How to get rid of grass?

harmonyfarmsJuly 12, 2006

I am expanding some of my planting areas into my lawn. What is the best way to get rid of the grass? Should I just spray roundup? That doesn't seem to get rid of it over time. I can't really till this area because of utility lines. (Not to mention I don't have a tiller! ;) )

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meldy_nva(z6b VA)

The easiest way depends somewhat on how much of your energy and effort you are willing to put into it. Depending on your final goal - planting what? trees, flowers, vegs? and on the type of grass (johnson is a horror, fescue easy) the most effect method is one of the forms of lasagna. The more difficult the original grass, then the thicker the first/bottommost layer of sopping paper should be. This is because altho lasagna is best known as quick way of making plantable soil, the bottom layer is the one which smothers the bed's original growth. The alternating layers which build the lasagna are the ones that gradually decompose into good soil while blocking light from the grass/weeds under the first layer. Basically, you figure out just where you want the bed; outline it (I do recommend an edging barrier to prevent intrusion from the adjoining lawn); gather the materials; put down at least 1/4" and preferably 1/2" sopping wet newspaper on top of the grass [unmowed is fine] - unless you have johnson grass or large briars which require a 1" first layer to smother; then work upwards with a green layer - fresh organic material/ 3 to 5 sheets wet newspaper/ a sprinkle of composted manure or bloodmeal/ a brown layer (shredded leaves are great)/ and repeat until the layers measure 12" to 18" high/ finish with 2" of organic mulch such as shredded leaves. The thickness of each layer is mostly a matter of personal preference, most common is build 2" thick layers of green or brown. Be sure all layers are the dampness of a well-squeezed sponge, and check weekly to add water when your poked finger comes out dryish. The lasagna will shrink to 25%-35% of the fresh height after a year. You can plant annuals in the fresh lasagna immediately (most seem to adore it) but, due to the shrinkage, I would wait 6 months to a year before planting perennials.

I have read of folks who simply put down thin cardboard or 10 sheets of paper with a 3" mulch - which I do not consider to be lasagna - and then poked holes and planted immediately. Folks say it works, but when I tried it, my grass just paused until the mulch thinned and then grew like mad. OTOH, when I plant trees or shrubs *and* if the basic soil is suitable, the thin layer is fine because the tree/shrub could be planted immediately *and* I would be careful to keep the mulch at least 3" at all times.

Keep in mind that while lasagna is a fast and effective way to convert lawn to planting beds, it does require an astounding amount of material for the layers and a fair amount of labor to build the layers. However, you can start at one end of the bed, build a very small lasagna of about a yard square, and then just add more yard-square sections as you obtain the materials. Remember to build high before you build wide.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2006 at 7:35AM
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meldy_nva-thanks for that GREAT explanation. That's the best explanation I've heard (read). That seems like a LOT of work. And doesn't seem like it would be to 'pretty' to look at in the mean time. Since my garden is part of my landscape it would look really strange. Maybe I could try a patch of the 'less high' kind and see what happens.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2006 at 10:03PM
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meldy_nva(z6b VA)

Actually, if you mulch the topmost layer to match the rest of your landscape, the lasagna just blends in, in appearance! I find that the first 6 to 8 weeks usually provides the most shrinkage, which may be why lasagna is often prepared in the fall - shrinkage isn't so noticeable under the snow :)

Considering that we are in mid-summer, maybe try a middle way. The bottommost layer must be solid enough to block *all* light from the grass beneath -- so beg your neighbors' old newspapers and thin cardboard for a 1/4" layer - if that still isn't enough to cover the square footage, you can use 3 to 6 layers of corrugated cardboard (flatten and take those boxes that the grocers, moving firms, and other stores often just throw away!); if there is still a lack of papery stuff for a good bottom layer over the new bed's square footage, then just sigh and make the top mulch at least 4" deep. Remember, in all cases, to replenish the top mulch as it settles and decomposes to keep it 2" thick.

If you don't lasagna and use *only* shredded leaves to overcome the grass, it's easiest to spread them about 6" deep - the first hard rain will squoosh them down to about 4". Most communities have free shredded leaves as part of their recycling program; to me, it's worth paying a trucking firm to haul a load or two to my house for the annual fall mulch. Keep in mind that using a leaves-only mulch is not nearly as successful at smothering the grass as using a good newspaper base.

Never hesitate to try out different things (and/or different methods) in the garden... it's amazing how often something new you try is even better than the old way.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2006 at 3:49PM
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I am also going to remove grass to place boulders and plants. I have 2 areas about 7' X 10' that needs to be removed. My method is to soak the lawn area well and then use a spade to cut sections that are easy enough to carry but also using a sod cutter. It has some labour involved but for small areas it works great. The sod cutter slices the top layer off and leaves a level ground. I save the cut pieces for other spots or set the pieces under a tarp or in plastic soil bags kept moist and in no time you have top soil. If I feel energetic I will shake the top soil out of the grass and save it for later use and dispose of the roots.I then turn over the soil and add whatever the soil requires.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2006 at 11:10PM
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All I have to say is:
"Snow? What's that?" My lasagna beds would never be covered by snow. Ice maybe.

I like the idea of a sod cutter, but that would be assuming that we have sod! Mostly our grass is WEEDS! Lots of weeds! That's why I am trying to work on the bed areas that I want. No use in planting grass where it will be removed later. Oh, to have some good ole sod!

    Bookmark   July 14, 2006 at 11:17PM
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lindac(Iowa Z 5/4)

Spade edge the area where you want your garden to be.....then spray round up on the grass, wait about 3 days and then cover with paper and clippings and compost mulch etc. and plant....keeps traces of stuff from poking through.
BUT if you are looking for "fast and dirty" you can plant a week ( actually even sooner!) after spraying and cover all that soon-to-be-dead grass with 3 inches of wood chips.
The soil won't be as good as if you had done the 6 months lasagna bed....but in time with application of compost and mulch, it will be.
Linda C

    Bookmark   July 15, 2006 at 11:20AM
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Can shredded paper be used as one of the layers in lasagna?

    Bookmark   September 11, 2013 at 4:34PM
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Re: using shredded paper, I don't see why not. That would be considered a "brown" (carbon) layer. Make sure you get it sopping wet. I've composted shredded paper before, and because I didn't soak it straightaway, it seemed to take extra long to break down.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2013 at 10:06PM
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