Removing grass will ease mowing chores and save water

Ever think about getting rid of some lawn? In an effort to ensure proper irrigation of my trees, reduce mowing and edging chores and be more water-efficient, I remove parts of my lawn every year. In the past, I have waited until spring when the lawn was actively growing, and then sprayed a grass killer. After killing the grass, I would put a 3-inch to 4-inch layer of mulch over the treated area to hide it and give it a more finished appearance.

To improve tree health, reduce competition for water from aggressive grasses. Removing lawn under trees out to the drip line area - where the branches reach out from the trunk - is an excellent technique to help trees thrive. In addition to taking out the lawn under trees, I suggest minimizing edging and weed-eating by creating a border of bare ground between the lawn and flower or shrub borders. You may also want to remove lawn and replace it with a flower or vegetable bed.

In the past, I have used weed-killer products containing the active ingredients glyphosate or fluasifop. If you choose to spray an herbicide to reduce your lawn area, note that the glyphosate products will kill grass, trees, shrubs, flowers and vegetables - anything actively growing. Fluasifop products kill only grasses.

To eliminate lawn without spraying an herbicide, try Master Gardener and fruit tree expert Michael Janik's technique. Here's advice from his November Fruit Tree Care E-newsletter at "Now is a good time for this chore. One of the best ways is to put newspaper (several pages thick) directly on the grass, cover it with 3 to 4 inches of compost or horse manure and then cover that with leaves or straw. If it quits raining, water the area to keep the leaves in place. Then, stand back and let the earthworms and other biota do their work. Some folks suggest covering with black plastic to increase the heat. This will work, but you have to roll back the plastic and water once a month or so. In the spring, the newspaper should have decomposed, as well as the grass, roots, compost and most of the mulch. Rake back the remaining mulch and turn over the soil. Plant your trees or veggies, then replace the mulch to side dress the new plants."

This paper and mulch technique is affordable, safe and easy. It's a great way to reduce your lawn area, simplifying your weekly yard maintenance duties!

For more information, e-mail or call me at 887-2252. You can "Ask a Master Gardener" by e-mailing mastergardeners or call your local University of Nevada Cooperative Extension office. Check out many useful horticulture publications at

JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/ Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.


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