how to clear grass for a garden

how to clear grass for a garden

Congratulations! I’m stoked to see you right here, eager about studying find out how to take away grass. A strong alternative. Once we first purchased our modest .19 acre soon-to-be homestead, almost each outside area was lined in grass. And never simply any grass! Our “lawns” had been nothing however a scorching mess of each weedy crabgrass AND bermudagrass. So through the years (and with some assist from the chickens) we slowly eliminated, smothered, or in any other case killed each little bit of grass on our property to develop extra helpful vegetation as a substitute. The back and front yards are actually plagued by raised backyard beds, pollinator-friendly perennials, fruit bushes, edible shrubs, herbs, and extra.

Learn alongside to see precisely how we eliminated our grass to remodel the area right into a meals forest as a substitute. As a result of we had been coping with extraordinarily invasive weedy grass, we needed to take pretty intensive measures to ensure it was gone for good. But not each yard or garden will want the precise sort of therapy we gave ours! Subsequently, this text will talk about a number of completely different choices to take away, kill, or cowl grass to arrange the bottom for planting. Then you’ll be able to select what technique most accurately fits your area and scenario.

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What You’ll Discover on this Article:

  • Why Grass Sucks
  • Ought to I Take away My Grass, Or Merely Cowl It Up?
  • 4 Fast Methods to Take away Grass
  • How one can Smother & Kill Grass in Place
  • Floor Cowl Choices
  • Borders & Edging
  • Subsequent Steps: Assets to start out rising meals, flowers & extra!
  • Loads of photographs of our grass-removal tasks

The Drawback with Grass Lawns

Many individuals like to keep up a modest garden as a spot for his or her youngsters to play. Or, to function a doggy potty. I get that. However, the vast majority of grass will not be used for these functions. Our nation is obsessive about sustaining excessively large inexperienced lawns merely out of unhealthy behavior, and lack of inventive imaginative and prescient for one thing completely different! In line with the Nationwide Assets Protection Council, turf grass lawns cowl as much as 50 MILLION acres of land in america alone. And all of that manicured inexperienced grass comes with a value.

“Yearly throughout the nation, lawns eat almost 3 trillion gallons of water a 12 months, 200 million gallons of gasoline (for all that mowing), and 70 million kilos of pesticides.”

Wow. Fairly nasty, huh? These pesticides run off into waterways, kill bees, and poison wildlife. The gasoline used pollutes the air. Consider all that water used! Moreover, grass takes away precious habitat area from native wildlife. Positive, just a few worms and grubs could get pleasure from residing in a garden – until it’s doused in pesticides, that’s. In any other case grass is a fairly lifeless area.

Now think about if these 50 million acres of grass (and even half!) had been remodeled to develop veggies, flowering perennials, edible shrubs, annual flowers, native vegetation, and fruiting or decorative bushes as a substitute? These are the constructing blocks of a various and wholesome ecosystem proper there. Plus, with considerate design, natural native and edible landscapes require far much less upkeep and assets than grass.

My imaginative and prescient of “develop meals not lawns” doesn’t cease with human meals! The purpose on this homestead is to offer meals for us, together with meals, shelter, water, and habitat for pollinators and native wildlife. Study extra about find out how to flip any measurement yard right into a Licensed Wildlife Habitat right here.

Ought to I Take away My Grass, or Merely Cowl It?

There are just a few methods you’ll be able to method remodeling your grass space into an edible backyard. Some people select to fully take away their grass earlier than altering the panorama, like we finally did. In different conditions, it could be doable to easily construct or plant on high of the grass, smothering it in place. (We’ll speak extra about methods to smother and canopy grass extra beneath.) Or, you could select to do half-and-half. For instance, take away the grass solely the place a future raised backyard mattress will sit, however depart grass within the pathways between the beds.

Issues to contemplate when deciding when you ought to take away your grass fully, or just panorama over it:

What sort of grass do you have got? In case your yard is made up of basic garden grass like fescue (or different sorts that don’t creep and run) then merely masking it up may go out simply superb. However, in case your garden is stuffed with invasive, creeping grasses like crabgrass (or has numerous weeds) then you could need to suppose twice about leaving it in place.

