I'm trying to kill off a large area (30'X30'X4') of living grass that has been established for hundreds of years. What would be the best way to kill off this grass? I do have a 30'X30' grain plastic tarp that I'm putting logs and pallets around/on the tarp and was wondering if I can do anything else to compress the area quicker to kill the grass in the area so I can hopefully do about a 700' long area during the winter winter in order to have wood chip trucks fill the area with free wood chips to try to establish a large garden next year with. I do know that this area will sink down a lot as it shakes a little when dropping about a 100 lbs log on the ground in area.

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    What you've done will work just fine. I would throw some pure nitrogen on top of the dying biomass to feed the decomposers to allow them to decompose faster. Next time, chop that biomass up first. What the heck do you mean that your ground shakes when dropping a large log or weight on the ground? This might be relevant to your subsoils...do you have limestone as bed rock in your area? You might have a large 'cavern' beneath the surface of your soil...especially if you live on a creek.
    – stormy
    Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 23:10
  • digging the horseradish bed today i only saw black dirt, ash, and tree roots. from the looks of it the soil is very well water logged. Commented Jul 31, 2018 at 3:52
  • What does 'black soil' mean to you? Water logged means no air, saturated soils and few if any thrive in saturated soils. Do you use a specimen microscope? Gosh they are CHEAP as in $20 bucks maximum. Amazon...I love the microscopic world. Black dirt does not at all mean 'fertile', having chemistry plants need to do photosynthesis. Horse radish needs drainage. Most root crops need great drainage.
    – stormy
    Commented Jul 31, 2018 at 8:15
  • it was built up for a very LONG TIME!!!!!, and probably full of worm castings Commented Jul 31, 2018 at 11:59
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    Worm castings are like 2-1-1. The nitrogen gets used up quickly when there are things like bark chips to decompose. It doesn't go to the plants first and little to nothing of the nitrogen will be left after decomposition. Wonderful for the soil organisms who then aerate and mix the organic matter into the soil without tilling. I always have great soil no matter what soil I have to work with. Worm castings are in the bale of decomposed organic matter (that, sorry, is not very well decomposed but close enough) I use first few years. Less later. Ash is not a good soil amendment. Makes goo.
    – stormy
    Commented Aug 3, 2018 at 23:45

3 Answers 3


In general, I've heard technique of tarping over grass (and weeds and...) and killing it with heat and UV is called Solarizing while tarping to starve weeds of light is Occultation. If you use a clear tarp it's solarizing while opaque tarps are used for occultation. Another common method of covering soil is the "lasagne" method or the back to eden method, both of which are basically similar.

  • Solarizing works by heating the ground using a clear plastic tarp for 4 to 6 weeks. It kills weed seeds in just the top few inches and also kills many small insects and fungi/bacteria. It also kills beneficial insects/fungi/bacteria, so you should balance that out after the solarizing process. If the soil is disturbed after solarizing, weed seeds from below the top few inches may be turned and may become viable. Here's an article on solarization
  • Occultation is done similarly to solarizing: laying down an opaque tarp over the ground. This doesn't get as hot and tends to cause plants to germinate. Once germinated, they either die (if left in the dark long enough) or are in a weak state of growth that makes it easy for the gardener to simple pull them to kill them. Soil that has been treated by occultation should, again, not be worked as that will bring up viable seeds. Here's a good article on occultation.
  • Lasagne gardening and Back To Eden gardening work as a form of bringing in a known-good soil on top of the old soil. This causes the same effect as the occultation process and the good soil on top should not have any weeds.

All of these processes should ideally result in the decomposition of that cut grass, but I'm not sure it is technically "composting."

I think the first step of all of these processes has to be to mat down or cut down the 4 foot tall grass. A string trimmer seems well suited to cutting it down, but it could take a while. If you "chop and drop" the grass then the cut stems can be combined with a carbon material to become the base layer in a lasagne garden. You could also try rolling over the surface with something like an ATV or tractor to simply flatten the grass stems before using one of the above techniques.

