Update: My Fall Landscaping Project

Trying Out the Smothering the Sod Technique: Using Mulch and Cardboard

As I mentioned last month I decided to tackle a section of my front yard that has been challenging for me over the last couple of summers and especially this past hot summer.

Purple bush near curb of driveway.

Inspired by the books Hellstrip Gardening and Beautiful No-Mow Yards by Evelyn J. Haddan and her website Less Lawn I decided once and for all to deal with it. I decided to use the technique of smothering the sod instead of removing it all and having to dispose of it. The challenge with that was the grade close to the curb was already high close to the curb. So I was concerned the garden would end up even higher close to the street. So a slight change of plans meant that my husband did have to remove a strip of sod along the curb. We realized just how much of our lawn was hanging over the curb.

Process: Locating Cardboard and Spreading Mulch

After raking out the remaining sod edge to improve the grade, the task to start smothering was under way. The idea is to smother the sod with cardboard or newspaper and cover with a thick layer of mulch that will eventually decompose and allow you to plant in good soil in approximately 6 months.

Yes, 6 months! This is the slow but less back breaking way to create a new garden.

I chose to use cardboard which would be easier to work with than newspaper. I have to say that I VASTLY underestimated how much cardboard I would need. The original stash I had been saving in the garage barely made a dent in what we would need which meant that I seriously had to go dumpster diving to find enough. In fact, I had to make two trips to fill my vehicle in order to have enough to cover the space required.

All the neighbors and dog walkers were certainly curious as to what we were doing. I am grateful that the weather was so nice on Saturday because I would not have wanted to do this on a cold wet day! Here is the first pass of mulch spread loosely to hold down the cardboard…


Mulch covering cardboard around a tree.

Final Product:

And here is the final product. The old lawn area is now covered with cardboard and several inches of composted pine mulch and will hopefully be ready for planting early summer next year or when I have time to get to it.


Thanks to this load of mulch from Pic a Mix all my other beds were well mulched as well thanks to the hard work by my husband and son and nutrient rich composted pine mulch should add a lot of benefits to my gardens soil. (We have about 1/3 of a bag left to top up the area if needed. So far I have no concerns, the mulch isn’t blowing away nor is it washing away with the rain. I expect to let the leaves that fall there stay and decompose as well. I promise to keep you posted.

2 Responses to Update: My Fall Landscaping Project

    Greg Sungreen

    The smothering the sod technique, using mulch and cardboard, is an effective and environmentally friendly way to eliminate unwanted grass and weeds. I recently tried this method in my garden and was amazed at how well it worked. By layering mulch and cardboard, I successfully smothered the sod and created a clean slate for planting.

      Joanne Shaw

      I agree, it does work well. Many people want to dig out the sod. But disposing of that sod is an even greater issue.
      The cardboard is so much more efficient.

      Thanks for writing,

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