and cardboard and mulch and get started.

Well of course, and there's "no" such thing as a silly question here.
We were all beginners at some point in our lives. You should have heard all the questions spewing forth from my lips when I first joined. :crazy1
I'm more than honored if I'm in any way able to help someone out.

I was referring to the sod. I cut through it with a shovel in lets say, about a foot wide strip. A smaller shovel works best if you aren't very strong or have balance problems. I then cut the strips into manageable pieces I can lift. They'd be about one foot by two foot. I finish prying the 1x2' chunk of sod up by shoving the shovel underneath it until it breaks free. Lift it up with your hands, shake the soil from it and flip it over and set it back down into place to smother itself.

I just shake off the first row around a bed so it lies more even with the soil it merges into. The rest is lifted and flipped as is... unless you want to transport the chunk to another area for use as in creating a hill or patching a burnt out area from doggy doo or where a flower bed once was and you want the grass to match. Seeding an area just doesn't quite do as the mix just never seems to match the type of grass you have as there are so many variations in height, color and width.

If you want to save time AND have the money... Just remove and flip the sod from around its perimeter, put your edging in or whatever and purchase a load of soil and dump it in on top of layers of newspapers and or cardboard. DON'T just dump soil on top with out the papers or cardboard as the grass and weeds DO grow up and through it unless buried.... real deep!

disuhan 07-13-2014 10:10 PM

At my new house I have an area of grass about 84' long and 24' wide at the widest, that is going to be a rain garden, transitioning into a drier perennial bed. It's quite probably over 1000 sqft.

I do not have the money to spread mulch over that entire area, nor do I have the patience or energy to flip all that sod. I found a posting on CraigsList for free clean fill that I can just go pick up.

I realize havalotta's unable to answer right now, but I came to this thread hoping to get clarification on the ability to dump soil on top of cardboard. Has anyone successfully done this method and kept the bulk of the weeds out/killed the grass? I'm hoping to do this within the next two weeks and ideally plant it this late fall (mostly shrubs) and spring (perennials).

rockerBOO 07-13-2014 11:01 PM

Cardboard could be used on its own, so any covering on top of it will work.

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