How To: Kill Grass
If your lawn isn’t thriving and you're looking for a way to replace or get rid of it altogether, banish the grass blades for good with any of these smart solutions.
Grass can be great—when it’s like lush, lovely lot-to-lot carpeting beneath your feet. Flawless grass can be a pain to maintain, though, especially if you’re affected by less-than-ideal climate or watering limitations; more often, you’re left with an eyesore of a lawn, plagued by weeds or patchy spots. Fortunately, if you’d like to remove your lawn, you’ve got a variety of solutions to choose from. Just be sure to check what restrictions your homeowners’ association or municipality may have on the use of certain equipment or herbicides, should you choose to go that route.
Use Solar Power
For totally natural, reliable lawn removal, consider solarization. Check the weather forecast for a string of sunny days. Then, mow the grass as close to the ground as possible. Water the lawn to the point of saturation and cover it promptly with clear, plastic sheeting, held in place at the edges with bricks, cement blocks, planters—anything heavy enough to keep it from blowing away. The heat of the sun does the rest, effectively “sweating” or “cooking” your grass to death in about six to eight weeks.
Can’t depend on the sun? Try smothering, also known as layering or composting, to lose your lawn. This method is especially popular for banishing a small lawn or a section of a larger one. Begin with a close mow, and then cover the patch with several layers of overlapped newspaper or cardboard. Wet it all down and top with a layer of grass clippings or mulch. The technique prevents light from getting through, so no photosynthesis can occur. Unwanted grass will be gone in about eight weeks and, if curb appeal is a concern, the mulched area may be considered less unsightly than plastic sheeting. Plus, as the paper breaks down, it boosts soil quality—great if you intend to plant in the area.
Get Help from Herbicides
Treating grass with an herbicide such as Roundup will kill it in as little as two weeks. Or try Ortho Grass B Gon, which was designed not to spare surrounding plants. Note that herbicides generally need repeated applications to get the job done. Consult a pro at your local nursery for advice on which herbicide to use, and be sure to follow directions carefully to ensure safety.
Dig It Up
If you don’t want to wait weeks, you can banish grass with basic garden tools—plus some elbow grease—in one fell swoop. Just take care to locate any underground irrigation areas to avoid before any digging begins. If you’ve got a small grassy area, break it up with a hand tiller; for a larger lawn, you’d be wise to rent a heavy-duty tiller. Once it’s been thoroughly tilled, use a wood-handled, medium-sized shovel to break apart and scoop up large sections. After all the grass is gone, go back over the area with a trowel-type rake to round up any rocks that may be present.
So what about the technique of killing grass with boiling water or vinegar? Both can be effective—but only on weeds. The methods detailed above will give you a grass-free zone for a garden, hardier plants, or hardscaping. And you’ll get to enjoy a no-mow summer!
If you’re not yet ready to sell your lawn mower and give up the idea of having a lush lawn, here are a few mowing tips to help you up your lawn care IQ.