Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ready To Take Out Your Lawn?

Have you been flirting with the idea of getting rid of your lawn? It is a big step to take, especially if you have no idea how to begin. You may have lots of ideas about what you want to do with the space currently taken up with grass, but how do you get rid of it so you can get started?

There are at least two methods of sod "abatement." One is to remove the lawn, roots and all, with either a sod-cutting machine or with a hand tool called a mattock. The second method, called sheet mulching,  involves covering the grass with newspapers or cardboard, layering over that with organic material and soil, and planting right over the top.

I've used both methods and have had success either way. Sod removal is definitely more labor intensive and you have the problem of sod disposal (trust me, it does not compost easily or quickly). Sod-cutters are big, heavy machines, which is why I've removed miles of sod with a mattock instead. But once that sod is gone, it's gone. No grass will be poking up through the new beds.

Sheet mulching is much easier, and for many people, more practical. Care must be taken, however, to be sure there is a thick, even layer of cardboard with no gaps between pieces where grass can shoot up. Sheet mulching also raises the level of the yard a little bit. In most cases, that adds a pleasing bermed effect. Just be sure the sheet mulch is not in contact with wood (a fence, deck or the siding on a house) or  you will have problems.

To get a look at how these methods work, here's a great series of videos showing the Urban Farmers Guild of Sustainable NE Seattle converting a homeowner's lawn into a food garden. The sod is removed in half the yard. The sheet mulching technique is used on the other half. The videos are taken over several months so you can see the process from sod abatement to thriving vegetable garden. Enjoy!