What’s the desired use and design of the backyard? Have you considered whether or not you need to construct raised backyard beds, or plant straight within the floor? Clearly, if you wish to create in-ground backyard beds, you’ll must take away the grass in that area. However, tall raised beds might be positioned and crammed proper on high of grass – particularly if the underside is lined with cardboard, panorama material, or different materials to smother grass and weeds beneath. Learn extra in regards to the professionals and cons of raised beds versus in-ground planting right here.

What’s the area peak and borders like? Think about when you lined the highest of your grass with cardboard or panorama material, added raised beds on high, and likewise a pleasant deep layer of mulch, gravel, or different floor cowl of alternative. Would the added peak make the whole lot spill over the perimeters? In case your grass that abuts a patio, driveway, pathways, or different hardscaping that’s already at an equal peak because the grass, including materials on high could not work properly. By eradicating our grass, we created a pleasant 4 to 6-inch deep void inside the borders of our yard, excellent for filling again in with gravel, recent soil, compost, and vegetation.

Irrigation. If you happen to’re enthusiastic about probably leaving some grass behind (comparable to between your raised backyard beds as pathways) first take into consideration how the whole lot is at present watered. Additionally, about how it will likely be watered sooner or later. Does it rain sufficient in your space to maintain the grass watered with out sprinklers? As a result of if the vitality of the grass relies on overhead sprinklers, you do not need to maintain it between your backyard beds. Veggies have completely different watering wants than grass. I don’t suggest spraying wooden beds and vegetation with overhead sprinklers. Study extra about backyard irrigation right here, together with how we transformed our pop-up garden sprinklers to drip irrigation manifolds.


Beneath are 4 completely different natural methods to shortly take away grass. I emphasize natural as a result of I’m not going to counsel utilizing sprays to kill your garden. That possibility sucks, for a lot of causes! One, I’ll by no means suggest utilizing poisonous chemical compounds in your house or backyard, interval. Nor would you need to develop meals in that area when you did! Additionally, even when a chemical spray kills the grass, you’d probably nonetheless must take away the leftover useless stuff and roots in any case.

It doesn’t matter what possibility you select beneath, remember the fact that it’s best to take away grass when it’s reasonably damp to semi-dry. Eradicating grass when it’s moist and soggy makes for a heavy, muddy mess. Alternatively, actually dry grass falls aside simply – making it harder to raise and take away in strong items.

1) Manually Take away Grass with a Shovel (& Muscle)

Able to get digging? Utilizing a shovel to chop and take away grass is a good alternative for smaller areas, or in tight areas with numerous curves or obstacles. Whereas barely extra laborious, that is additionally the least costly choice to take away grass. Although our yards are pretty massive, that is how we eliminated our grass. For instance, our entrance yard had about 1000 sq. toes of grass. To make the duty extra manageable, we eliminated our grass in two phases. We tackled the again half with raised beds in fall of 2015, the entrance half nearer to the home in fall of 2017.

To manually take away grass utilizing a shovel:

  • It’s best if in case you have not less than one flat-edge shovel (or garden edging shovel) – used to simply lower clear traces within the sod.
  • If you’re eradicating solely a portion of the grass, mark the specified edge line with a rope, string, or spray paint as a information.
  • Beginning at one fringe of the world, lower a deep straight line alongside the grass. Use your weight to step down on the shovel.
  • After you make every lower, stick the shovel beneath the sod to pry up and loosen it barely as you go.
  • Proceed chopping parallel traces to the primary one, about 1 foot aside.
  • Subsequent, come again via and lower traces perpendicular to those you already did, creating roughly 1 foot by 1 foot squares. If you happen to’re hoping to maintain the sod intact to maneuver and replant elsewhere, be at liberty to create bigger strips to roll up – however they get heavier than you’d think about!
  • Now, use your fingers (and shovel if wanted) to pry up and roll again the lower squares of sod. We attempt to shake out a few of the additional grime to go away it behind.

