I want to kill my lawn

Leander, TX

I want to kill my lawn :-) I live in Austin, TX (8a) and am looking for a ground covering similar in height to grass. In another thread groundcover thyme was suggested. I have read about a couple of other plants on the internet, but nothing has really gelled for me.

Also, what is the best way to get rid of the current grass? I really don't want to use chemicals. I have St. Augustine, which loves to sneak into our flowerbeds, tree beds, everything. If I just till up the lawn what would everyone suggest to keep the grass dead? Or should I do something else than till? Sorry I am such a new guy.

My ultimate goal is to zeriscape as much of my lawn as I can. Thanks in advance!

Lodi, CA(Zone 9a)

Hi. I just xeriscaped my front yard. I think you can kill the grass by covering it with a layer of newspaper and about 4 " of dirt on top. This will stop the sunlight from getting to it and will smother it. I believe this method could take about a month or so. This is what I've heard. I ended up using Roundup simply because I couldn't kill all of the Bermuda grass in my yard.

High Country Gardens has some excellent suggestions for ground covers to replace a front lawn. Personally, I didn't replace with anything that looked like a lawn, I just have plants. If I had to do it again, I would probably have more ground covers as i am getting alot of ants

See if June Grass or Buffalo Grass works in your area to replace your lawn. But check out High Country Gardens.

(Taylor) Plano, TX(Zone 8a)

I'm just a little north of you, near Dallas. We are removing our st. Augustine grass this Spring, and replacing it with dichondra.

No mowing(only if you want to), it only get three inches tall, it is evergreen, and really, really deep green.

We've already tried it in an area in the back garden and fell in love with it.

You are lucky you have St augustine. It is much easier to kill than bermuda. Bermuda is almost impossible to kill.

You can just set your mower on the very lowest "scalp" setting and run over your lawn. The remnants can be scratched up with a heavy metal rake.

Water your soil, and scatter seed. Voila! In one week of warm weather, you'll have tons of little sprouts, and have a lush green xeri-lawn!

Check out the thread that first introduced me to it:

Centennial, CO(Zone 5b)

what Mary said. And water frequently (1-2x a week) so the microbes have plenty of moisture while they break the grass down to goo. Cardboard will work also, if you don't have enough newspaper.

Rosamond, CA(Zone 8b)

I prefer the chemical method for large areas but i have a real good method, instead of newspaper you use that heavy black paper for roofing or the rolled asphalt roof paper, if you have areas that are large, use a couple rolls overlapped a bit to block out light, put rocks or brick over it and in a month or less, it is dead, then move to the next section, this also works in areas in your new beds that you don`t want weeds to creep into or grasses, it holds up to rain sprinklers, dogs etc. it can be cut or torn into pieces and curvs etc.

Leander, TX

Thanks for all of the great advice!

West Jordan, UT

We removed our bluegrass last fall. We hired an excavation company to come in and scrape it off. This worked for us because we could also get the ground regraded which we needed- it was never properly graded the first time. We also did it because we were installing a top-of-the-line landscape irrigation system and decreasing our total lawn area by 1/2. We have since brought in several dump truck loads of topsoil and we'll put down a new, more drought tolerant sod this spring. It was more expensive to do it this way (about $1,600 for the removal of the old lawn, grading and new topsoil) but for us it's money well spent. Our old 'lawn' was about 2/3's grass and 1/3 weeds with an inadequate sprinkler system. The irrigation system cost us a pretty penny beyond the other work but we did install it ourselves.

Denver, CO(Zone 6a)

Really research the different grasses or groundcovers in your area. In one area a groundcover is well behaved, in another, it can be a monster. For instance, buffalo grass is not used here because it's green about one month out of the year - looks dead the rest of the time. But bishop's weed is very nice (and needs no watering) here but terribly invasive in other parts of the country. Thyme is good IF there is no foot traffic, but mine gets weedy looking and not terribly attractive. I've heard the ornamental oregano is wonderful (but I get a terrible rash when working with it) so research what works well in your area.

I have almost no lawn and this year my DH and I are putting in raised beds in our front yard (no more grass)! I no longer use Round-up though it works great, after two of my dogs got cancer. I can't prove it was the chemical but we no longer use herbicides at all.

Also check to make sure with your HOA (if you have one) there might be restrictions on what you can do!

scio, oregon, OR(Zone 8a)

Dichondra is gorgeous.

Tucson, AZ

undiluted vinegar works wonders. Eco friendly too

Denver, CO(Zone 6a)

be careful with vinegar. If you use too much you won't be able to grow things there. Too much venegar will change the ph of the soil where nothing will grow.


I use household vinegar for weeds in cracks of bricks etc. But there are arguments about using it over a big area or directly in the soil.

And high (30% or more) concentrate vinegar can cause chemical burns on skin.

Rosamond, CA(Zone 8b)

Yes on HGTV they showed Paul the Gardener Guy showing great ways to kill weeds and several products were higher concentrated vinegars but it was a total veg kill and for areas that you don`t want to plant in or atleast not for a while. Same with Boric Acid, Boron will kill the stubborn weeds but your soil becomes infertile. I sprayed that Green Light Toal Veg killer and it is cheaper than The expensive RU and it killed it good. The rabbits finished it off for me. ggrrr and a few other things too.

