What To Know When Taking Out A Lawn

An expansive green lawn may be a hallmark of our landscapes, but with the water restrictions we have been having over the last few years, a growing number of people are looking for more water-wise, wildlife-friendly or low-maintenance alternatives. If you’re ready to embrace a different landscape look, your first step will be to remove the existing lawn. Here are the steps to take to lose your lawn as well as other tips and ideas for transforming your landscape.

Reasons For Losing Or Reducing The Lawn

The reasons to remove a lawn can vary. Homeowners in arid regions may want to conserve water. Wanting a more natural-looking or wildlife-friendly yard, such as a meadow or a native garden, also may be a factor.

Location and terrain also play a role. Grass in shady areas or riddled with tree roots may be sparse and unhealthy. A slope may make it difficult to mow and control runoff. In these circumstances, the best move may be to replace the lawn with plants that are better suited to the growing conditions.

Lawns also require regular and sometimes extensive maintenance, from watering and mowing to feeding, reseeding and dealing with weeds and pests. A large stretch of lawn does not provide the biodiversity needed for a healthy garden and soil.

Whom To Hire

If your lawn area is small, you may consider doing some of the work yourself. However, even simply digging up a patch of lawn takes time and effort. Some removal methods require extra preparation and equipment, additional materials or both, compared with just digging with a shovel or spade.

A landscape professional can provide the expertise and experience to ensure that everything goes smoothly. Look for contractors who focus on eco-friendly and sustainable practices, as they also can help you with eco-friendly lawn disposal options.

If you’re working with a architect or other professional as part of a larger outdoor renovation, he or she will be able to help you and recommend pros for the project.

Design Considerations When Removing A Lawn

Deciding to remove the lawn is your first step, but you’ll also want to consider what you want to replace it with. You can browse through the landscape photos to find ideas or, if you already have a style in mind, to narrow your options. Create an ideabook to capture what appeals to you to share with your designer.

Walk through your neighborhood or surrounding areas as well. Are there front yard designs you like? Do any plants call to you? Snap some photos as a memory aid. A knowledgable landscaper in your area will be able to help refine your vision and get you started.

4 Methods For Removing The Lawn, And When To Do It

There are four basic methods for removing lawns in an eco-friendly manner. Each has its pros and cons, depending on the amount of lawn you plan to remove, your timeline and your personal preferences.

The first two options listed below will allow you to replant fairly quickly. The second two require more time until you can replant. Whichever method you use, you will want to incorporate fresh soil and compost to help the new plants thrive.

Dig It Out

If you have a fairly small patch of lawn, digging out the sod with a spade or flat-head shovel may be the logical choice. You can do it yourself, if you feel able, or hire someone with experience to take on the task for you. Some pluses include not having to rent equipment or maneuver it into place. You also can replant fairly quickly.

This process will take time and a great deal of physical effort, even for small spaces. You’ll need to work in small sections and remove enough of the grass to get the roots out without taking out too much of the good soil beneath.

Pro Tip: Water the area you want to remove beforehand so it is moist but not soggy, to make digging easier.

Cut The Sod

For larger areas that you want to replant immediately, using a sod cutter is the best option. The sod cutter will cut the grass out in strips, allowing it to be easily removed. You can also transplant grass removed this way.

While both digging and cutting the sod out will remove the majority of grass seeds, some may still remain and germinate. You will need to watch for wayward patches of grass in the future and weed them out.

Sheet-Mulch It

This method smothers the existing grass while adding nutrients to the soil. It works in sun and shade. Layers of organic materials, including cardboard, newsprint and compost are laid over the grass, topped by mulch. The layers cut off the sunlight, causing the grass to die. The organic materials also decompose, adding nutrients to the soil.

Sheet mulching is not a quick solution. Plan on a minimum of six months to a year before you can replant. You’ll also need to keep the layers of materials in place throughout that time. While you can install new plantings in the space, you’ll need to protect them and their roots from being smothered as well as ensure that they get the water and nutrients they need to grow.


Solarize It 

This lawn removal method uses sun power to kill the grass and sterilize the top few inches of soil. A sheet of clear plastic is placed over a wet lawn and held in place around the edges. The heat of the sun, accelerated by moisture, kills off the grass as well as any weeds, pathogens and bugs in the soil.

This process is best done in summer and takes about six to eight weeks from start to finish. After the lawn dies off and turns a straw-like brown, wait another two weeks and then remove the plastic. Add amendments to the soil to ready it for planting.

While solarization is effective and faster than sheet mulching, some garden experts question the process, as it kills off beneficial insects and bacteria.