Place the free sod chunks in a pile to maneuver and eliminate later, or put them proper into your yard waste bin, compost bin, truck, or different remaining vacation spot. As a result of our grass was so weedy, we added it to the municipal inexperienced waste bin as a substitute of our private compost. Business compost services usually warmth their compost piles to a level that kills grass and weed seeds. See this text from SF Gate for extra concepts of what to do with eliminated sod.

2) Use a Sod Cutter

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As an alternative of hacking away with a shovel, you can use a a sod cutter as a substitute. Some sod cutters are smaller handbook instruments, whereas others are paying homage to outsized lawnmower-like machines that lower the grass into lengthy clear strips for you. Engine-powered sod cutters are finest for giant areas and people with out numerous obstacles to work round. They’re very environment friendly and prevent the foremost step of chopping the grass into items your self. Nonetheless, you’ll nonetheless must roll up and take away the sod – no minor feat!

As a result of sod cutters have the power to create good even rolls of sod, there may be the opportunity of saving the grass and planting it elsewhere if desired – be it in your property or another person’s. If you happen to do choose to make use of a sod cutter, bear in mind to take heed to the place your irrigation traces and sprinkler heads are.

3) Until the Garden Underneath

Slightly than peeling the garden as much as haul it away, you can additionally break it up by tilling it in place – after which work the grass again into the soil. There are human-powered hand tillers which take numerous bodily effort. You may also hire or purchase an motor-powered rototiller to make the job considerably simpler. I’ve by no means personally labored with a tiller however I perceive they could be a bit awkward to maneuver, so plan to manicure any curved or tight edges of your area with hand instruments like a shovel or edger first.

One profit of tilling grass is that you just’re not shedding all the high natural matter that you just’d in any other case must eliminate. Nor do it is advisable haul it wherever! However, you can additionally rake up any uncovered free grass after tilling to eliminate it if you want. The soil is loosened within the tilling course of, which makes working in compost and different amendments into the planting area even simpler.

I’m not often an enormous fan of tilling because it disrupts the dear established soil meals internet beneath the floor. Thus, we comply with a principally no-till follow in our raised backyard beds. Nonetheless, tilling up grass in an effort to create a backyard is one time I may get behind it. One critical disadvantage of tilling is that it typically turns up and promotes weed seed propagation. It is usually troublesome to do in rocky or clay soils. Lastly, tilling wouldn’t be a good selection for areas with persistent creeping grasses like crabgrass.

4) Rent Assist

Stunned to see this suggestion right here? Don’t be! Not everybody has the power (or need) to chop, dig, raise, and haul heavy sod! And that’s completely okay. Know your limits and acknowledge whenever you want some assist. We’ve realized to go away it to the professionals for infrequent homestead jobs as properly. Most native panorama firms ought to provide the service of eradicating grass. Whereas paying somebody will likely be extra pricey than a DIY job, that is the most fast and back-saving possibility!

You would additionally take into consideration enlisting some actually “cheep” assist… chickens! (See what I did there?) Chickens are beautifully gifted at two issues: consuming grass, and digging or scratching at grass. Whereas they will not be almost as neat or fast as human helpers, our chickens did help in eradicating a piece of our grass little-by-little. They free vary within the yard the place we’ve a number of (fenced off) raised backyard beds, their coop and run, and what was as soon as a small patch of grass. Over just a few years and with 4 persistent chickens foraging, the little grass island received smaller and smaller – till it was nothing greater than picked-over roots. We pulled out the remaining weedy spots and roots by hand, after which put in our stone raised pollinator island as a substitute.


If fully eradicating grass seems like an excessive amount of work, you can cowl it as a substitute – smothering and killing it in place. Usually talking, smothering grass is a a lot slower course of than digging it out. That’s, until you cowl it after which add raised beds and different floor cowl on high straight away, earlier than it has an opportunity to completely die. That may be a legitimate possibility, although bear in mind the bottom floor could settle and sink barely because it decomposes beneath. However, in case your purpose is to plant issues straight within the floor the place the grass as soon as was, plan on this course of taking a number of months.

