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Removing existing "lawn" (SoCal)

I have a 8' x 36' area of kikuyugrass (and few survivors of St. Augustine) in the front (side) of my lawn that I'd like to remove without using any glyphosate based product. Since reading around, I have several options in order to preserve the soil and not leave behind anything harmful.

The first would be solarization (warm weather coming right about now). Do I use clear or black plastic? Where would I get a large enough sheet?

Second would be several layers of wet newspaper. I've never tried this before but I can think of a few issues - 1) the newspaper possibly not holding down completely 2) it could be a potential eyesore - HOA? 3) with the warmer weather coming now, the method might not decompose the kikuyugrass properly and/or it'll just sprout right back up with any remaining roots underneath, as soon as the newspaper layer is removed.

I considered renting a sod cutter, but it most likely would not take care of kikuyugrass' deep root system.


Super Green Thumb
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Joined: Tue May 06, 2008 11:02 pm
Location: El Cerrito, CA

Oh, Lord; I am so sorry.... I also fight kikuyu grass. :x Nasty beast, isn't it? (never mind; rhetorical question)

Initial step of attack: Go ahead and pull out what you can, assisted by a trowel or weeder or other sharp-edged and deep-reaching tool.

Follow-up to initial step: Pour boiling water on the areas where the kikuyu grass was removed. Don't just pour boiling water everywhere; you want the subterranean life (e.g., earthworms and friendly bacteria) to survive wherever possible.

Watch. Wait. Maybe two weeks, certainly no longer. If the pesky stuff starts to re-appear, repeat the first two steps, followed by solarization. I'm not sure whether clear vs. black plastic matters. You can use multiple sheets; just make sure the overlap when two sheets come together is sufficient (I've read a minimum of 6 to 8 inches) so that no cool air can get beneath the sheeting. Weight it down with bricks, river stones, whatever you have to hand.

Meanwhile, read up here at THG about solarizing. Some recommend 4 weeks minimum; others, 6 weeks. I haven't had to use it (I have no lawn) so cannot give a personal recommendation. I can only say that kikuyu grass managed to get from one side of my sidewalk to the other....

Cynthia H.
Sunset Zone 17, USDA Zone 9

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Super Green Thumb
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Location: Central Sand Hills South Carolina

I often use solarization, to clear both bahia grass and coastal bermuda, both of which are very aggressive, tough grasses. Walmart carries 10 x 25 sheets of 3 ml black plastic which work well (about $12). Walmart has 10 x 50 4 mil on line for $29. Since the plastic has to stay down for a prolonged period, I generally just cover it with what ever inexpensive mulch is available, so that the spot doesn't look so ugly, while the grass is killed, mostly from lack of sunlight and moisture. Of course leaving off the mulch will provide very hot temperatures which will accelerate the kill, so perhaps give the plastic a couple of weeks before mulching if you decide to cover the plastic. If in your situation, I would likely mulch and then just leave the plastic in place for the full season, only lifting when ready to replant the area.

The biggest problem that I've has is that coastal bermuda will spread at least 5 feet and more in one season. So if any of the pesky grass remains at the edge of the plastic, it will regrow over the cleared area in one or two seasons. Without clearing the area 100% or without providing a barrier at the border of the cleared section, I'm mostly wasting my time, as the cleared area gets re-establish so very quickly. Since these area are located several hundred feet from my house and are used for gardening, I generally follow the solarization by placing a semi permanent three foot border between the cleared area and the adjacent grass. That is then mulched and acts as a barrier such that the coastal bermuda runners can't cross into the cleared soil. Bahia is much easier to control, but is very tough after it gets established.

While not necessary, I generally till the space prior to covering with the black plastic. The tilling kills lots of the grass plus robs the remainder of reserves for trying to regrow.
Eclectic gardening style, drawing from 45 years of interest and experience. Mostly plant in raised beds and containers primarily using intensive gardening techniques.

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Update on the status of this plot of land..

I had finished completely clearing out 1/3 of the weed/lawn mixture but hadn't had time to tend to the rest. What I ended up doing was covering the remainder with pine straw that I gathered. Hoping I don't ever see any kikuyugrass punch through this thick mulch barrier.

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