- Author: Nadia Zane
Making changes to our water management strategy is essential to the well-being of humans and non-humans alike. Part 1 of this series, “Making the Aesthetic Shift”, addressed envisioning water-wise landscapes by visiting WEL gardens in the Sacramento region. This article will focus on making the physical transition from traditional landscapes to those that conserve water and wildlife.
Many people begin this transition by removing turf, one of the biggest water hogs in the landscape. Removing lawn may seem like a huge undertaking, and it can be if you have a large area or an invasive species such as Bermuda grass. The key is to have a plan, which can be done in stages to mitigate cost and time constraints.
There are several methods of lawn removal; which you choose depends greatly on your resources, the conditions of your site, your grass species, the tolerance of your neighbors, and more. Here are a few of the most commonly chosen methods:
1. Sheet mulching: Part of creating a drought-tolerant garden is building soil health to increase drainage and reduce water run-off or puddling; sheet mulching is one of the best ways to accomplish this. It consists of la
More details can be found here.
2. Soil solarization: If you have an area receiving at least 8 hours of direct sun everyday, then you can try laying sheets of clear (not black) plastic directly on the grass. This works best for the control of soil-born diseases, but can be effective in killing certain weeds (roots and seeds) as well.
More details can be found here:
4. Sod-cutters and rototillers: If you have a cool-season grass such as fescue, physical removal will work well. If you have a pernicious, invasive warm-season grass like Bermuda, a sod-cutter (or rototiller) will be a huge mistake, as any chopped-up bit of root can sprout into a new plant. Weed seeds will also be turned up, so multiple rototillings may be necessary. It can also be tricky if you have tree or shrub roots near the surface, as often happens when they are growing in or near a lawn (shallow watering of lawns encourages trees to grow roots near the surface).
5. Chemical removal: Master Gardeners always advocate the least toxic method first, or more positively, the most beneficial method for your garden ecology. Some herbicides linger a long time in the soil, disrupting the microbiome and leaching into aquifers. There are cases, however, when using herbicides such as glyphosate or vinegar might be the most practical option, especially if you will be converting to a native meadow where invasive weeds can easily take over your native grasses. Always read labels and follow directions carefully.
General information on chemical and mechanical removal can be found here.
Don't forget about converting your irrigation as well. If you are sheet mulching, you can convert to drip irrigation before or after, though doing it before will require less digging and disturbance of the top mulch layer. Adjusting or installing new spray heads can be done afterwards so that they are at the appropriate height. Be sure to mark their location before mulching!