Treat your lawn to ‘lasagna’ … and save water as you do 

| July 28, 2022 | 0 Comments

The bittersweet signs of change in water usage are here. Since water restrictions were implemented on June 1 across Southern California, dying lawns are screaming for a city-wide change in mindset and landscaping. Look around; the dead grass is proof that lawns are not a sustainable reality for our climate.

HOMES WITH LAWNS, and those without, reflect the changing landscape in Los Angeles. In the background above, the lawn at this Hudson Avenue home was removed and covered with mulch. It now is a fresh blank canvas full of drought-tolerant potential.

According to the California Dept. of Water Resources, about half of residential water use is spent on outdoor landscaping. Lawns are especially wasteful because they generally are irrigated with sprayed water. With that in mind, lawn conversions are an excellent way to make an ongoing contribution toward water conservation.

Sheet mulching
If you want to get rid of the grass but don’t know where to begin, a sheet mulching project might be the perfect place to start.

There are rebate programs available in Los Angeles County offering incentives of up to $3 per square foot for turf replacement. You’ll want to gather information on these valuable resources because prior approvals and before-and-after photographs are needed to qualify for most rebates.

To replace your lawn, there is no need to remove your grass. You can build up an environment of living soil right on top of your lawn. Sheet mulching or lasagna gardening are two composting methods that can improve soil structure and enrich the earth in preparation for planting.

Sheet mulching is the process of layering cardboard on top of your lawn and then adding a three-inch layer of mulch. These two layers are typically sufficient for drought-tolerant landscaping. It’s a great way to reduce, reuse and recycle, and the technique is perfect for small-to-medium scale projects.

Lasagna mulching is sheet mulching but with additional layers, and it produces an even more nutrient-dense soil. This method is great in preparation for growing edible gardens or plants requiring more rich and loamy soil. Lasagna mulching alternates additional layers of nitrogen-rich materials with carbon layers. Examples of nitrogen-rich materials are finished compost, plant-based kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, eggshells, fresh grass clippings and yard trimmings. The carbon layers consist of newspaper, cardboard, dried leaves, small twigs, sawdust, straw, pine needles and the like.

Begin by collecting enough cardboard to cover the area, with tape and staples removed. Free cardboard is usually available at supermarkets and big box stores. Next, cut the grass down to the ground. Then water the area that you want to cover. Rake or spade to loosen everything lightly without disturbing the natural ecology of the soil. Then cover the area with a cardboard layer and water well. For those wanting to cultivate a more nutrient-rich soil base, lasagna layers can then be added on top of the cardboard.

lllustration courtesy of Bek Diamond, ©2019, Clemson University

The last step in sheet or lasagna mulching is to spread a three-inch layer of mulch on the top. You will need to order mulch in advance of your work day. To calculate the amount of mulch needed in square feet, multiply the square feet of your area by three inches of wood chips to determine the number of cubic yards of wood chips or mulch needed. A mulch calculator online like this one can help:

Once calculated, order a free chip delivery via: or find a tree trimming service that delivers or, if you have a truck, collect free mulch through the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Sanitation.

After the final layer of mulch is distributed, water the area twice weekly and let the composting magic happen; it will take approximately four-to-six months. During that time, you can sit back and begin planning your drought-tolerant landscape.

More information on this alternative to a lawn can be found at and at

Local resident Cheryl Himmelstein has more to share at or

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Category: Real Estate

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