Sage Outdoor Designs » landscape design

Masthead header

Great LA Times article on how to kill your lawn

I always like to post a good “How to Kill Your Lawn” article when I find it. This is from the LA Times, from September 2008. The full text of the article is printed here (my post is abridged).

By Joe Robinson, Special to The Times|September 06, 2008

YOU’D THINK it would be easy to murder a lawn, since many of us have had plenty of success without even trying. But finishing off that green sponge takes a smart strategy, or it may come back to haunt you.

Removing lawn seems basic enough: Dig it up and haul it away. But it’s best to subordinate reflex and forgo brute hacking, experts say. “Don’t dig up your lawn if you have Bermuda,” advises Barbara Eisenstein, horticulture outreach coordinator for the Native Plant Garden Hotline, a collaboration between the Metropolitan Water District and Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. “Don’t rototill. All you’re doing that way is planting the grass, because it grows from the stems.”

Gerischer says people often make the mistake of hiring a crew that just skims off the top of the lawn, leaving the root system. You’re left with the LAWN That Will Not Die. “It can be hard to kill lawn when you don’t do it right,” he says.

That means bumping off the grass before you dig. Claremont resident Andrea Gutierrez, online marketing director for flower grower Monrovia, stopped watering her front lawn, and after a month it browned out. “We were sure the neighbors were freaking out,” she says. She and her husband then plowed the turf, attacking it with a rented mini-Bobcat excavator, counter to the advice of experts, who recommend disturbing the soil as little as possible to avoid activating weeds. The couple did wind up with residual weeds, but the result is a garden of lavender, blueberries, fig trees and blackberries.

The excavation approach is just one way to go grassless. Other options:

* Layering. This approach is increasingly popular among those who want to avoid chemicals, but it takes time. Cover the turf with six or more layers of cardboard or newspaper. On top of that, add 4 to 6 inches of organic mulch — chopped bark, leaves — and water. The layers prevent any light in or growth up. Grass dies in two months. Then you can dig right through the mulch and newspaper and plant in the soil.

* Spraying. Many gardeners prefer not to use herbicides, but Tom Smith, a turf specialist with the Institute of Agricultural Technology at Michigan State University, says an agent such as Roundup is one way to go, particularly if you’re going to replace the grass with something else. The spray is “absorbed by the plant and root system but doesn’t have a soil residual,” he says. Spray it once or twice, and in seven to 10 days the fescue has moved onto the big golf course in the sky. “It’s the simplest solution,” says Catie Lee, who runs CRL Landscape Design in Encino. She says that almost all of her clients are trying to lower water consumption and are looking to replace some of their lawn.

Want to take out your lawn and replace it with a gorgeous drought tolerant garden? We can help! Go to and click on the contact us link.

Sage Outdoor Designs is a San Diego landscape design firm. Kate
Wiseman, the Principal, has been a San Diego landscape designer
for the past ten years. Find out more at