Tuesday, June 14, 2011

How not to solarize lawn

Back when I was preparing the area for the current mandala garden I had an area of lawn that I needed to kill off. Now it was summer, granted a mild one, and the grass was starting to feel the heat. I had once heard from a friend that you can kill grass by burning it using a technique called solarizing. The technique involves covering the law with a sheet of black plastic. The theory being that the black absorbs the heat from the summer sun, scorching the grass beneath. Well that is how it should work if you do it properly.

I however didn't have any black plastic but I had plenty of clear stuff. My logic, yes there was some, was that the clear plastic would not get overly hot itself but surly it would hold in the heat raising the temperature higher enough to have a similar effect. A few weeks latter when I lifted the plastic this is what I revealed...

Well as you can clearly see this is not how you solarize a law. But it does appear to make an excellent and cheap glass house for your grass. The grass has absolutely loved it and has flourished, even without watering. So if you have a area of lawn that could do with a bit of a boost why not try this.

Has anyone tried either the black or clear plastic solarization technique?


  1. Interesting idea. What if you put, say newspaper or something to block out the light before you put the plastic down? I have grass I would love to kill, but the grass here is deep rooted and grows regardless of what I do to it.
    Good luck.

  2. Leanne yer grass can be very frustrating. I did end up killing mine off, that is where the new garden resides. The technique I used was in fact to use newspaper, but not with the plastic on top though. Instead I just build up the garden on top. And it mostly worked. However if you have some real stubborn grass I would give the black plastic a go during summer. Or hire some chickens.

  3. Hehehe...at least you have oodles of grass to mow for the chooks, Jason! :)

  4. Great idea! Obviously not what you were after but thanks for posting,good theory. I agree with prev comm that the newspaper would starve of light and stop chlorophyll from synthesising within the plant and the plastic would trap the heat, however I still think it needs the dark colour to absorb higher temps. I have heard laying old carpet works well too. Prob with grass is the root systems - notorious for surviving most of what is thrown at it. Chooks are worth their weight in gold, however when it comes to destroying things! Take care, yollie

  5. Celia I glad it amuses you. Must admit I had a good laugh when I lifted the plastic.

    Yollie yes carpet works. When we first bought the this house the previous owners had pulled all the carpet up and laid it out side. Why? your guess is as good as mine. But when I pulled up the carpet there definitely was no grass. Wonder if there is a business in hiring out my chook tractor?

  6. Worth a try! But you will probably have to have a word with your chooks first! They can be funny about road trips!

  7. ahhaahha, this is funny because i actually tried this myself, i have found black plastic or pressure from pavers, brick or sheet iron, chemicals is another option however i would not recommends this option. good luck.

  8. Julian thank you for having the balls to step forward and admit to doing this also. You have made me feel less of an idiot.

  9. Hi Jason. I'm following your site with interest as our family is doing a similar thing here in Sydney.
    Anyway...about your plastic lawn...I wonder if you've ever seen areas of bushland that have been replanted with tube stock. Each plant is usually surrounded by a small clear plastic sleeve. This plastic sleeve does a few things: it stops pests like rabbits eating the sweet new shoots, it protects the vulnerable young plant from wind and weed encroachment and also captures condensed air moisture which forms water droplets on the inside of the plastic which in turn provides moisture to the young plant - while still allowing light in. Are you with me here? You have provided your lawn with a perfect mini greenhouse and it has responded beautifully I might add. It's very lush.

    It depends what you want the space for and I'm assuming a garden so why not try a no dig garden straight over the top of the grass, or cut the lawn into manageable size sods with a shovel or wheel, turn sods over, cover with newspaper and plant out a no dig garden on top. Be sure to mow it first so you can use the clippings in your compost.

    Keep us posted. The Mandala garden is looking great by the way.

    P.S. don't use carpet unless you are absolutely sure it is 100% wool otherwise you will end up with a squillion 1cm lengths of nylon in your garden for the next 1000 years or so! 2nd hand 100% woollen blankets can also be used but are probably best kept for the homeless.

  10. serendipity2000 that is wonderful to hear that you are doing a similar thing. By that do you mean mandala garden system?

    I did in fact build the mandala garden straight on top of this very grass area as you describe by covering with news paper. And that is a great tip about the carpet, that would definitely be annoying.

  11. Hi Jason. Thanks for your reply. With us ' doing a similar thing' I mean changing the way we're living and working toward a more sustainable life with one of our main aims being to grow as much of our own food as possible.
    For years we've been slowly making changes to our house, such as adding tanks etc.so we're sort of on our way in bits and pieces. We've always been interested in permaculture and tried to start a garden a few years ago but we're time poor and for a range of reasons, things just fell in a heap. On National Permaculture Day this year (1 May), we visited an amazing and inspiring permaculture garden which got us re-enthused to get our food garden underway. So we've started and it's all very exciting. We hope to install a mandala garden as part of it. We've got a really tricky site as we live on a ridgetop with a steep, rocky, sandy soil and smallish backyard so our first project is to do some fairly serious landscaping works as we have to set up our food garden in terraced beds. It's all achievable but does require a lot of planning and determination and as our kids are now in their early 20's we have a bit more of the head space needed to achieve it, if you know what i mean.
    I've been amazed at the number of people out there making changes to their lives (and writing about them) and it's great to watch as we all learn and enjoy the results of our hard work and share our trials and tribulations with others. I stumbled on your site a few months back while doing one of my many web searches. What a wonderful thing you are doing with your family. I'm sure the results will be positive and life changing for you all.
    Will keep posted.
    P.S. just started reading 'Living the Good Life' by Linda Cockburn

  12. serendipity2000 it does seem to take a bit of effort to get started down a new life path. I guess that is why so many people are stuck in the unfulfilled but comfortable norm.

    It sounds like you have a tricky bit of land, have you thought about swales?

  13. Initially we did consider swales but once we had a proper look at the backyard area again (we don't go down there very often because there's nothing there) we realised we'd never be able to swale it. Its too steep and rocky. Pretty much everyone we spoke to or who had a look said forget it. We've seen a few other gardens in Sydney done this way and it makes for an interesting garden once everything is up and growing. At the moment we're building a large terrace area for some chooks and then the garden beds will terrace down below this.
    The other option of course was to move but we love where we live and decided to enhance what we already have as the backyard area has never been touched.

  14. Hi Jason. I just use salt for all my killing purposes. I use salt around paths, pavers and concrete to manage weeds, as well as to clear grassy, weedy areas ready to make garden beds. Just a light sprinkling of cheap cooking salt over the area does the trick. No fuss. No mess, Fast acting. Returns the dead weeds/grass into the soil as compost and is harmless to the environment. Make sure not to overdo it though with the salt. A little goes a long way.

  15. Green Dean using salt what a simple idea, sounds to simple to be true. I can totally understand how it would work just like salt water will kill us too. My big question though... is how long will the salt remain in the soil effecting plants near by or ones that follow? In my example here of killing off an area of lawn to plant a vegetable garden soon after. I would imagine the amount of salt needed to kill off lawn would make the soil infertile for sometime after. I can't image the worms appreciating either. Isolated weeds now that's a different story.


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