Clever! Unwanted Grass Or Weed Patches? Try Solarization

If you have a patch of lawn in your yard that you plan on getting rid of (for making a flower bed, patio, etc.), here’s a way you can do that without breaking your back digging it all up.

It’s a great option when dealing with a small to medium size plot but be warned, this method will need some time to work its magic.

If your yard has been conquered by weeds and you simply desire to start from scratch again, this is just the ticket since it digs deep (getting at the roots) and kills off seeds too.

What is solarization? It’s an organic, pesticide-free way to remove unwanted vegetation using the power of the sun, compost, newspaper and plastic.

How does it work? The idea is to superheat the soil so that nothing can survive (grass, roots, seeds, insects, etc.).

The best time for this project is the end of May/beginning of June so that everything’s good and ready to cook during the hot summer months.

If you’re contending with a parcel shaded by trees or cool and breezy weather, solarizing won’t be very successful and isn’t your best option.

Here’s How You Do It

  • Trim the unwanted growth as low to the ground as possible. If dealing with a weed patch, till the soil after mowing to loosen everything up.
  • Water the plot deeply then spread two layers of newspapers on the ground (completely covering the area). Spray the papers with a hose so they’re nice and saturated.
  • The next step is to top the wet mound with plastic sheets, stretch tightly and secure in place (using bricks, rocks, landscaping staples, pegs, etc.). Try to keep gaps to a minimum and the edges sealed as much as possible, the intention is to trap the heat as best you can.
  • Now allow things to sit and cook for about 6 weeks (longer if the lawn is not completely dead yet).
  • Remove the cover then take a shovel to turn over all the dead vegetation (it needs to be dirt side up for the following step).
  • Next layer 3″ of compost over the entire area and water deeply (you can also use manure…both fresh or aged are well suited).
  • Recover with the sheets and allow to stew for another month.

The area should now be good to go. If your intention is to use the space for a garden, add a fresh layer of compost before planting. If building a deck or patio, spread landscaping fabric across the surface to help protect against new growth.

Tip: Plastic can be either clear or black, both will work. Use material that is strong enough to withstand the elements (construction grade is ideal).

Source: Based on the information found in the book “The Edible Front Yard: The Mow-Less, Grow-More Plan for a Beautiful, Bountiful Garden” by Ivette Soler.

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    • Nancy T

    I just sprinkle borax where I don’t want weeds. Works for several months and is cheaper than Round-up. Also, it repels mice & bugs.

    • Pollyi

    I think the idea is to be organic Nancy. Borax in the soil? Hmm not sure I’d want to plant anything edible there

      • Annie

      Actually, borax is edible. It is truly boron, a very necessary nutrient lacking in our soil – and our bodies. Don’t just take my word for it… run a search on borax/boron.

        • Sharon

        Borax is a non selective herbicide, and it can damage desired plants as
        well as weeds. We found that repeat applications left dead zones in our lawn and garden. Boron is lacking in some soils, but not in others, where borax applications may cause boron toxicity, which may persist for several months. Solarization is less likely to cause unintended plant damage. WI and IA extension bulletins dated 2004 and later give advice and precautions.

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