Deep Mulch & Sheet Mulching

One very natural and sustainable method to kill grass is to cowl it with a deep pure mulch materials. For instance, by mulching excessive of grass with leaves, wooden chips, compost, leaf mould, bark, pine needles, and/or paper materials. To ensure that mulch to efficiently kill grass, it must be a number of inches deep – sufficient to dam out daylight, present first rate weight, and successfully smother the grass. Fluffy materials like leaves will compact and break down with time, so begin out with much more on high – a pair toes even.

The most effective methods to kill grass with deep mulch is to use a thick layer of paper materials over the grass first with mulch on high. As an example, use newspaper (not less than 8 to 10 sheets thick), unwaxed cardboard, or a pair layers of bulk unbleached masking paper. You realize, the stuff you should buy in an enormous roll?

After you lay paper materials over the grass, moist it completely. Then add mulch of alternative on high and moist that materials too. Paper or no paper, spray down the deep mulch materials every now and then (until rain is in any other case maintaining it moist for you). Damp situations speed up decomposition, and also will assist forestall fluffy mulch materials like leaves from blowing away in windy situations.

Fall is a good time to start out this course of, permitting the mulch to sit down over winter. Over the following few months, the grass will die and disintegrate beneath. From there, you’ll be able to clear away the mulch to plant within the grass-free soil beneath. Or, if you’re anxious about invasive and chronic weeds coming again, add different varieties of floor cowl to the now-cleared area earlier than including raised beds or different landscaping on high. Clearly, this technique of eradicating grass requires an ample provide of mulch materials – in addition to a splash of persistence. (We didn’t have sufficient of both!)

Solarizing Grass

Solarizing is one other method to kill your grass, although it doesn’t essentially “take away” it. If you happen to haven’t heard of solarizing, it’s the technique of masking the grass in clear plastic to each warmth and smother it. When finished proper, solarizing garden successfully “cooks” the highest foot of soil and may kill grass, weeds, bugs, nematodes, and pathogens. It additionally kills grass and weed seeds, theoretically stopping future progress.

How one can solarize your garden:

  • It’s best to solarize your garden throughout the summer season (the most popular time of 12 months) and when the goal space receives essentially the most direct solar. When finished accurately, the purpose is to warmth the grass and soil to round 140°F.
  • First lower the grass brief, after which very completely water it. Moist situations improve the effectiveness of solarization.
  • Subsequent, cowl your complete space in sheets or tarps of clear plastic. Sure, it is vital that it’s clear! Take into consideration the warmth of a clear greenhouse, versus the cooling results of tinted home windows or darkish shade fabric. Utilizing a darkish tarp will make the grass discolored and fewer wholesome beneath it, however is not going to present the identical sturdy warmth as clear plastic.
  • All sides and seams of the plastic should be tucked or held down tightly. That is to scale back recent air entry and area beneath the plastic, and new progress.
  • Depart the plastic in place for 4 to 6 weeks to warmth and kill the grass.

As soon as the grass is useless, you’ll be able to both take away it (now we’re again to sq. one) or apply mulch, compost, raised beds, or different desired floor cowl excessive of it. In principle, the “useless” grass ought to disintegrate over time, basically composting in place. I say in principle as a result of it may be troublesome to efficiently solarize your garden fully, relying on the local weather and method used. It isn’t at all times 100% efficient. And when you’re coping with weedy stuff like crabgrass, I wouldn’t belief leaving it in place even after solarizing.

We’ve got tried to solarize our garden previously with combined success. Our local weather doesn’t get scorching sufficient to intensely warmth the soil and grass as desired. It did kill most of it… Nonetheless, we discovered that eradicating the dry half-dead garden was simply as cumbersome as eradicating the grass that we didn’t solarize – if no more troublesome, because it grew to become crumbly! Subsequently, I’ve combined emotions about solarization. It additionally takes numerous plastic to do…Like, numerous plastic. Fortunately, we already had some available from once we painted our home.


