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The Native Lawn: Grass Removal

Continuing on with our series on the Native Lawn project here at Soil + Ink headquarters, today we'll go over grass removal methods.

There are so many ways you can remove grass when preparing a new planting site. Which one you choose depends on many factors including your own personal views on sustainability, the size of the site, and your own physical abilities or limitations. Timeframes are also a factor. The method we went with for the site of the native lawn was chosen primarily due to the timeframe involved: we decided to do this project in February, with a planting date of late May. That alone eliminated many of our options.

I've already shared these graphics on my socials, but these are a quick rundown of the primary grass removal methods.

I had to start mowing our lawn in March this year. I decided to no mow April in the future native lawn area. Guess what? No native flowers spontaneously recruited. No native pollinators were served. You can read why No Mow May is a bad idea in my blog post here: Let's NOT No Mow May (

In late April I cut the lawn down to 2". Normally I would scalp a lawn as short as possible with my mower or string trimmer when starting a new garden, but this time I wanted to use that grass stubble. Then I sprayed it with herbicide. I did this a whole month before planting because I figured the first spray would not kill all the grass. I wanted plenty of time to make sure that that the grass was truly dead. I ended up spraying four times. And you know what, it is now the end of June and there is still grass popping up through my planting. I will have to go out and spot spray it in a few days between my plants. Grass is tough and frustrating. Clearly this method is imperfect, and I want to be completely transparent in sharing my experience with you.

We are not using mulch in this project, which is why some of those grass removal methods above will not work for us. We are planting mostly live plants, but we are also using some seeds, which will not germinate through mulch. However, I am worried about summer, fall, and winter germinating weed seeds sitting on the soil surface waiting to sprout. I wanted to be able to block some light and prevent those from germinating. I also wanted to try out a product I haven't used before: biochar.

Biochar can really help poor soils kickstart the soil microbiome and increase its moisture-holding capacity. I wanted to use Organic Mechanic's Biochar Blend because it's already inoculated with all kinds of great stuff to start feeding the microbes in the soil. I used 15 lbs. of Biochar Blend and also another 15 lbs. of compost resulting in a one-inch layer of "mulch" on top of the existing soil. That's where that grass stubble comes back into play. It's going to help hold that compost and biochar in place as the lawn is on a slight slope and I was worried the heavy spring rains might wash it all off onto the sidewalk. The good news is that it worked! The very next day after planting we had a very hard rain, and everything held in place very well.

Want to try out biochar? You can use it in garden beds, vegetable plots, and even in your containers! Learn more about it in this great article on the Organic Mechanics website:

Try it out for yourself!

In my next post: The Plants!

Some products mentioned in this article are affiliate links and I may profit from their purchase.

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