New Orleans, LA

How about Perennial Peanut as a low maintenance grass lawn alternative? It's a leguminous, spreading ground cover that makes a thick carpet about ankle-high that functions just like a grass lawn.

Thumbnail by Backyard_Bonnie
Rosamond, CA(Zone 8b)

Pretty i bet it does not grow here. Hot and bone dry.

San Diego, CA(Zone 10b)

I'm glad I found this thread! I am SO sick of maintaining a lawn! I REALLY need a substitute for lawn, because although I'd prefer to have only flower beds, I still need a play area for kids/dog.
I have heard dichondra is disease prone in my area, and also I've tried it in a small area II agree it's gorgeous!) and it required more water than I'm willing to provide.
Any other ideas out there?

(Laura) Olympia, WA(Zone 8a)

Yeah! another person who wants to and can take out their lawn. Just a couple million to go.

Woolly thyme http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/326/ is my current preference when I get somewhere that I can remove me lawn, I know you said you didn't like thyme but I figured I'd throw it on. My neighbor has this and I think it looks nice and holds up decently to traffic.

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

The trouble with the living non-lawn groundcovers is that they don't stand up to foot traffic as well as grass does. So if you're doing it for looks and occasionally someone walks across it then they can be fine, but if you've got kids and dogs running around on it on a regular basis it's not going to hold up. They've made a lot of improvements in synthetic lawns in recent years to the point that they look very real, they're not super cheap but there's really no maintenance once it's installed. Or else you could consider something like mulch or gravel, although those have downsides as a play surface because they either get tracked around too much or it hurts when the kids fall on it.

San Diego, CA(Zone 10b)

Zhinu, you are so funny! You know, I visited a friend who lives in Campo the other day (that's like waaay east of San diego, in the desert, really) and every single house in that community had a large lawn on the front yard. It just drove me nuts to see such spread out stupidity! Can you just imagine how much water these people waste every day?!
But....Ecrane's got a point regarding thyme. I have a 8 yr old and a dog who does his business outside everyday (not the kid, the dog!). I need something more tolerant of foot traffic...
Ecrane, mulch or gravel wouldn't work either, the lawn area runs right by an already hot flagstone patio...we would bake without a live groundcover.

San Diego, CA(Zone 10b)

Oh, and synthetic is not really my thing. I like to have my feet on the earth! ; )

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

Then I think your best option is to find the most drought tolerant grass you can, there are some out there that require less water. Although for all I know maybe you already have one of those! Or the other option depending on what kind of grass you have is to stop watering it during the summer and let it go dormant, then it'll green up again in the winter when the rains come. But if it's your front yard and you have a HOA or neighbors who care about appearances that might not be the best choice! LOL

San Diego, CA(Zone 10b)

Ecrane, I'm starting to think so too....I need something that can be walked on a daily basis. A friend of mine stent me this link...
I might give it a shot.

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

Do you know what kind of grass you already have? There are more drought tolerant grasses out there like the zoysia or things like buffalo grass but I'd want to make sure that's not what you have already before you go to the trouble of replacing it and then have exactly the same problems!

San Diego, CA(Zone 10b)

haha good question! I think I have some type of tall fescue. I need to take a picture.

Chateauguay, Canada

This may not be a viable option in Texas where it is so hot and dry, but we decided to leave grass behind and opted for white clover.
Many positives with clover.
- It grows to 3 inches and stops (so virtually no mowing).
- It is not as prone to infestion by phyllophaga Lamellicorn (a.k.a "june beetles" or "may beetles") which has been a plague over here for the past 5 years or so.
- It can tolerate drought periods far longer than grass.
- It fertilizes itself.
- It is much harder for weeds to survive among clover than grass.
- It looks beautiful.
- It is a great hideout for frogs. (what can I say, I think frogs are cool and beautiful)
All we did was sow lots of clover over our grass and weeds in early spring when it was still cool outside..... and during summer the clover kinda won out and took control.
People around here are slowly turning to white clover instead of conventional grass, check it out.

San Diego, CA(Zone 10b)

Spott, I'd love to see a picture! Do you have one to show us?

Boise, ID

I'm xeriscaping, I found not watering the grass is a good way to kill it. Seriously I'm a big fan of the newspaper soil method.

I planted a variety of plants that are now called "Stepables", they grow so thick weeds can't get though. I have corsican mint, elfin thyme, veronicas, the nutmeg thyme is especially hardy, drought tolerant and you can walk on it. The moses need more shade and water, in my area, so they aren't in my "lawn replacement". The aroma is wonderful when you are walking though everything. I don't mow anything anymore.

