Unwanted Grass Or Weed Patches? Try Solarization

If you have a patch of grass in your yard that you want to remove (for making a garden, 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 it’s magic. If your yard has been taken over by weeds and you just want to start from scratch again, this is just the ticket since it digs deep and kills off seeds too.

Save Your Back & Use The Sun Instead

Save Your Back & Use The Sun Instead

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

How does it work? The idea is to superheat the soil so that nothing can survive it (grass, weeds, seeds, insects, etc.). The best time to set this up 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 dealing with an area shaded by trees or cool and breezy weather, solarizing won’t work very well and isn’t your best option.

Here’s how you do it:

  • Trim the grass or weeds as low to the ground as possible. If dealing with a weed patch, till the soil after mowing to loosen everything up.
  • Water the area deeply then lay two layers of newspapers over the ground (completely covering the area). Spray the newspapers with a garden hose so they’re nice and wet.
  • The next step is to cover the wet newspaper 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, you want to trap the heat under the plastic as best you can.
  • Now let things sit and cook for about 6 weeks (longer if the lawn is not completely dead yet).
  • Remove the plastic then take a shovel to turn over all the dead grass or weeds (you want it soil side up for the next step).
  • Next layer 3″ of compost over the entire area and water well (you can also use manure…both fresh or aged will work).
  • Recover with the plastic sheets and allow to cook for another month.

The area should now be good to go. If you plan on using the space for a garden, add a fresh layer of compost before planting. If building a deck or patio, cover the surface with landscaping fabric to help protect against new weed growth.

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

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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What Readers Are Saying: 4 Comments
  1. Nancy T says:

    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.

  2. Pollyi says:

    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 says:

      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 says:

        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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