Other Considerations When Losing The Lawn

Regulations And Permits

Check for any local regulations or Strata rules regarding landscaping before removing your lawn. Also, make a plan for disposing of the resulting soil and lawn outside of a landfill.

You’ll also want to note underground electrical, plumbing and irrigation lines as well as sewer channels, to avoid disturbing them.

Local Incentive Programs

Many cities, have programs to encourage replacing lawns with more eco-friendly options. These often specify a ratio of hardscape-to-plant replacement and include recommended plant lists, which can be extensive. 

Good places to learn about these programs are local gardening stores and universities. They can direct you to resources designed for your locale.

When To Do This

Where you live and the method you choose will determine when to start this project. In all cases, if you live where it snows or is very rainy and muddy during winter, you’ll want to wait until the snow melts or things warm up.

If you’re considering digging up the lawn or cutting the sod, any time you can work the soil is fine. Keep in mind that you’ll want to replant relatively quickly after you remove the soil, so choose a time that’s optimal for putting in new plants — generally spring or fall.

You can sheet-mulch year-round whenever the soil is reasonably dry. You’ll ideally want to be ready for either spring or fall planting. Solarization is best done in summer, to take advantage of the summer sun.

How Long It Will Take

Digging up the soil or cutting the sod generally takes a few hours to a day or two, depending on the size of the project. You can do it right before you plan to plant.

With sheet mulching, it can take up to a year for the soil to be ready for planting. You can add some plants during this time, although you’ll need to be sure they get moisture and sunlight. Plan on six to eight weeks for the entire solarization process.


Refresh Your Outdoor Dining Area

As spring slowly comes upon us, its time to start thinking and planing our outdoor living space. An outdoor dining area can function as an extension of the home, providing additional space for hosting family and friends. You can make your outdoor dining experience even better with these idea, which range from simple updates to larger projects. Add color, style and function to your outdoor dining area.


Add a Pergola or Retractable Awning

Because you might want to enjoy being outside even if the sun is blazing or the rain is pouring down, consider adding a structure overhead to create shade, shelter and interest. There are many options to choose from, including pergolas, arbors, shade trees and retractable awnings that can protect you from the elements when needed. 

Bonus: If you add an open-air structure, you can plant flowering vines and enjoy their scent all season.


Add Heaters

Who says you can’t enjoy your deck area in early spring or late fall? By installing natural gas or portable propane patio heaters — which can be safely used under eaves and pergolas — you can spend more time outdoors with loved ones. If you have an overhang on your house, you can also put outdoor-rated infrared heaters in the ceiling above your dining or lounge areas.


Put In Outdoor Speakers

Get the outdoor party started by spinning your favorite playlist. There are many wireless speakers on the market that can withstand the elements. Some are even designed to look like elements of a landscape, such as boulders. Others can be hung in the corners of your patio or set up on side tables. 

Outdoor Lighting

You’ll need both task and ambient lighting to accommodate evening cooking and entertaining. Clip lights to your barbecue’s lid, hang up rows of string lights for some sparkle and set up freestanding lanterns or hurricane lamps with wax or artificial candles to keep the glow going while you’re outside.


Plant A Vertical Herb Garden

Limited space to plant culinary herbs for your grilling area? Look up! Outdoor kitchens can benefit from a living wall made from a specialized vertical garden system or horizontally hung gutters. Not only will a vertical garden add color and texture, but you can snip fresh herbs to season your dishes whenever you need them. Also consider vertically hanging some strawberry or cherry tomato plants to pluck produce straight from the vine.

Consider Bar Seating

If you don’t want a large outdoor dining table and chairs taking over the patio, you can save some room by setting up stools alongside a bar instead. It’s a great way to keep the chef and guests socializing while the grill is going.

Add A Fire Feature

A fireplace, fire table or several fire columns can transform a ho-hum patio into a spot where everyone wants to gather. Having a fire feature not only adds an outdoor focal point, it also helps you stay warm on chilly evenings as summer wanes.

Put Up A Privacy Screen

If you live in an urban or suburban neighborhood, you might be able to see your neighbors over the fence and vice versa. If you need more privacy in your outdoor kitchen or dining area, install a decorative screen that’s both functional and beautiful. Choose ones made from wood, wrought iron with cutout designs, bamboo or lattice for added visual appeal.


Dress Up Your Table

No budget to buy new dining furniture this year? Pick up some fresh table linens, seat cushions, place mats, napkins and colorful outdoor dishes to add pizazz without the price tag. New accessories go a long way toward elevating the festive factor.


Roll Out A Rug

Protect your patio or deck while adding pattern, texture and a punch of color to your outdoor dining area with a large outdoor rug. Choose one that’s weather- and stain-resistant so it lasts more than one season.

