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Recycling Lawn to Death + A Mower Giveaway

June 23, 2013

We’ve been killing our lawn intentionally for years, and we just recycled the last of it to death a few weeks ago. Over a decade ago, for our first eradication effort, we dug out a front lawn section to install raised beds. Later, we sheet mulched other large areas to make way for patios, edible gardens, honeybee hive locations, and mixed interest borders. This summer we killed the last toupee of it to make way for an experiment in hugelkultur, winter edibles, and gardening with dogs.

Dogs and Lawn

Dogs don’t really need lawn. If they’re exercised & trained properly, most dogs do great in any garden. So, let’s kill some lawn!

The way we’re sending this last bit of lawn back to the earth is also a lesson in recycling quite a lot of stuff that was taking up space we need for other things. Included in this recycling project is going to be giving away our Fiskars® StaySharp Reel Mower, which Fiskars® gave to us as paid writers. (They also gave us any other Fiskars tools shown in this post; these are not being given away.) They’ve blessed giving this used mower away to one of our readers as a way to make sure it continues to be used. Fiskars® has not otherwise paid or compensated us to complete this project or to write this post. (Read on to learn how you might get your hands on this great tool.)

Old Cold Frame

Old Cold Frame taking up patio space will move to the new bed area. It is made out of wood & it has already begun to show some signs of decomposition. Building out of stone might be preferable, but we’re recycling stuff here!

Recycled Paper & Lawn to Kill

The last toupee of lawn & lots of packing paper from Fiskars shipments. The perfect sheet mulching recycling combo!

Last Mowing of the Lawn

Giving the dying lawn a last scalping cut with Fiskars StaySharp Reel Mower to help kill it back. Stressing the lawn during summer drought and then cutting it really short helps kill it back. As it keels over, worms and other soil microbia will eat it, recycling it back into the soil.

Smothering grass with recycled paper

After mowing, we created an overlapping layer of recycled paper to be sure the grass lost all exposure to sunlight. This helps kill it. If the grass isn’t exposed to sunlight, it can’t feed itself by photosynthesizing.

Filling the Cold Frame with wood

Cold Frame is positioned over the paper & a few pieces of rotted wood are added. A layer of recycled arborist wood chips, provided by our arborist, come next!

Wood Filled Hugelkultur

Recycled arborist chips cover all of the paper. They and the chunks of wood will decompose slowly, adding heat plus soil microbia food & shelter…and eventually plant nutrients. We’ll only plant relatively shallow-rooted crops so they aren’t stunted while the rotting wood “steals” Nitrogen from the soil during decomp. Plus, this was our dog’s zone for many years & we don’t want edible crop roots reaching into the dog potty until this bit of earth has gone through a lot of regeneration via nature’s good works.

Watering the Hugelkultur

Once the wood is in place, everything is saturated to kickstart decomposition & encourage worms & other soil microbia to move in.

Soil Filled Hugelkultur

Several inches of recycled potting soil combined with worm castings and homemade compost are added to the cold frame Hugelkultur bed. This is the growing medium for the coming plants.

Watering Hugelkultur

Soil-Compost mixture is thoroughly saturated & allowed to drain of excess water before planting begins.

Adding Plants to the Bed

Cabbage & Miner’s Lettuce starts, plus lettuce & spinach seeds are planted after the soil has drained.

Floating Row Cover to Hugelkultur

An old piece of floating row cover is added over the planted bed to keep out pest insects like Cabbage Butterfly. It also adds a bit of heat.

Three Weeks of Growth in Hugelkultur

Three weeks after planting, the edible bed is growing strong. It’s time to thin some seedlings!

So, that’s our crazy recycling hugelkultur mix-up…at least for the moment. Later, when the weather gets cold, we’ll re-attach the framed top (see first picture above for an example or follow the link below.) This will help keep in heat as well as keep out pests and any heavy snow loads. Both the rotting wood below and the sunlight that manages to filter in during winter will help build heat for the plants. If it gets too hot, the top can be vented an inch or so at a time. More cold frame photos and guide to building your own here.

Now…about the mower giveaway… (Now Closed)

Think of this like you would a free listing on Craigslist. We can’t afford to package and ship this mulching mower, so you’ll have to be local and able to pick up the mower from our location in Seattle, WA. Sorry out-of-towners…maybe next time. If you still want to throw your hat in the ring, leave a comment in the Garden Mentors® blog comment area below telling us us your thoughts on this experimental project. Be sure to include your email address so we have a way to contact you if you win.

Fine Print: All comments must be made on the Garden Mentors® blog thread below this post. The comment period ends Thursday, September 19, 2013 at noon PDT and is now closed. The winner will be announced no later than Monday, September 23, 2013 on this blog. Comments made on social media sites or other shared locations will not be considered. The winner will be chosen by us by putting all names in a hat and pulled randomly. The winner must be able to pick up the recycled mower from a Seattle, WA location. Location will be disclosed to the winner only. And, to reiterate: This mower was provided to Garden Mentors® by Fiskars® for free for review and writing purposes. And, it has been used. Garden Mentors® has received no additional compensation for this post, project or giveaway by Fiskars®.


  1. Cat says:

    Would love to win, have a patch of clover that needs a good mow!

  2. Susan Stuart says:

    I also have absolutely no lawn in my yard! I have dry creek bed, bubbling rock, cobbletone walkway instead of cement, and berms full of both Ornamental and native plants! I also recently started a Wholesale nursery in Puyallup, Wa; and I grow primarily Washington State and other Pacific Northwest native plants. I try to provide a more diverse choice of natives than many native plant nurseries, by specializing in hard to find perennials, pond and stream marginals,etc…. I am interested in the mower because I also do Landscape Design, installs and some maintenance! I want a reel mower for this purpose, and to use as a teaching tool with customers and in presentations I do on sustainable landscsaping!

  3. Cat says:

    I may not have said enough about growing the clover, so that others can consider this lawn alternative here are some high points…..
    Nitrogen fixating

    High drought tolerance

    Green year round

    Pet urine resistant

    Grows in bad soil

    Fertilizes surrounding plants

    We are going to mow a couple times a year. Let it reseed itself as needed and give this lawn alternative a try! yeah, no more turf!

  4. Great idea Cat & thanks for reminding everyone of why clover is actually a fantastic lawn alternative choice!

  5. And the winner is Cat! Cat, we’ll be in touch with pick up details via email. Congrats!!

  6. […] carrots that continue to grow. But, the chill hasn’t bothered baby greens flourishing in our Hugelkultur cold frame. Those will be extra tasty as our first […]

  7. […] On Using a Coldframe as Winterized Hugelkultur Bed: The step by step of building a winter hugelkultur bed inside an old cold frame, from which we harvested greens all winter long. […]

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