You’ve got a plan for what you want to plant and where you want to plant it, good work! However, right now all you see is the old lawn staring back at you and you’re exhausted just thinking about turning it into a new garden bed! I’m here to tell you there is an easier and river friendly way to turn that lawn into a native garden.

Let’s start with what NOT to do.  It may be tempting to go out to your garden armed with a bottle of herbicide, spray the grass and be done with it. Don’t do it! Herbicides do have their place in conservation work, like removing invasive species, but are not needed for this task.

Another idea that may come to mind is to manually dig up the grass. This is perfectly fine, but very hard work! Tilling may also be tempting, but it can wake up dormant weed seeds just waiting to come to life and you’ll end up with a weedy garden.

So, what should you do? Smother the old grass with cardboard or newspaper! This method doesn’t require any digging and the cardboard will slowly break down, creating healthier soil in the process.

  1. Mark your garden area boundaries
  2. Cut the vegetation as low as possible so that the cardboard can lay flat.
  3. Gather cardboard boxes or newspaper, remove any tape or staples. Make sure not to use the cardboard with the slick outside because it will block water and not degrade as quickly.
  4. Thoroughly wet the cardboard or newspaper and open them up so they can lay flat.
  5. Overlap the cardboard a few inches and cover the entire surface for your new bed.
  6. Cover with several inches of compost, leaves, and/or straw, then finish your layers with 2-3” of mulch
  7. Water everything thoroughly
  8. You can let it sit for a few weeks or you can plant your seeds directly into the compost or cut holes into the cardboard for container plants.