Pro tip: Keep the rug’s edges from curling up by placing furniture legs in strategic spots or roll up some masking tape into balls and place it under the corners.


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Causes Of Clutter And The Cure

Spring is just around the corner and if you have clutter in your home, you’re certainly not alone. Most of us hang on to unneeded things and struggle to keep our homes clutter-free. But if we could identify the root causes of the clutter, could we make it go away?

Identifying the cause of clutter is definitely a great first step. Clutter may have one of several root causes lets look at these and how to address them.

Your Life Circumstances Have Changed

A change in life circumstances — a new baby or job, a move to a new home, an illness or injury — can be stressful and lead to a typically tidy home becoming cluttered. Eventually, this type of clutter resolves when the baby starts sleeping through the night or the moving boxes are unpacked. The question is how long adjusting will take and how much your clutter will bother you in the interim.

If you’re frustrated by your chaos and you lack time or bandwidth to address it, you may want to seek help from family, friends or a professional home organizer to get you through this stressful phase.

You Lack Habits for Keeping Your Home Tidy

Some people are not in the practice of hanging up their jackets or putting away their beauty supplies. Patterns like these can cause a state of disarray at home. But it’s not impossible to establish new habits.

One approach involves 3 steps: cue, routine and reward. The cue is a reminder that initiates a new behavior. The routine is the behavior itself. The reward is the benefit you get from doing the new behavior. 

You Lack Systems for Handling Your Stuff

Not having systems in place to handle items we touch every day can lead to a lot of clutter buildup. Here are a few of the big culprits.

Paper and Mail: 

Are the No. 1 source of clutter in many homes. If you’re unsure how long to keep old bank statements, bills, tax returns and other records, or if you lack an efficient system for handling pending paperwork such as unpaid bills, the mess tends to mount. The good news is that you can take some simple, straightforward steps to address your paper pile and create a system for sorting mail. If you need help sorting the old items and setting up a new system, I recommend scheduling an appointment with a professional home organizer.

Cellphones, Keys, Glasses, Wallets & Laptops: 

Lacking a designated location to store these items can lead not only to clutter and frustration. The solution is to simply designate a location so that you don’t have to search for these items every time you leave the house. A kitchen drawer with a charging station is ideal, but if you don’t have one, then simply corral these items in a small basket near an electrical outlet where you can easily grab them when you leave the house.

Purses, Computer Bags, Backpacks, Sports Bags & Outerwear:

Closets and coat racks can fill up quickly with these bulky items, with extras ending up on the backs of chairs or draped over bannisters. Often, there are just too many of these items, so consider winnowing your collection. For example, if your child receives a new backpack each year, consider donating the old one. Sort through coats and donate any that no longer fit or you no longer use. Hang everyday bags and outerwear on a coat rack or in a closet near the front door. Store ski jackets and special-occasion purses in a different location.

Children’s Art Supplies, Toys & Homework: 

Children generate a large amount of clutter, with the most intense period of disarray beginning in babyhood and continuing through elementary school. Taming this mess can be challenging for even the most organized person — especially when it comes to toys that pile up as friends and family members offer gifts. If your child will agree, consider donating some toys to a charity to cut down on the mess. As for the rest of children’s belongings, because young children like to be near their parents, you’d be wise to set up storage in or near the spaces where the family is most likely to spend time. Typically, this is the kitchen or great room.

You Own Too Many Items Used for the Same Purpose

Who doesn’t have an overabundance of pens, pencils, reusable grocery bags, notepads, serving bowls and platters, kitchen tools, sunscreen, binders and coffee mugs. Fortunately, this is a relatively straightforward decluttering challenge. Simply reduce your collection of these items to an amount that will reasonably fit into your storage space and that you will realistically be able to use. Going forward, consider what you already own before buying. Be realistic about whether you have room to store a new item.

You Avoid Making Decisions About Your Things

Some people avoid deciding what to do with their clutter by placing items in a basement, garage or closet not visible from the main living spaces. This is a common tactic when quickly cleaning up before a party. However, this type of clutter weighs on people’s minds because they know it has to be dealt with sometime.

Sort through boxes and bags of stashed belongings that have been left in place for years. Usually the contents end up in the recycling bin or the landfill. If you know you have such boxes lurking, consider enlisting the help of a friend or a professional to help you sort through them and get them out of your life.

Your Health Gets in the Way

A long-term health problem can sometimes result in household clutter as schedules are upset by medical appointments and free time becomes scarce. In these circumstances, a person may lack energy or mobility. Similarly, clutter can accumulate as we age and lose energy, balance or mental capacity for making decisions.

