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When is Lawn Removal Difficult to do via Sheet Composting?

If the weather is too hot or too cold, then the composting process might be deprived of moisture or warmth to be effective.With very high temperatures, it is probably better to wait for slightly cooler weather in early autumn before sheet composting. This is because the composting process requires moist conditions and warmth. Moist conditions will be difficult to sustain if it is very dry and hot. To be successful with composting, you will probably need to water your sheet composting lawn area every day for months, and this is not recommended if you are trying to conserve water. Read below on the best recommended method if you want to remove your lawn in the middle of a very hot summer or if you live in the desert.

Even in the mild winters experienced by many Californians, it can be too cold or too wet for sheet composting to complete quickly with success. If the soil temperature is too low, or it is raining too much, and you want to remove your lawn immediately, then it is better to use a different technique. This is because in the cold the composting does not happen and the new plants will need to compete with the grass roots (even buried) for nutrients from the soil. Read below on the best recommended method if you want to remove your lawn when it is too cold.

Lawn Removal When it is Hot and Dry

You can use the sun to your advantage and burn the grass. This is called solarizing—a technique typically used to kill a badly weed-infested turf. This technique will effectively kill grass, weeds, and bugs. And it does kill everything, even the good bugs and micro-organisms. But, with the addition of manure and compost the solarized soil will regain its health. And this is how you do it:

  1. Soak the grass well. The steam from the wet grass will accelerate the decomposition of the roots and thatch.

  2. Cover the area with black plastic, at least 3mm thick, and seal down the edges as tightly as possible by laying down bricks or boards all along the edges. Landscape staples can also be used and these may be purchased at hardware or orchard supply stores.

    Notes: If you don’t have a very large piece of plastic, you can overlay plastic pieces and use staples and soil to seal the overlapped areas. You can also solarize your lawn a few hundred square feet at a time, each application taking about 2-3 weeks, depending on the outside temperature, the quality of your seal, and the heat you are able to generate under the plastic. If you do it piece-meal, ensure that you provide at least 1-2 feet of overlap.

  3. Do not lift the plastic for 2-3 weeks, the temperature under the plastic and the soil must reach 120 degrees F and stay there for a few days. Beware of the heat and steam under the plastic if you have pets or small children and when you check under the plastic after 2 weeks.

  4. Once solarization is complete and the turf is dead, you can amend the soil with manure, oyster shell powder, compost, and mulch as described in the sheet composting technique above, before you plant.

Lawn Removal When it is Too Cold or Too Wet

If you can defer planting until the weather has become a bit drier and warmed up somewhat, then one option is to use the sheet composting technique to allow the grass to decay slowly, while you wait for warmer weather.

The other way needs labor. You can use a sod cutter to cut up the turf and dispose of the sod at the dump. Large hardware stores usually rent sod cutters. Very wet clayey soil will make sod cutting somewhat unpleasant. Ideally, the clay should be slightly moist for the best sod cutting experience.

Removing Bermuda Grass and Other Such Enemies

Okay, Bermuda grass is not exactly the enemy, but it can cause you to break out in sweat. You will have to dig it out, year after year, it keeps coming back like the monster Hydra. Nevertheless, the first year hire a bobcat if you can get one on your property and rip out the sod. Replace the topsoil with some local soil if you can maange it. Plant, mulch like crazy and wait to see what happens. It will return the second year, but only in smaller patches. This time use a shovel and get it out.

A saner description is available at the UC Davis Integrated Pest Management (IPM) website.

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