How to get rid of grass in my garden

Tudor Sebi

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Not every house wants grass on its lawn or yard. Homeowners in this category would need to find the best way to get rid of unwanted grass safely and effectively as not all methods are safe for humans and other living things.

Many grass elimination methods involve harmful chemicals that could adversely impact human lives. A safer alternative solution to get rid of garden grass would be resorting to natural methods which are also affordable and easy.

1) Using Newspaper

Newspapers are cost-effective natural ways to get rid of grass in the yard. The newspaper forms the cheapest natural method of killing grass naturally while being readily available. It can handle small or large areas while being easily decomposable to supply nutrients to the soil.

Mow the area where the grass must be gotten rid of. Have that mowed area wet before laying layers of newspaper over the grass; about 8-10 sheets would be ideal in overlapping directions.

When the entire area is well covered with wet newspapers, mulch or landscape fabric could be added. This would prevent light from penetrating the area which causes the grass to die out eventually.

2) Using Plastic

Plastic is another good and effective option for killing off unwanted grass. It is an affordable option that is readily available today in most homes and stores. Again, mow the area first or till and rake manually until a smooth area is available.

Cover the grass with black plastic which serves to block out light; the grassroots would be smothered and new growth is prevented. Large rocks should be placed on the plastics to secure their position. After a season, the plastics could be removed to add mulch before planting. Landscape fabric could also be used as an alternative to the same effect.

3) Using Vinegar

Unwanted grass could be rid of using vinegar whether white or pickled. It is a natural ingredient that works effectively and safely without harmful chemicals. It is environmentally friendly but care must be exercised to prevent the survival of other plants and trees.

Vinegar is very appropriate as a natural killer for unwanted grass as it is readily available at the local stores. Vinegar works better during hot conditions on smaller patches of grass. The best time to get rid of unwanted grass using vinegar should be during hot summer days to enjoy better results. A simple saturation of the grassy area with vinegar would see a clean patch void of grass within days.

4) Simple Pulling of Roots

This is what most gardeners would resort to immediately when they want to remove grass or weeds in their garden. An immediate pulling out of the grass and roots takes place when the gardener walks by to see the weeds and unwanted grass.

Existing grass or weeds must be pulled out thoroughly before planting and seeding can take place. This exercise is commonly executed during spring. However, modern technology may make a gardener more lax in the manual tilling of the soil as it is a labor-intensive process. Diligent gardeners enjoy a good workout from this arduous task, but it may prove to be a challenging feat in a medium to large-sized garden or lawn. The better alternative would be an electric cultivator to lessen the physical effort.

5) Using mulch

Mulch is commonly used to kill off unwanted grass and weeds. New gardeners would discover quickly that mulch is formed through decaying materials such as compost and dead leaves to be spread over the soil surface to insulate or enrich the soil.

Mulch should be applied only when the area is cleared of weeds and grass before lining the area with thick newspaper or plastic.

6) Using boiling water

Boiling water is very effective in killing grass or weed growths quickly as an immediate effect is seen.  Its effectiveness could be enhanced with a layer of mulch added to the targeted area.

7) Commercial Non-toxic Products

The market does carry various commercial grass-killer products which are non-toxic. These are specially formulated organic weed killers which is eco-friendly with great smells.  But not every non-toxic grass-killer commercial product can work on every type of grass. Gardeners need to check and confirm the right commercial product before purchasing to avoid disappointment or frustration where other plants could be adversely affected.

8) Using salt solution

Salt solution to kill unwanted grass must be carefully administered as the salinity of the soil could be changed. The right concentration of salt solution is dissolving one part salt into 8 parts water. Put the salt solution in a spray bottle to apply directly to any unwanted grass or weed.

9) Digging & tilling

Another energy-consuming method is digging where harmful insects like the Japanese beetle grubs could be unearthed by removing unwanted grass or weeds. This method offers fast clean results with an immediate planting of the garden. However, a lot of effort is required in using a spade or fork which results in a lot of sore muscles later. Removed sod could be reused elsewhere for other plants.

Tilling would be a faster way than digging as a powerful machine is activated to churn out dormant weeds and their seeds effectively. Breaking up sod using a tilling machine is not as arduous as digging when small tillers come in handy for small patches while heavier and more powerful units work on larger patches. Large tillers could be a challenge to control and maneuver for inexperienced or physically weak gardeners.

10) Using Herbicides

Herbicides are available to get rid of unwanted grass but most are residual with too much risk of getting into the water supply which is highly dangerous for humans and other living things. There may be better alternatives with less residual like glyphosate which could be more expensive in removing grass from the lawn.

11) Physical removal

Physical removal of the sod by having it cut in strips using a sod cutter is a fast and effective way to remove grass. The strips are then rolled up to be disposed of or left alone as compost. The cut sod could also be placed upside down to fill in a low spot in the garden.

This is a labor-intensive activity using a flat shovel but it may not be very effective on persistent perennial lawn grass such as Bermuda grass.

The roots of Bermuda grass are very long stretching several feet to grow back quickly even if the sod is removed. It takes only one inch of root for the Bermuda grass to re-grow. Only solarization or herbicides would be effective.

12) Solarization

Solarization refers to the sterilization of soil using clear plastic in high summer temperatures. The grass must be cut short with sufficient water before covering it well using large rolls of plastic without holes. The plastic sheets trap the sun’s energy in the soil to heat the top 12-18 inches of soil. The top 6 inches of soil could be heated as high as 140°F. After 4-8 weeks, the grass dies. The high temperature could also kill some insects, nematodes, plant diseases, and soil pathogens at the top layer.

The dead grass layer could be left to decompose as compost. This is a very effective method with minimal labor and environmental impact although a significant amount of time is required.

13) Sheet composting

Sheet composting could be executed using different types of materials such as thick cardboard or purchased rolls where multiple layers are laid on top of each other with overlapping edges that would prevent sunlight from entering through.

The cardboards are watered to be wet before covering with a compost layer followed by mulch of 4 inches thick. Grass or wildflower seeds could be scattered to the compost for a new meadow or holes could be punched out in the paper to plant new plants instead of waiting for the cardboard to decompose.

This method is advantageous with organic matter added to the soil while minimal labor is exerted and no removal or disposal of turf is needed. This method is also known as “lasagna gardening” although it may not be practical on steep slopes.


There are plenty of ways to get rid of grass in any garden or yard but gardeners and homeowners may have to exercise caution in their choice of removal methods that would not jeopardize their safety, health, and the environment at any time.


Tudor Sebi

A 20-year lawn mower expert, offering insightful guidance for optimal maintenance and top-notch landscaping solutions

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