In such cases, it may be necessary to get outside help. A family member might need to attend to the clutter once a week. A professional organizer may need to create systems to more easily keep the home tidy.

On the other hand, extreme clutter or hoarding is usually caused by underlying issues that may require the help of a psychologist or other professional.

For most of us, clutter is simply a part of modern life. If you struggle with it, you’re certainly not alone. But take heart: With determination and a little help — whether moral support from friends or the guidance of a professional — you can overcome it and live a more organized life.


March Checklist

The first official day of spring is March 20, so now is the time to get ready for sunnier days. Whether there’s still snow on the ground or flowers in bloom, nicer weather is on its way. Bring in the new season with a bit of spring cleaning, some fresh flowers and — if you can get outdoors — a little dirt under your fingernails.

Things to Check Off Your List in an Hour or Less

Make Mirrors And Table Lamps Shine 

Use a duster or soft rags to remove dust from table lamps and wipe down mirrors with a damp microfiber cloth. These freshened-up surfaces will enhance the light throughout your space.

Refresh The Entryway 

As the weather thaws, begin putting away mittens and wool hats and make room for those mucky spring boots. Clean or replace the doormat, clear off the hooks and be sure to put out an umbrella holder stocked for spring showers. A clean boot tray lined with river stones will help water drain away from your footwear.

Remove Winter Layers 

Feeling a bit stifled under a pile of thick duvets? Swap out heavy winter bedding for lighter-weight quilts and coverlets. Also consider changing deep-pile rugs for flat-weave or natural-fiber versions for the warmer months.

Tackle These Tasks Over a Weekend

Clean Up Patio Furniture 

Outdoor furniture can get really grimy over the winter, so be sure to give everything a good scrubbing before you start using it for the season. Launder washable outdoor cushion covers and replace worn-out pieces if needed.

Tune Up Lawn And Garden Tools 

Sharp tools get the job done. Take your lawn mower and clippers in for a sharpening and tuneup before you begin work in your garden.

Clean Slipcovers And Soft Furnishings 

Smaller slipcovers and washable rugs can be laundered at home; drop off larger pieces with professionals. When laundering items at home, be sure to read the instructions carefully and err on the side of caution. Most items such as curtains and slipcovers can be put back while damp — for the best fit and to prevent wrinkles.

Dust High Corners and Baseboards 

Using a vacuum attachment or the duster of your choice, remove dust and cobwebs from those high and low spots we often miss during routine cleaning.

Make A Garden Plan 

There’s still time to get your garden growing! Sketch out a plan and jot down ideas for this year’s plantings, as well as any ideas you have for changes to the hardscape, such as putting in a new path or fence. Start some seeds indoors or pick up seedlings at your local nursery. Check botanical gardens for plant sales too, as these can be great places to find native plants that do especially well in your region.

Get Ready For Tax Time 

Tax-filing deadline isn’t until April 30, but getting your ducks in a row this month will make things a lot less stressful. Sort through paperwork, update your files and gather all important documents in one place so you’re ready to go.

Simplify The Table 

Cupboards feeling overstuffed? Simplify your life by paring back on dishes and glassware, letting go of mismatched and chipped pieces and sets you no longer love or use often. Keep a basket of fresh cloth napkins within easy reach of the table to make it more convenient than grabbing paper napkins, and invest in a living centerpiece that will stay fresh and green with little maintenance.

Spring-Clean The Kitchen 

Give your kitchen a fresh start by cleaning some of the areas we often skip during quick daily tidying: Clean small appliances; wipe grease and grime from the range hood, backsplash and light fixtures; clean grout; and vacuum hard-to-reach places (like under the stove) using an attachment.

Streamline Meal Planning

Collect your favorite recipes in a binder (or online) and come up with several weeks’ worth of meal plans using your go-to favorites, plus shopping lists. When life gets busy, at least you’ll know what’s for dinner.

Maintenance and Extras to Budget For 

Treat Yourself To Spring Blooms

Spring flowers such as daffodils are plentiful and inexpensive this month, so keep an eye out for bargains. And if you have blooms popping up in the garden, why not snip a few to enjoy indoors?

Plant A Tree

Spring and fall are the best times to plant trees because wet weather and cooler temperatures make it easier for root systems to get established. Be sure to check with a nursery to determine which species will do best in your microclimate and to get detailed planting instructions. If your area has a late date of last frost, you may need to wait until all threat has passed before planting.

Inspect Your Home For Winter Damage and Repair As Needed

Once winter storms have passed, carefully inspect the exterior of your home.

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