Pueblo, CO(Zone 5b)

I had a flower bed that I decided to convert to low-water xeriscape plants by simply not watering it - anything that survived was - voila - a xeriscape plant. One of the survivors: Kentucky Blue grass, a high-water turf grass that had come in with the soil. The moral of this story: a grass may need a lot of water to keep it thick and nice-looking, but not watering may not kill it - it might just get patchy &/or go dormant.
I've got some nasty invasive grass that I'm going to try to kill with part plastic solarizing, and part newspaper smothering, and see which works best. Last year's combination of chemical grass killer and roundup slowed it down but did not kill it.

This message was edited Jan 3, 2011 8:18 AM

Austin, TX(Zone 8b)

Yeah, that was my approach to the St Augustine lawn. Anywhere it wants to grow without water or fertilizer, it's welcome. I let it grow out til it stops naturally, about 4 inches, and it makes a nice little wave in the breeze.

For anybody who wants to take out the whole thing, you can rent a sod cutter. It's sort of comparable to a rototiller in size, so it is heavy work, plus the sod itself is heavy to carry off, but the whole thing can be gone in a day. Take the opportunity to spread some quality topsoil, and start anew with your non-turf.

Arlington, TX

If you are patient, cardboard and mulch will eventually kill the grass but it will take some time. Why not plant some TX natives? I would be leary of dichondra as it is pretty invasive. There are some perennials that are native to TX that are pretty hard to kill. Zexmenia, wine cups and others would make an awsome display.

Glendo, WY

Wouldn't that be sodicide?

Arlington, TX


Pueblo, CO(Zone 5b)

A word of caution to anyone removing a lawn:
We have had some problems in this region with trees adjacent to, and rooting under, the lawn. This applies mainly to larger older established trees. Even if you don't cut off the trees roots, you are cutting off its main source of water. We have had trees become stressed, and even die, with a drastic change in lawn watering.
I'm not saying don't remove excess lawn - but be careful about cutting tree roots and provide some sort of transition watering for nearby trees.

West Palm Beach, FL(Zone 10b)

any grass suggestions for zone 10b - south florida? most of backyard is pretty much weeds anyway, and we have lots of sunken spots, so figured we'd do something with it. I'd love to have something like the thyme and mint, but I have two teenagers and I'd like to get them to play in back yard.

i'd love to do away with the front yard grass entirely. The front yard gets varied sun, but is not under full sun until around 2-3 p.m. EST. during daylight savings time.


Cave Creek, AZ(Zone 9b)

I'm a desert landscaper and I've found If you have bermuda you will have most success w/ RU. I'm not thrilled to use it either but that said, after several applications (usually takes me 3) you'll be 'close' to getting rid of it. I say close because bermuda is REALLY tough to kill. You can use cardboard or what have you to get rid of grass but a large patch will need you to be aggressive.
If you go the RU method. I suggest making sure it's healthy. give it a nice mow. Talk nice to it (optional...but sometimes lulls it in to a state of complacency :) ) Then on a morning due to be warm Roundup the hell out of it. Wait about a week or so and assess...if there are patches give those patches a drink for a few days in a row...let them get perky again and Round Up again. Round Up works best on green healthy plants...if they are stressed they don't take it up as readily. I just did my back yard and I am pretty darn close to having it ready to go to plant in the fall. I'm Xeriscaping. But if your looking for an alternative to lawn consider a perennial clover if it works in your zone...it doesn't get that high. There is also a new little hybrid a microclover which returns nitrogen back to the soil. I garden organically EXCEPT for killing Bermuda...so invasive I use RU.

Dallas, TX

I used to live in Austin (on Tom Green near UT) and never had any luck with any type of thyme. Had 2 huge veg. beds and 2 large herb beds and tons of flowers (yes, I miss it, sigh), but couldn't even keep thyme alive in the herb beds or even in pots. (I'm in Dallas now so I don't know if anything I mention, except thyme, is applicable to Austin.) As someone else mentioned, dichondra is pretty but very invasive. I am still annoyed with my former yard person here who planted not one but two diff. ground covers in my front yard. The first is purple winter creeper. It grows very tall so you can't really walk on it. Also, it's invasive, which if I liked it I might not mind. Where it does grow more along the ground I liken it to trip wires.The 2nd ground cover is Ardisia. When it was planted, it was about 3 or 4" high and had pretty red berries on it. While I knew the berries wouldn't last, I didn't know that the Ardisia would grow to at least 12'' tall or more. Can't walk on it. Looks really junky but would require major work to remove it.

I'm organic and have used 20% vinegar (doesn't permanently harm yard) covered by wood chips. Only have had mild success. I recently read about 2 very promising organic weed killers. One is inclusive and the other isn't. If you go to dirt doctor.com there's a link to (I think this is the name) the Natural Organic Warehouse which carries these products. I've been away from Austin so long that I'm blanking on names of good nurseries. The only one I can think of is Gardenville. Even if you don't buy anything, altho I bet you'll be tempted, you'll get lots of friendly advice.

My best recommendation is to drive around Austin, especially in older 'hoods, and see what others have done. Austin has such a great climate for xeriscaping, etc., that you should get some good ideas. And even if you end up with a little bit of grass/weeds, remember that when mowed, they look green. So that's more than my Twitters worth of typing. :D

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