For a while now I’ve been meaning to post about converting lawns to low-water plants. We do it 2 or 3 times a year and Anita has taught a few classes on the process. We do it by sheet-mulching: smothering the lawn with a layer of newspaper and then covering that with compost and then mulch. It’s really easy and it works well, one of the few things in life where the easiest way to do something is also the most effective.
Yesterday after the rain eased I did an irrigation checkup at a lawn we converted to plants two years ago. It was looking pretty good. There’s some bermuda grass in one area and some other weeds in a few places, but the lawn is long gone. Here are some photos of that project:
We covered the lawn with newspaper (cardboard also works) and a layer of compost or planting mix. We cut away the sod at the edges next to the sidewalk and put those pieces of sod in a couple of piles covered with compost. Lawns tend to be flat and geometric, so we like to form a low mound or two for visual interest. The mound does not have be high, even 4 or 6 inches is enough, and it really helps banish the ghost of the flat lawn underneath.
We put out the plants and planted them through the soil and newspaper.
Another way to do it is to put a layer of compost on the lawn, plant, put out the layer of newspaper, and then cover it with mulch. The newspaper is more likely to show if it’s on top of the compost, but you don’t have to deal with the newspaper while you are planting. We usually do the newspaper about 12 sheets thick and we try to make sure it overlaps by several inches. We soak the newspaper in a bucket of water before we lay it down so that it sticks together, like paper-mache for your yard. Compost or mulch needs to go on top of it as soon as possible to hold it down and keep it from blowing away.
These two photos are from soon after planting.
EBMUD has a rebate program that gives $.50 for every square foot of lawn taken out and replaced with low-water plants and drip irrigation. It makes perfect sense to me. People don’t normally think of plants as infrastructure, but lawn conversions make a lot more sense than building reservoirs. All of our projects this spring have involved the rebate program to some extent.
The next photo is from last year, when the planting was a year old.
Between the compost, the decaying lawn, and the remnant fertilizers from the lawn, the plants usually grow really fast. The Luma apiculata (Chilean Myrtle) planted as a 1 gallon is already more than 8 feet tall. I took this last photo today. The Luma is just starting to bud.
HealingMagicHands has a photos of converting lawn to plants using cardboard. Her post is listed with other posts about groundcovers, lawns, and mulches at the Gardening Gone Wild Design Workshop for May.
Tags: sheet mulch
This entry was posted on Thursday, May 27th, 2010 at 11:20 pm and is filed under plants, private gardens. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.