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Lawn Removal

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While there are many good uses for lawn/turf areas like community spaces and active recreation, there are other alternatives to consider for turf that serves only an aesthetic function. A couple of methods of turf removal are outlined below along with additional resources. More details on the methods below can be found in the turf removal workshop slides from presentations the City has hosted. See the presentation slides and videos on the Water Conservation Workshops page If you have already removed your lawn, find more information on water-wise and environmentally friendly landscaping alternatives

Turf Removal Methods

Sheet Mulching/Composting

Sheet mulching/composting involves covering the turf with layers of cardboard or newspaper to exclude light and then adding layers of compost and mulch. This method adds organic matter to your soil and does not require the disposal of any turf. You can plant right into the area that was mulched/composted. The best time to use this method is the spring and to leave in place for the summer to use the available heat and light to help breakdown the materials. Occasional water may be required over the summer to help with material breakdown. Planting in the fall is best because the days are shorter and cooler and rain can support plant growth.

  • Cut grass as short as possible
  • Dig a "moat" around the hardscape to keep materials on site
  • Cover the entire area with cardboard (used boxes or purchased rolls)
  • Make sure the edges overlap so that no sunlight gets through the cardboard
  • Wet the cardboard
  • Cover with a layer of compost (2-3")
  • Add a layer of mulch at least 4 inches thick
  • Plant directly into the mulched/composted area after a few months (ideally in the fall)

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Solarization

Solarization is the use of clear plastic to deprive turf of water and light.  A version using black plastic to exclude light can be used for turf removal. The process involves covering the turf or soil with plastic sheets to let the sun heat it to kill seeds, weeds and soilborne pests using high temperatures. Solarization is an inexpensive option for turf removal although it does kill insects and soil organisms and leaves behind dead grass.

Physical Removal

cutting sod

Physical removal is often the quickest way to remove a lawn by physically cutting the sod into strips with a sod cutter. The sod can be rolled and removed or can be turned over to compost in place. Cut sod can also be laid upside down to create a mound, as fill for a low spot or to create a berm. Sod cannot be placed in yard materials piles. Small quantities of sod can be placed in your organics bin, but it cannot exceed the weight limit on the carts: 300 lbs. for 95-gallon carts, 220 lbs. for 65-gallon carts and 125 lbs. for 35-gallon carts. Sod can be placed in your backyard compost bin (more information about composting If sod is dried in the sun for a few days, you should be able to shake off the dirt and the remaining grass can be placed in your organics bin or yard material pile. Sod can also be taken to the Yolo County Central Landfill (fees may apply) or a bin can be rented from Recology Davis (fees apply). 

Resources on Lawn Removal Techniques

Sonoma County Master Gardeners: Grass Removal Methods

StopWaste guide to the Sheet Mulching Process

UC Davis Arboretum Sheet Mulching Article

Yolo County Master Gardeners: step by step instructions on lawn removal