Using alternatives landscapes to some of your turf areas can save you time, money and energy, while also helping the enviroment.
According to the EPA, as much as 50% of urban fresh water is used to water lawns each year. Grasses are not natural to the U.S., so maintaining lawns require more work then native planting. Decreasing the amount of lawn square footage will in turn decrease your efforts. Your yard waste needed to be composted will also be reduced. A 2,000 sq ft lawn produces 600-800 pounds of clippings per summer on average. Reduction of lawn area will limit harmful herbicides, pesticides and synthetic fertilizers needed as well a reduction in air and noise pollution caused by gas mowers. Currently lawns cover 20 million acres of residential land in the US, and lawnmowers account for 5% of the air pollution. A 3.5 hp lawnmower pollutes as much in one hour as an automobile driving 350 miles.
how to remove a lawn or lawn section
Black plastic sheeting - easiest, but looks unsightly and takes about 6 months. Simply spread a sheet of black plastic over the area of lawn to be removed and weight the edges with rocks. The grass will wither and the roots will dry up. Once the process is complete, turn the top 12" of soil and break up clumps using a hoe. However, this method will kill many beneficial micro-organisms and worms in the soil; soil amendments will need to be added if the area is to be replanted in ground cover, shrubs or flowers.
Sheet-composting - easy, but takes 4 - 6 months. This method requires large amounts of compostable material. Basically, the existing lawn is covered with layers of organic material that will break down and, in the process, soften and kill the grass itself. Some suggest breaking up the sod layer first but others do not. Water the sheet from time to time to promote rapid breakdown of materials.layer 1 - nitrogen material, e.g. grass clippings (3 - 4") or organic nitrogen fertilizerlayer 2 - weed barrier, such as cardboard or newspaper (only black & white)layer 3 - weed-free mulch (3 - 4"), such as fall leaves, sawdust, manure, finished compost, seaweed, shredded garden trimmings, wood chips, or straw (be sure to use clean straw, not hay, as hay contains seeds). Once the process is completed, shrubs or trees can be planted directly through the layers.
Sod cutting - for small areas of lawn, the top layer of sod can be sliced off using a spade; larger areas will need a sod cutter, which is usually available at tool rental shops. The sod which has been removed can be stacked and covered with a sheet of black plastic; in about 6 months the grass and roots will break down leaving you with valuable soil for the garden, compost or shrub and flower beds.
Rototilling - this method requires at least three treatments; the first tilling should be deep, with compost and lime added before tilling. After several weeks, repeat but with very shallow tilling to remove new weeds. Repeat this process in another week to get any remaining weeds.
A good place to start is with foundation plantings. They can be expanded in width and include ground covers, xeriscape plantings, perennial flower beds, and tiered shrub plantings. Soil depth of 12 - 18" is best for larger shrub plantings.
So what do I replaces my removed turf areas? There are several solutions that are both easier to maintain and more environmentally friendly. Groundcovers are plants which spread across the ground but do not grow tall, so not cutting is required. Many varieties are available, including flowering groundcovers which offer color and add emphasis to the seasons.
Clover is an often forgot about alternative to grass. Clover needs little to no watering or mowing and no fertilizers are required to grow it. Clover stays green even in the driest part of summer and only costs about $4.00 to cover 4,000 sq. ft. Clover adds a unique texture, and is easy to walk through or play on, although it is not as durable as grass.