Thursday, July 19, 2007
Murder Your Lawn II - What Would Tony Soprano Do?
Looks like that last post stirred folks up a wee bit. There’s some passion attached to that patch of green, but the vast majority of you seemed to be raising your clenched fists up high and shouting “Right on, bro!”
So let’s say you’re ready to, as Tony Soprano would say, “put a hit out” on your turf. First we’ll agree that it has to be done in an environmentally responsible manner. In George’s comment, he wants to know if I want to be his Dr. Kevorkian but worries about harming his Norfolk Island Pine.
Good news. What if you could use zero toxic substances, protect existing trees AND actually increase the health of your soil?
It’s called sheet mulching and it couldn’t be simpler. What you’re doing is converting the turf or weeds into beneficial organic material. Follow these simple steps and start working on the redesign:
1. Mow the grass or weeds, but leave the clipping in place. We want this stuff to decompose.
2. Lightly cover the area with about a half-inch of compost, manure or grass clippings, etc. It will also decompose and add nutrients to the soil.
3. Get your mitts on enough corrugated cardboard to cover the soon-to-be victim. Depending on the size of the impending corpse, you might have to drive down some dark alleys and practice a little dumpster-diving. If cardboard is scarce, you can cover the area with a layer of newspaper about 5 sheets thick. Wet it down to start the decomposition process. We’re almost there, so don’t chicken out.
4. Using the free wood chips you can probably get from a local tree service (Santa Barbarians can get free greenwaste mulch from the County Transfer Station) cover the cardboard with about 5” of mulch. Don't worry about the mass of stuff; it will settle down to a thin layer. If you can’t get chips, any organic material is fair game.
You’re done! If it’s a warm time of the year, some articles say you can just wait a few weeks, cut holes in the layer and plant. A Google search for “sheet mulch” will turn up lots of variation on this theme and the timing, so check it out. For my money, I’d wait at least two months. While your plants start growing, earthworms are moving in, destroying the evidence, humus is building up in the soil, the roots of the old lawn are turning into good stuff and you’ve got yourself a dead lawn. One caution…if there are trees in the area, keep the mulch about a foot away from the actual trunk to avoid rotting the tree's crown with moisture.
Sleep easy. There ain’t a jury in the world gonna convict you for this caper.
So, if your excuse was avoidance of chemicals or the hard work of cutting out the old green monster, sorry. Now raise your fist in the air, gather up the materials and start picking out the new drought-tolerant plants you’ll be planting graveside.