Goodbye lawn – the easy way

By Pam Roy | Jul 25, 2012
Courtesy of: Pam Roy Colorful plantings like these, above, can be used to replace lawn.

All it takes is a week or so of sunny, dry weather for the merits of that wide expanse of lawn to start to fade. Out come the sprinklers and the choices.

Do you water, running up higher water bills, using valuable resources, and skip other fun summer activities during the time you’re home watering? Or do you forgo irrigating the lawn and let the grass turn crispy brown for the remainder of the summer?

Here’s another choice. Say, goodbye lawn. Say goodbye to watering, mowing and fertilizing. No more dandelions or clover. Say hello to year round seasonal color and interest by replacing the lawn with plants having a variety of colors, textures and bloom time.

Does this sound like a lot of work? It doesn’t have to be! Sheet mulching is a simple and easy way to turn that resource guzzling lawn into an area of beautiful plantings. Sheet mulching has been utilized for decades by farmers and permaculture practitioners as a way to enrich the soil and control weeds (the lawn in this case). It also saves the expense and hard work of renting a sod cutter, stripping up the lawn, and having it hauled away.

Here are some simple instructions on sheet mulching:

Start by mowing the lawn down very short. Then water the ground thoroughly. Next, cover the lawn with cardboard, or with several layers of newspaper (6-8 sheets thick).

Don’t use cardboard that has a waxy coating. The ink on most newspapers is soy based and not a concern as the paper decomposes. Overlap the pieces of cardboard or paper by 6-8 inches.

Along sidewalks or paths, dig out the lawn about 4-8 inches from the edge of path to prevent grass continuing to grow next to the edge.

The cardboard or newspaper suppresses the growth of grass by blocking sunlight.

Next, cover the cardboard with composted mulch 4-6 inches thick. As the grass decays under the cardboard, it adds nutrients to the soil.

It may take 4-6 months for the cardboard to decompose and the grass to fully die out. At the end of that time, what used to be lawn will be a planting bed with improved soil, ready for new plants.

It is possible to install plants sooner by cutting out circles in the cardboard where each new plant is to go. There is also a possibility that, in doing this, some grass may continue to grow around the edges of the cut out circles and may need to be dug up by hand to remove.

Fall is a good time of the year to start sheet mulching as the rain helps the process along. You can sheet mulch in summer, if you’re willing to water the area.

Select drought tolerant, low maintenance plants to replace the lawn and enjoy easy care year round color. Goodbye, lawn.

Pam Roy, owner of Planscapes, has been a landscape designer and horticulturist for 30 years in the Northwest. Contact her at 425-252-9469 or go to

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