There are lots of ways to kill a lawn to prepare the area for planting something more useful and beautiful (you know I’m not a big fan of lawns, right?). You can use herbicides (not really recommended), you can dig up the grass, or you can smother it. Some people use the lasagna method, which involves a layer of newspapers, a layer of leaves, another layer of something else, and so on. I’m sure it works, but it sounds way too complicated. It’s much simpler to smother the lawn with mulch.
Generally when I know I’m going to extend an old bed or create a new one in the spring, I put down 2-3 inches of cedar or hemlock bark mulch the autumn before. By spring, the grass is dead, and I just plant right through the mulch. (Weed-blocking fabric is another thing that seems way too complicated to me. I mean, weeds grow in the mulch above the fabric, and you have to take it off every time you want to plant. It’s a pain.)
But I just decided today to extend one of the spring-wildflower gardens in front of the house, so I had to kill the lawn quickly. And at the same time, I was removing the winter covering of leaves from a nearby bed. (Those are the leaves that I leave in place in fall.) So instead of carrying the leaves to the backyard compost pile and going out to buy mulch, I decided to try using the same leaves on the new bed. They’ll definitely kill the lawn–I put down a nice thick layer 3-4 inches deep. My only concern is that they’ll form a solid mat that will smother plant growth, as Norway maple leaves are wont to do. But I’m betting those leaves are already decomposed enough that they won’t be able to form a solid surface. And they weren’t all maple leaves–they were everything the wind happened to deliver, and there are oaks nearby.
Here’s the bed I cleared of winter mulch–it’s a semicircle at the front of a shrub island (I left the leaf mulch under the shrubs). The shrubs are coralberry (Symphoricarpos orbiculatus) and ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius), with one big black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa), and the flower bed has ferns, heuchera, tiarella, columbine, wild geranium, false solomon’s seal, shade-loving asters, and lots of violets.
And here’s the new bed with the leaves spread on it to kill the lawn. The new part of the bed is on the right.
Isn’t it delightful to be out in the garden at long last? I’m trying to squeeze an hour a day out of my schedule. I’ve never enjoyed spring cleanup as much!