  • Anything that was once alive and now dead is definitely in a process of decomposition. Any nitrogen available is being used to 'feed' the workers, the guys doing the decomposition. What is this CARBON layer? The finer organic material is chopped the faster the decomposers will be able to do their job. Why oh why do you guys think this makes fertilized soil. Please tell me.
    – stormy
    Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 23:35
  • A known 'good soil'? What exactly does this mean? There is no soil without weed seeds unless sterilized. Or if you use human poo plus sawdust completely decomposed. No weed seeds and no pesticide residues a bit of heavy metals and the most nitrogen available to plants of all the decomposed mulches. But not enough to not fertilize with balanced fertilizer.
    – stormy
    Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 23:38
  • @stormy thanks for your comments and feedback. I made a small edit to clarify one part that I think you might have been addressing. If you have the time to answer the question and perhaps clarify some things you think I got wrong I'd love to read your answer (and upvote it).
    – greggles
    Commented Aug 3, 2018 at 18:57
  • Your answer is good Greggles. I would use the solarization and clear tarp. The opaque tarp would take longer allowing seeds to germinate to then be starved. All soil, unless sterilized and even then only partly kills some seeds, will be full of seeds. The only medium I've found without weed seeds is human poo and sawdust anaerobically decomposed as well as aerobically. No weed seeds. No pesticide residues (this is becoming a big problem). Mulch 2" over any soil and you can forget worry with weeds. This is the stuff that feeds the soil as well as vastly reduces weeds. This is the stuff!
    – stormy
    Commented Aug 4, 2018 at 0:09
  • Lasagna was used for composting, not to make plant beds. Someone just thought that might work great. I do not. Artificially making layers in the soil disrupts drainage and soil life. All that newspaper, cardboard and wood chips have to decompose FIRST. Most certainly will also use up nitrogen the plants need. Hugelkulture, Back to Eden, Lasagna gardening all make NO SENSE at all. To me. I want to KNOW what the chemistry is in my soil without doing tests. I always use a balanced fertilizer NPK and watch my plants for micro chemistry issues for tiny tiny deficiencies or even excess.
    – stormy
    Commented Aug 4, 2018 at 0:17

It sounds like you want to do the Back to Eden thing. I have no experience of this but


For an ideal Back to Eden garden, apply 3-4 sheets of newspaper. Then apply 3-4 inches of organic compost or composted manure. Then an additional 2-4 inches of wood chips or alternative covering on top. If you are implementing the methods in the Spring or Summer, additionally apply a dusting of composted manure for organic fertilizer.


For an ideal Back to Eden garden, cover your garden in the Fall! If you look at creation, nature drops its needles and leaves in the Fall. Note: *If you are using raw wood chips, allow time for them to break down (at least Fall - Winter). You will experience more work fertilizing with organic manure if you wait until the Spring or Summer to apply raw wood chips. Note: *If you are using composted wood chips that have had time to decay, you may apply and plant in the compost immediately. Note: *If you are using composted wood chips that have been screened, you may apply and plant in them immediately (Paul prefers this method for his home garden).

Composting is the decomposition using aerobic bacteriae usually of previously live biologic materials. So, you need to kill the grass first, and that's what the newspaper is for - to exclude light. You don't want to compress the area as that will cause soil compaction which doesn't help anything to grow. Plants need air spaces in the soil for their roots to breathe.


  • I've established a few small back to eden beds, but none with 4' tall grass. Will the heirght ant thickness of the grass be more difficult? Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 14:42
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    You should add the fact the grass is 4 foot tall in your question. Sounds like a job for your chicken tractor. Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 20:24
  • That soil is compacted no matter what. If we haven't double dug that soil we are trying to plant seeds in compacted, too damp soils that we think are full of NUTRIENTS. What does BACK TO EDEN beds mean? What are the benefits, what is the purpose what are the negatives? There has to be negatives. @blackthumb my fav cover crop is annual rye. It is 3' when it needs to be chopped up and double dug into the soil in the spring. Add a bit of nitrogen to help the decomposers decompose the biomass. Weedwacker is best to use on cover crops before lighting turn the soil over with a spade.
    – stormy
    Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 23:16
  • 'lighting'? lightly...?
    – stormy
    Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 23:39
  • Cover the grass, grass dies, roots die, and the spaces occupied by the roots open up to become air spaces. Commented Jul 31, 2018 at 0:50

The old way of doing this would be to cut and stack the sod/turf on one side, till over the ground, let weeds appear, handle the perennial weeds that appear and then till again.

A sod cutter may be available for rent in your location; how long that would take would depend on how quickly you learn mechanical things and how carefully you can follow instructions. Otherwise 30x30 is not such a large area and might be cut by hand with a spade, which requires a strong back and determination. But since you appear to be tossing heavy logs with ease this will not be a problem. Turves are stacked upside down and allowed to rot like a regular compost pile, eventually to be returned to the new garden as a top dressing.

  • sod cutters can cut through 4' tall grass? Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 14:40
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    Hmm, I was wondering where the four feet came from. That would be a separate operation. Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 14:46
  • Colin this would be my method...after weed wacking the biomass down to the ground. The sod cutter will cut out the weeds, biomass and weed seeds in the top 2 inches. I use that soil turned upside down for new plant beds and/or smothering live weeds.
    – stormy
    Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 23:06
  • And someone please tell me the thinking, the reasoning, the benefits of rotting logs below a plant bed? Why not just do a proper double dug bed?
    – stormy
    Commented Aug 4, 2018 at 0:00

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