Drive down the street in your local suburban area and you will likely see lawn after lawn adorning the front and back of each house on the block. Lawns have become the standard beautification tool in the landscaping world for many decades. However, as any homeowner will tell you, lawn care is significantly more involved than a passerby might think. Growing and maintaining a thriving lawn requires the proper amount of amendments, air, water, and sunlight, all in careful proportions. Without it, the lawn will struggle to flourish.

In addition to nutritional needs to keep a lawn lush and appealing, there is the insect battle to keep it healthy. For example, a crane fly infestation will ravage a lawn within weeks. Add to that the frequent mowing and edging required and you have the perfect recipe for taking the lawn out all together. Of course, even that becomes a challenge since grass is known for growing best where it is not supposed to.

When it comes time to eliminate your lawn, either for a total reseed or to replace it with something more sustainable, there are a few techniques you can use. The steps below will guide you towards successful completion of that goal.

Option 1: Manual Sod Removal

Rake exposing dirt under greenery

Step 1 - Water

If you’ve ever handled a shovel you know that working with the earth is much easier when it is well moistened. Time your yard removal when the sod is soaked, such as in the the spring after the ground has thawed or in the late fall when the rains have begun. If you do decide to tackle this project during warmer months, thoroughly saturate the ground by flooding the area with a hose overnight or by emptying an inflatable pool for a deep watering.

Step 2 - Removal

To remove grass from a small plot, you can use a shovel or hoe. A power or manual edger can make the job easier by scoring section as you go. For larger jobs, rent or borrow a sod cutter. This tool allow you to rip the sod out in large strips for better efficiency. Peel up each section and remove.

Step 3 - Till

A rototiller will chew up any remaining sod portions and incorporate them into the dirt below. It will also help eliminate any weeds or grass roots that might try to reappear down the road.

Option 2: Herbicides

Herbicides are chemicals that kill grass and weeds. Research points all fingers to herbicides as an unfriendly choice for the environment, and potentially even your pets so we don’t encourage their use. If you do decide to purchase and apply herbicides, look for those that flush from the soil quickly. To apply, spray herbicides on a hot, windless day making sure that you don’t overspray onto plants that you want to keep. If the grass has not died off after several weeks, you may need to retreat.

Option 3: Solarization

Dry, dead grass

A third option for lawn removal is called solarization and involves overheating the grass to kill it off. This process works best during the hottest days of summer in areas where you have at least two months of very warm weather and sultry nights. Heat is your weapon so cool nights or moderate day temperatures will not net a successful outcome.

Step 1 - Cut the Grass

Begin the process by mowing the grass as short as possible. Put your mower on the lowest setting and collect the clippings rather than allowing them to mulch back onto the ground.

Step 2 - Cover the Lawn

For the next step, cover the entire lawn with plastic sheeting and completely tack it down around the borders and along the seams. Overlap the sheeting for complete coverage.

Step 3 - Clean up

Allow around two months for the process to work. Then remove any remaining grass and rototill the area.

Option 4: Mulch it Away

Entire Lawn Covered in Mulch with Trees and Apartments

Mulching works by suffocating the grass, forcing it to die off due to lack of access to sunlight. Again, this process works best in hot weather and requires a few months for completion.

Step 1 - Mow

Again begin by mowing your lawn as close to the ground as possible.

Step 2 - Smother it

Next, apply your mulch. There are a variety of effective materials for mulching out a lawn. Organic materials like cardboard or newspaper are best, but you could also use old carpet, tarps, or even that mat from the old trampoline. Regardless of the mulching material you choose, make sure to apply at least six inches of depth. For example, overlap the edges of large cardboard sheets, topped by five or more inches of large bark chips. Alternately use six-inch layers of newspaper.

Step 3 - Plant

One benefit of natural mulching is that you can plant through it, rather than taking the added step of rototilling the space. To plant, remove any bark or other loose mulching. Then cut through bottom layers and remove any remaining grass before digging the hole.