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Sheet mulching tips to remove weeds & lawn

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Sheet mulching is great for lawn removal projects…

Sheet mulching is an easy way to remove grass and many weeds. That’s because nature does most of the hard work for you! So if you’re looking for how to remove lawn without a lot of digging, sheet mulching might be exactly the right thing. Plus, this method uses up unwanted cardboard to get rid of lawn!

sheet mulch away lawn for herbal spaces instead

Thyme is a lovely, dog-friendly lawn alternative

Some reasons you might want to easily get rid of your lawn include:

Reducing lawns in favor of more sustainable gardens is very popular. And that might mean choosing front yard food gardens instead of manicured lawn. Or, it might simply mean planting a ground cover instead of grass. But regardless of why you want your lawn gone, sheet mulching an easy way to transform your lawn.

When is the best season to remove lawn via sheet mulching?

Fall is a great time to remove lawn this way. That’s because rain often becomes more abundant this time of year. And soils remain more damp.

Plus, we tend to spend less time lounging in the garden during the cool, rainy season. So tearing up our lawn in fall doesn’t impact our day-to-day fun as much as it might at other times.

Plus, at this time, soil microbial activity hasn’t come to a halt. Therefore, by choosing to sheet mulch our lawns this time of year, we are able to opt for a passive removal method.

Plus, we don’t break out backs with a lot of digging. And we don’t run a fuel-hungry sod cutter or roto-tiller.

Moreover, we don’t have to find ways to get rid of the lawn we would otherwise dig out. Instead, the nutrients in the lawn’s green get “tilled” into the soil by soil microbia. Not only does this recycle material instead of sending it to the landfill. But this is how nature converts this nitrogen rich organic material into forms ready for your spring plantings.

But patience is required for nature to do its work removing your lawn.

It may take a while for the garden life to complete lawn removal this way. But the life in the soil does the work for us during the months we’re unlikely to be using our garden anyway.

Plus, fallen leaves are abundant. So, rather than putting them in yard waste or seeing them clog storm drains, use them in your sheet mulching project!

Got weeds in your lawn that need removing?

If there are existing weeds in the lawn you plan to sheet mulch, it is a good idea to identify them before you start. This way you’ll recognize their growth habits.

Some weeds will be eradicated by sheet mulching. But others will survive this process. Moreover, many weeds thrive during sheet mulching lawn removals.

So, you may choose to hand remove some weeds before you sheet mulch. Or, you’ll need to be prepared to deal with them after your lawn has been sheet mulched into something new.

Want to learn how to sheet mulch with step-by-step instructions?

20 comments on “Sheet mulching tips to remove weeds & lawn

  1. Elizabeth on

    Wow. That is a whole lotta work. Couldn’t I just borrow the neighbors hens for a week or so? 😉

  2. rhaglund on

    Hens can certainly demolish some lawn! But when it comes to eradicating lawn & you don’t want to dig, sheet mulching is a great option. And, let’s face it, not everyone has neighbors with hens to borrow.

  3. Greg W on

    Very informative. I have seen lots of sites explaining this process but I feel you have done a much better job. Pat yourself on the back for this one.

  4. Gloria Bonde on

    …great post. I’ve removed most of my lawn. When we first moved, almost 18yrs ago, we had one corner that was filled with creeping jenny, the kind with the deep roots. I totally covered it with plastic (which I would never use for mulch) and left it a year, It actually killed it. I then was able to start fresh. I am so glad the creeping jenny was only in that corner, brought in years before in some sand.

  5. M. D. Vaden of Oregon on

    The whole process can be pretty practical, but I’m leaning toward recommending leaves or some alternative for the layer now, near urban areas, because using paper products can trigger increased pollution and tree cutting in other locations. It stems from shrinking recycleables. So I figured that leaves or something from the same property may provide a more eco-friendly alternative.

  6. rhaglund on

    Using leaf duff is a nice way to go, if you have it. Many residential gardeners simply don’t have these materials on hand. And, many have loads of cardboard or newspaper to put to good use.

    Thanks for sharing!

  7. Julia on

    Hello, I would like to use sheet mulching to turn a grassy area into a planting bed/berm for shrubs. There is an existing lilac and would like to add sunset and Howard mckinn Manzanita, another lilac, lavender and kinninnick. Can I start the layering process as for regular sheet mulching then add extra soil, say 12″, for height of berm then top with mulch and plant my shrubs right away? Will the shrubs roots be able to penetrate the original ground level if the grass was not removed or do I need to remove the grass where I plant shrubs? Will the decomposing grass get too hot as it breaks down and harm the roots of my shrubs?

  8. Garden Mentors on

    Julia, without seeing your situation, it’s tough to know what to recommend. What we can tell you: don’t mound up new soil/sheet mulching over the trunk of your existing plants. And, in some cases, building a sheet mulching project that includes a berm AND planting before the sheet mulching breaks down will work and the plants will settle in just fine. But, again, there’s a lot that can impact whether it will work or not. Is your soil healthy and alive? What kind of soil do you have? Is your soil compacted? How moist is each layer? And more. It isn’t likely that the decomposing material under your sheet mulch layers will get too hot/damage plant roots. You might want to bring in a local consultant to evaluate your project before you dig in. There’s nothing worse than doing a job and then losing the cost (sweat and dollars) in your investment AND having to do it over again. Good luck & thanks for being a part of our gardening community!

  9. Shayna on

    If sheet mulching on a slope isn’t an appropriate option for aggressive weeds, are there any other options to suppress the weeds without digging? The slope is about a 30 degree angle. Thank you!

  10. Garden Mentors on

    Shayna, on mild slopes, sheet mulching can work. Another option might be to hand weed & then pin burlap, planting new material into the burlap (holes) to establish new plantings. But, site unseen, it’s difficult to know what will work in any specific situation. Good luck!

  11. Chelsea on

    Just got around to sheet mulching to kill a weedy lawn (yay!!). I was hoping to sow some native plant seeds in the late fall, but I don’t know if I waited too long to get the mulch going–any thoughts on when I could sow some native seeds? I don’t mind tilling/doing prep-work before, as I suspect I wouldnt be able to sow directly into the mulch, at least not that soon…any suggestions? I don’t want to wait a year, I hate my bare yard!!

  12. Garden Mentors on

    Chelsea, site unseen it’s difficult to answer questions specific to your situation. In our area, many native seeds are dispersed in summer and fall, so sowing them in autumn works better than sowing them in spring. But, different plants have different stratification needs, and just because a plant is native to a region, doesn’t mean it will always do well when direct sown in that region. Native plants may require true native soils. Some will happily grow from seed in the mulch you’ve put down. Others may need something else. And, if the seeds aren’t ready to germinate, they may do nothing at all or nothing for many months. So…you might reach out to your local native plant society, native plant nursery or an other consultant in your region for assistance with your specific space. Good luck!

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