How to Kill Your Lawn

Now that we’re in the depths of the drought, LADWP is offering $3 per square foot for turf replacement. Since some 50% of our water goes to landscaping, ripping out your lawn is one of the best ways you can conserve water.

How do you go about killing your lawn? Well, the easiest and best way to reduce your turf is sheet mulching. With sheet mulching, your yard can go from a water-thirsty, outdated green shag carpet to a sustainable garden with about as much effort as it takes to mow the lawn. Once you sheet mulch, you’ll never be standing behind a mower and smelling its toxic fumes again.

Once you go green, you’ll never go back. To sheet mulch your lawn, follow these easy steps:

  1. Cover the lawn with 1 layer of cardboard or 6 layers of newspaper. Be sure to overlap sheets by at least 6” to prevent the grass from growing through. Remove any slick glossy ads from newspaper of tape or labels from boxes – you just want pure paper or cardboard.
  1. Add 4-6 inches of mulch on top of the cardboard or newspaper. (Mulch is basically wood chips that are used to help slow evaporation and enrich the soil.)
  1. Water your lawn regularly enough to keep it moist.
  1. After 2 months, dig through the layers to plant. The cardboard and paper will biodegrade and become part of the soil. If you don’t want to wait that long to plant, simply move the mulch away from the places where you want to plant, then cut out the cardboard and remove it and the grass. That way your yard will get an instant transformation, from “wasting water” to “water-wise.”
sheet mulch in progress
Sheet mulching in progress!

It’s really this easy! You just put down cardboard, dump mulch over it, keep it moist, and wait. And you can do it any time – there’s no time like the present. Once you’ve killed your turf, you can replace it with native and/or climate-appropriate plants. Native plants are an especially great choice, because they attract local insects and birds, which in turn support our local wildlife and habitats.

And for such a simple solution, sheet mulching makes a huge difference. Native plants use 85% less water than turf, and when an average home in LA replaces turf with natives and installs some simple rain water harvesting techniques (like rain barrels and rain gardens), that home saves over 90,000 gallons of water annually. Add up all the homes in LA and it doesn’t take long to understand the incredible power of this DIY project!

Will sheet mulching alone end the drought? Sadly, no. But it is one simple act that can conserve an enormous amount of water. And with LADWP’s rebate, it’s cost-effective, too: check out our earlier blog post to learn how to submit your rebate and get $3 for every square foot of turf removed.

Plus, mulch and cardboard are free or cheap, so sheet mulching leaves plenty of funds for lovely plants, or heck, even getting rid of that pop-up sprinkler and converting to drip irrigation. You’ll go green and have some green left over for treating yourself to something special. After all, you just helped save the planet – you deserve a treat!

By Lisa Cahill

Lisa Cahill first began her work with TreePeople as a volunteer Citizen Forester. She currently serves on the board of directors for the reDiscover Center, continues to volunteer as a Citizen Forester, has been on the Mar Vista Green Garden Tour and serves on several green committees at her church and children's schools. She most enjoys working in the garden with her husband, watching her children and vegetables grow.