Now let’s speak about grass options for floor cowl, together with supplies to place beneath raised backyard beds, in pathways, or different planting areas. These floor cowl choices can be utilized each in areas the place grass has been eliminated, over different open soil areas, or straight on high of grass or weeds to smother them.

The bottom cowl you select is finally a private resolution, based mostly in your distinctive scenario and preferences. A mix of a number of might be used as properly! For instance, in our areas that had been as soon as stuffed with weedy crabgrass, we selected to put down a layer of bulk paper, then a layer of commercial-duty panorama material, together with a remaining deep layer of gravel mulch on high. Belief me, it was crucial! In different much less weedy areas, we merely use small bark or shredded redwood mulch.

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So as from essentially the most everlasting and protecting floor cowl choice to the least:

Weed Barrier Panorama Material

Weed-blocking panorama material is tightly-woven materials that’s positioned over the bottom floor to successfully block weeds, grass, or different vegetation from rising up from beneath it. Nonetheless, it’s permeable to water, permitting for drainage and air trade to the soil beneath. Panorama material is available in massive rolls, and is often pinned in place with landscaping staples. We like these lengthy contractor staples – they keep put rather well!

If you happen to go this route, I extremely counsel to spend money on commercial-grade weed barrier material like this selection, or this one. The typical skinny, stretchy, black plastic-like materials often present in your backyard heart will not be very sturdy. It simply rips, tears, and in any other case makes a scorching mess. The commercial-duty stuff is way extra sturdy and can final indefinitely.

We set up high-quality weed barrier material beneath all of our deep raised backyard beds, together with {hardware} fabric to dam the gophers. The material extends out past the outer edges of the beds to forestall creeping weeds from getting again in. But I don’t counsel utilizing panorama material beneath shallow raised beds (lower than 12” deep). That’s, until the area was intensely weedy and it’s crucial. Why? As a result of the material will block and forestall roots from touring deeper into the soil beneath. Many vegetation desire greater than 12” of soil to develop huge and wholesome.

If you happen to select to cowl a big space with panorama material (comparable to a border flower mattress, or round bushes) lower holes within the material the place the vegetation will go to permit their roots entry to the soil beneath. Panorama material can also be nice to suppress weeds in backyard pathways. We’ve got it underneath the gravel paths round our raised beds, and underneath our greenhouse too.

Cardboard or Paper

Cardboard and paper do an excellent job of suppressing grass and weeds, albeit not as long-lasting as panorama material. But when the area you’re masking isn’t extremely weedy, I counsel this route over panorama material. Utilizing cardboard and/or paper is the extra pure alternative, as it can biodegrade with time. It is usually an effective way to up-cycle all these Amazon containers you’ve been stockpiling, am I proper? 😉

As we mentioned within the “deep mulch” part above, unwaxed cardboard, layers of newspaper, or bulk sheet paper can be utilized to cowl the bottom floor (with or with out grass beneath it). In open areas like pathways, add a mulch of alternative on high to maintain the paper down and supply a clear completed look. You may also pin cardboard down in place utilizing the identical panorama staples if wanted.

Many individuals additionally use cardboard or thick paper to line the underside of their raised backyard beds! That is what we did once we created our raised stone-wall pollinator island. It wasn’t weedy sufficient to require panorama material, although there have been some leftover grass roots we needed to smother. We even planted just a few small citrus bushes in that area. As a result of the cardboard will degrade with time, we knew the roots wouldn’t be completely restricted as they’d be with panorama material.

Mulch Solely

If you happen to’re lucky sufficient to have an area that wants solely minimal weed suppression, mulch away child! Be at liberty to skip the layers of panorama material or paper, and easily throw down a pleasant layer of mulch on high of your soil. Mulch is SO vital – on high of any sort of open soil floor! Mulch helps scale back runoff and evaporation, retain soil moisture, and improve natural matter content material. All of this results in a wholesome soil microbiome (aka “soil meals internet”) and gives habitat for earthworms, useful micro organism, fungi, microorganisms, and extra.

