Thursday, May 23, 2013

Incredible Shrinking Lawn, Thanks To Cardboard

Each year, our lawn gets a little smaller. It's easy to do. Simply divide some perennials, dig a hole in the turf with one stroke of the shovel, and set the plants in. Lay some pieces of cardboard over the grassy spaces between the plants, maybe using the overturned pieces of sod as paperweights,

and then spread some mulch over the cardboard and any uncovered grass. If the mulch is thick enough, even grass not covered by the cardboard will likely be killed, but the cardboard insures that no grass or even dandelions will be able to push up through it. Over time, the cardboard rots away, out of sight beneath the mulch. Newspaper, several layers thick, can be used in place of the cardboard, but it sometimes breaks down too quickly.

Up the street is an unintentional but nonetheless excellent demonstration of mulch's power to kill grass organically, without sprays. Though often put out on the street for pickup, a pile of leaves is very useful for killing unwanted groundcovers and patches of weeds in the yard, usually along fencelines and in back corners. If one doesn't have enough leaves, using overlapping pieces of cardboard underneath gets more mileage out of the mulch available. Since the cardboard does all the work of stymieing growth from underneath, only a thin layer of mulch is needed overtop. Vines crawling over the ground, like English ivy, can be more stubborn, because any uncovered area will continue to feed energy to the portions covered with mulch. It's all about "unplugging" the unwanted plants from their energy source, namely the sun.

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