design-inspired urban farming

Getting Rid of Your Lawn – Inspiration

As mentioned in a previous post, we are looking to eliminate the lawn area at Sow Swell Urban Farm.  The American lawn has a deep history in Americana.  We have a deep-seeded emotional connection with our lawns.  We have many fond nostalgic memories of laying in the grass looking up at stars or summer days of playing in the sprinklers on the front yard lawn.  However, as we look to be better stewards of the environment, we need to consider the lawn as a significant water hog.  Did you know that in Palm Springs, 80% of water usage is used to water lawns and keep them green?  Can you imagine how much water we could conserve and the difference we can make if we got rid of our own lawns?  You can instead, replace your lawn with a functioning vegetable garden that feeds your family or use native plants that require very little supplemental water.

We’ve been attending workshops and exploring the types of native plants and other horticulture we can use to re-imagine the lawn here at Sow Swell.  How often have you dreamed of creating an outdoor living space? We have the luxury of living in sunny Southern California and can truly enjoy year-round outdoor living.  We have been capturing images and snapshots of gardens, yards and outdoor spaces on the web and in our surrounding cities as a source of inspiration.

If you are considering getting rid of your lawn, there are a few things you should consider.

What type of grass do you have currently?

  • Depending on the type of grass you have, it may be difficult to get rid of entirely or may take a couple years to eliminate it entirely.  For instance, Bermuda (Cynodon dactylon) grass has a root system that grows extremely deep — sometimes as much as 6 ft.  This will make it very difficult to remove it and start fresh, without the Bermuda growing back in your newly landscaped space.  There are other common types of grass that are easy to pull up and can be rolled up and repurposed, given away or composted.  Marathon (Tall Fescue), which is typically used as sod, can be pulled up and rolled away just as it was laid down the first day you put it in. You should identify which grass you have as it will determine whether you will want to spend the time, energy and money to get rid of it.

Methods of turf removal.

  • The first is Mechanical.  This is where you remove your grass by hand.  The easiest turf to remove is Marthon, as the root system is shallow and can be rolled up or put in compost.  We have often rolled up our turf when we’ve installed hardsape and used it in other areas of the yard or we’ve given it to our gardener to use in other lawns for patching.  The mechanical method is labor intensive and will require you or hired hands to pull up the turf and take it away.  Once you’ve removed your turf, you should level the surface and immediately Solarize your soil (see below).
  • The second option for turf removal is Sheet Layering (also known as lasagne gardening), whereby you are essentially composting your lawn to create a rich soil surface using layers of organic materials to break down the lawn.  You can layer (about 1″ deep per layer) organic matter and materials like newspaper, hay, mulch to break down the lawn and create compost.  The area should be watered down and remain aerated.
  • The last method is the Chemical method for removing your turf, whereby you can use RoundUp to kill your lawn.  We recommend against using this method, but it is effective.  If you plan to install garden beds or vegetable gardens in place of your lawn, reminant chemical residue will likely leech into the good soil you add to your garden boxes or beds and does not make for a good starting point for organic gardening.
  • Once you’ve removed your turf, prepare the soil using Soil Solarization method to create your starting point for re-landscaping your space.  Soil Solarization is a non-chemical method to control weeds, pathogens and soil-bourne diseases below the surface of your lawn.  This method ensures you kill any weeds or pathogens that are beneath the surface of your lawn area that can create problems in your future landscape.  With this method you will first wet down the area with a deep watering to ensure it’s moist.  Then cover your lawn with plastic sheeting to trap heat from the sun to literally cook the organic matter beneath it.  It is necessary to get the temperature up to 140 degrees and so long as you create a good seal in the plastic this should happen on it’s own.  You can create a seal using rocks along the seams of the plastic or you can dig a small trench around your area and bury the edges of the plastic.  This will kill weed seeds and pathogens if left undisturbed for 4-6 weeks. The result will leave you with a nutrient-rich bed ready for planting.  If you’re planting vegetable gardens, this rich soil is perfect for germinating vegetable seeds.  This type of soil preparation creates an environment that is likely too rich for native plants. For more information on Soil Solarization refer to this link.

Have you removed your lawn?  What method did you use?  Are you looking to remove your turf?  Please post your questions!  We’d love to hear from you.

2 comments on “Getting Rid of Your Lawn – Inspiration

  1. Pingback: Ideas and Inspiration for a Modern Vegetable Garden « design-inspired urban farming

  2. Pingback: Ideas and Inspiration for a Modern Vegetable Garden

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This entry was posted on August 9, 2012 by in Xeriscaping and tagged , , , , , .
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