Pure mulch choices embody bark or shredded bark, wooden chips, straw, pine needles, compost, grass clippings, small gravel, and even bigger rocks like river rocks or cobblestone. There are professionals and cons to each mulch alternative, which must be a dialogue and article of its personal!

We personally use a number of varieties of mulch in our gardens. Within the perimeter and pollinator islands of the entrance yard backyard, we mulch with a mixture of compost and small bark. Across the entrance yard backyard beds, we use small ⅜” inexperienced rock gravel. I like that it compacts and stays in place properly, relatively than sinking whenever you step on it like pea gravel does. (Although you too can set up gravel stabilizers beneath pea gravel to assist maintain it in place.) The place the chickens free vary within the yard, we use a mixture of small bark in addition to shredded redwood. The shredded stuff is sweet and fluffy, which the ladies like to kick round in. Understand that cedar isn’t advisable for hen areas! It’s barely poisonous to their lungs.

Dwelling Floor Cowl

Dwelling floor cowl brings a lush and kooky look to any backyard area! I particularly love the best way inexperienced floor cowl appears between pavers or flagstone and round borders. If you happen to select to go this route, analysis what varieties of floor cowl will develop properly in your local weather – with as little fuss and upkeep doable. For instance, do you get sufficient rainfall to maintain the residing floor cowl, properly… alive? Or will it shortly grow to be useless floor cowl? If you happen to stay in an arid local weather and the bottom cowl goes to want numerous supplemental water, it will not be definitely worth the assets and energy.

There are dozens of various choices for residing floor cowl, together with some edible ones! Many herbs make for wonderful floor cowl, comparable to creeping thyme or trailing rosemary. You may get fairly inventive with floor cowl, selecting quite a lot of textures, heights, incorporate tall native grasses, and even succulents in the best local weather. For extra concepts, Gardeners Path has nice articles about flowering floor covers in addition to herb floor cowl choices.

Borders & Edging

To wrap up this text, I needed to briefly point out your transition zones. For instance, when you take away solely a portion of garden and thus depart an space that abuts the newly grass-free zone. In that case, you could need to think about including an edging or border materials to separate the zones. A sturdy border is especially vital to forestall creeping weeds and grass from invading the recent area. To not point out, borders add a pleasant completed look! We’ve used the whole lot from massive cobblestones and concrete pavers to this versatile however sturdy terrace board. The terrace board might be dug deep between the transition zones, successfully stopping shallow creeping grass from crossing to the opposite aspect.

And that’s the way you kill or take away grass to make room to develop meals as a substitute!

I hope this text gave you some nice concepts and inspiration to kill some grass – and to Develop Meals, Not Lawns! Please let me know if in case you have any questions or different concepts that I missed. I’d LOVE to see your yard transformations! If you happen to’re on Instagram, be sure you tag @deannacat3 or #homesteadandchill in your challenge photographs. Final however not least, please unfold the love by sharing or pinning this text. Completely happy digging!

Now, it’s time to get planting. If you happen to want some steerage going ahead, these associated articles could turn out to be useful:

  • How one can Design & Construct a Raised Backyard Mattress
  • Raised Backyard Beds vs. In-Floor Planting: Professionals & Cons
  • How one can Fill a Raised Backyard Mattress: Construct the Excellent Natural Soil
  • How one can Put together & Amend Soil Earlier than Planting or Between Seasons
  • Composting 101: What, Why & How one can Compost at Dwelling
  • Seed Beginning 101: How one can Sow Seeds Indoors
  • Companion Planting 101 (w/ Companion Planting Chart)
  • High 23 Crops for Pollinators: Appeal to Bees, Butterflies, & Hummingbirds
  • Select the Greatest Edible or Decorative Timber to your Backyard
  • How one can Plant a Tree: Greatest Practices
DeannaCat signature, keep on growing

How to Kill or Remove Grass (& Grow Food Not Lawns!)

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