How To Remove a Lawn

Sheet Mulching

Photo: UCCE Master Gardeners of Sacramento County

Sheet mulching is a method of lawn removal that protects and improves your soil. It involves layering readily available materials (newspaper, corrugated cardboard, compost, and wood chips) in order to deprive your turf grass of light. Without light, the grass cannot grow or produce food to feed its root system, and over time the grass will die. It is a low-cost method, but requires some time and effort (gathering, prepping and layering materials). Sheet mulching does not kill a lawn overnight; depending on the type of grass, it takes six months or more to kill a lawn through sheet mulching. In Colorado, if you sheet mulch in September, you can expect to plant in April or May. If your lawn isn’t too weedy, you could event plant larger shrubs and trees into the area in the late summer or early fall and sheet mulch around them (remembering to winter water, wrap young tree trunks and keep mulch from piling up around the crowns of plants). Sheet mulching requires water to break down; if applied in the fall and the winter is dry, the cardboard and chips will not degrade quickly.

This video demonstrates the process of sheet mulching. It was produced in California, so disregard the plant selection and the planting methods (the hole the tree is planted in is too narrow). One thing to keep in mind is that many southwestern native plants don’t want to be planted in a soil that is amended with a lot of organic matter or a covered with a thick layer of organic mulch. Consider your final design and plant palette before blanketing the area inches deep in organic matter.