It is common that a large patch of lawn, probably consisting of kikuyu, in our gardens is most desirable, and indeed the sign of a successful gardener and homeowner. In the US for example, ‘lawn’ is in fact the country’s largest crop.

However, we must also recognise that maintaining a lawn is not ecologically sound in terms of biodiversity and is costly in terms of time, water, fertiliser and labour.

There are various ways of removing patches of lawn, some slow and others more immediate.
You could cover the area in black plastic sheeting, but this looks unsightly, takes about six months and will kill many beneficial micro-organisms and worms in the soil.

The early stages of an indigenous garden, complete with grasses and shrubs.

You could try sheet-composting which requires large amounts of compostable material spread on the lawn, causing it to eventually kill the grass itself. This is a greener option, but will also take a number of months.
For small areas of lawn, the top layer of sod can be sliced off using a spade; larger areas will need a sod cutter, which is usually available at tool rental shops.

You can use a rotovator or a plough, tilling deep, with compost and lime added before tilling. After several weeks, repeat but with very shallow tilling to remove new weeds.

A fire pit.

Reducing the lawn size may seem like a large task, but the changes can be made gradually over several seasons. Look for areas of lawn which are least used, and those which are hardest to mow (e.g. corners of the garden, beneath trees with low branches). Before digging, check for the location of water pipes or electric wires.

And what would you replace the lawn with? Consider ground covers, xeriscape plantings, perennial flower beds and tiered shrub plantings or you might create islands in your lawn, where you can establish a herb garden or indigenous shrubs or build a fire pit.

Vegetable gardens are also a good alternative, producing useful ~ and sometimes pretty ~ plants for you and your household.

You might use this opportunity to explore a variety of ornamental grasses. These grasses are low maintenance, grow well in most soils and many are also drought-resistant. You can use this as a ‘feature’ in your garden, saving you from having to mow the lawn.

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