I'm trying to kill off grass in an area that has probably been establishing itself since the last ice age, and was wondering how many wood chips it really will take to do the job I desire, and keep the grass out of the area after. It came up through about 1' of wood chips, and cardboard already, so I need a no till organic idea to get it killed off effectively.

Chickens are not an option.


4 Answers 4


You'd need enough chips to maintain a 6-8" depth for at least a few weeks. See this post (written by Linda Chalker-Scott, Washington State Extension) for complete instructions.

To summarize (in case we ever lose that post):

  1. Scalp the lawn by cutting it as short as possible, preferably when it is not actively growing.
  2. Cover the lawn with a thick enough layer of arborist wood chips to maintain the 6-8" depth for several weeks.
  3. Wait, checking periodically under the mulch for dead grass.
  4. Replant.
  • 6-8" for a year, and it's coming back. What do I need to do to kill it off completely for nice myceliated garden soil to grow in? It's the stuff that has never been mowed, and would never be mowed Jul 1, 2020 at 23:53

Charles Dowding has been writing about no-dig techniques for many years, and suggests cardboard, possibly several layers, for stubborn weeds, followed by a mulch of compost, not wood chip. This remains in place and is planted into, and resembles what the video author is demonstrating.

My reason for asking what you intended to do with the ground subsequently was on account of the increase in bulk through leaving a compost layer permanently, which may not have been suitable for whatever you had in mind. If you intend a vegetable garden, I don't see that this would be a problem.

  • wood chip compost breaks down in about 1-2 years in the area, because I have wine cap mushrooms running through the area already, and the wood chips become similar to paper pulp after 1 year. Jul 2, 2020 at 13:24

I agree with @Tom W. Charles Dowding is a pioneer and great resource for your issue. He has tons of videos on YouTube and books that can easily be found to help you on this topic. My suggestion would be to follow some of his techniques which includes:

  1. Cover the area with a weed barrier for 6-8 weeks
  2. Lay down several layers of cardboard (as much as you can find for free--I personal look on craigslist for people giving out free boxes or go to stores in my area and ask for them.
  3. Cover the area with 6-8 inches of compost
  4. Cover your walk ways with cardboard and wood chips
  5. Plant into said compost

Here is a link to one of Charles' YouTube vids that explains this technique. Good luck!

  • I couldn't agree less. Charles Dowding is a media personality, not a scientist. Cardboard is a nasty product to use in the garden. See gardenprofessors.com/the-cardboard-controversy (and follow the links within the article) for reasons why you should NOT use non-shredded cardboard in your garden. BTW, I am a huge proponent of no-till horticulture - but I use mulches to maintain soil moisture and feed my garden. I use discarded silt fencing as paths, and I try to never walk in my flower or vegetable gardens, Like Dowding, I have very few weeds, even in non-mulched veg areas.
    – Jurp
    Jul 2, 2020 at 22:45
  • 1
    Everyone has to do what's best for themselves based on their comfort level with certain materials in their garden like cardboard, pesticides, plastics etc. I suggested a technique I've personally used and found success with. If someone has a reason for not using cardboard....don't use it. The technique has definitely worked for me for years and I know tons of successful market gardeners using the same procedures with great success. The cardboard is frankly optional yeah you can pile mulch or compost several feet high and it will supress weeds--but those inputs aren't free to most gardeners.
    – JRap88
    Jul 3, 2020 at 3:08
  • I'm more of a Geoff Lawton, Ray Archuletta person myself, but without chickens it's hard :'( Jul 3, 2020 at 3:35
  • @JRap88 - surprised to hear that arborist wood chips aren't free in your area. In my US State, most cities and townships maintain a "brush pile" where residents can pick up as much chips as they want (and often city/town-made compost) for free. Also, many arborists and "tree cutters" love to drop loads of their chips someplace local after finishing a job, as that saves them money.
    – Jurp
    Jul 3, 2020 at 11:58
  • I'm in NY and arborist wood chips are NOT accessible easily for free. Yes you can sign up for chip drop (which I'm signed up and been waiting 2 months for a delivery so far). The municipalities here don't make their chips available for the residents. I do wish it was the case as I'd be all over it.
    – JRap88
    Jul 3, 2020 at 14:42

Landscaper here. I agree about the boxes and newspaper being bad. You should be able to get away with a 3 inch layer of wood chips or mulch. Here's a calculator to see how much mulch you need. https://www.landscapecalculator.com/calculators/mulch

  • If the local non-profit I get wood chips from was open I would get them, but since they're not that's not an option.since they produce refrigerator sized 3 ply boxes all the time Jul 8, 2020 at 4:25

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