How to Kill Grass Without Using Chemicals
Whenever an area of grass needs to be killed off, people are quick to grab a bottle of RoundUp or other herbicide and start spraying away. The problem with this method is that chemicals that kill grass can also cause environmental and health issues. This is the main reason why so many people are looking for an alternative to chemicals or going completely chemical free when getting rid of grass that has grown in unwanted areas.
I extended what was once a flower bed but will be an herb bed for us this year on the back of my house. The grass in this area grows really well so before turning over the soil, it was necessary to kill off the grass inside the rock outline. We don't use chemicals anywhere in our gardening because what we grow is eaten by us or our chickens. I like to err on the side of safety so I had to come up with a method for killing grass without using any chemicals.
Prepare the Area
Preparing the area of grass that you want to kill off is quite easy. The shorter the grass is from the beginning, the faster the process will be. I would suggest weed whacking the grass down to the ground if possible or as close as your particular weed eater will get it.
Unfortunately for my examples with the herb bed, my weed eater was out of commission. The grass is extremely tall for this process at approximately 3" which added a lot of time to the process. I was letting everything grow in the area to collect the grass clippings once it was mowed.
Clippings, Leaves, Newspaper and Holding it All Down
The next step is to cover the grass with some sort of organic material. I used grass clippings from mowing the rest of the area since it is spring. If it were fall outside, I would have used leaves instead. Either is OK but grass clippings can contain weed seeds which can cause problems later in the season if the area is not mulched correctly or maintained so in my opinion, leave are actually better.
Next you will want to put a thick layer of newspaper over the leaves or grass clippings. It is nice to have someone help you with this step if the area has any size to it so the newspaper doesn't blow away with the breeze and you end up either littering the neighborhood or chasing down renegade newspaper pages. This will also add some organic material to the soil as the newspaper starts to decompose.
As you are laying the newspaper down, make sure you have something to keep it in place. I used some of the wood out of my recycle pile to hold the newspaper in place. You can use almost anything including rocks, blocks, heavy tree branches or logs as a few suggestions.
Keep it Wet and Wait
The next step is to water it all down and keep adding water to it during the duration. The water will keep the newspaper in place to block out the sun. It makes the newspaper heavier which smashes the living grass down quite a bit in combination with the wood. Everything together acts like a weed would depriving it of light and squeezing it out.
As you can imagine, this method doesn't provide extremely quick results. Since my grass was so tall, it ended up taking right at three weeks for it to die enough that I could turn the soil without turning living grass into it. The shorter the grass is when this process is started, the faster it dies and the wait time decreases. The grass was less than 1/2" tall in another area that I did like this and it was ready within a week.
The End Result
The end result is a nice area of bare or almost bare soil to turn over for planting something new there. We had just finished turning the soil for the first time after using this method of killing grass without chemicals which meant it was safe for any animal to visit. I decided to allow our baby chickens to scratch in the dirt for a while so they could enjoy all of the insects and worms that appeared when we turned the dirt over.
Being able to allow animals and humans to enjoy the benefits of clean dirt without the threat of becoming ill from chemicals is my favorite thing about this method of killing grass. I don't have to think twice about touching it bare handed while I'm planting it and I don't have to worry about chemical residue getting into anything else on my property. Including my chickens.
© 2012 Helena Ricketts
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