The Smother Method

The smother method of starting a new garden is simple in theory. Layout your bed, mark it with flour or a landscape spray paint, mow inside the bed to the shortest height on your mower, then spread several sheets of wet newspaper on top of the area you want to kill, cover it with black landscape fabric, weight it down, then go inside, have a beer, and wait several months. As is often the case with garden projects when I undertake them, this wasn’t quite as easy as it should have been.

First, due to important family obligations, I needed to do the project on the one day of the weekend that was windy, cold  and otherwise misearble. . Second, I failed to follow my dear, departed father’s cardinal rule of projects: make sure you have everything you need before you start. Consequently, not only did I need to make a run to the local home improvement store to get a pile of cheap bricks and an extra roll of landscape fabric, I also had to ask several neighbors if they had extra newspapers. (Thanks Paulette, Karen, and Dave and Wendy!)

It took two or three times longer than expected–not to mention about five pairs of garden gloves–but I did finally get the bed covered. I added the extra step of throwing some composted manure on the area, just to give it a head start on nutrients. I also discovered the most important ingredient in the process is water–lots of water. You water the grass after it’s cut, water the newspapers before you lay them down, water it all when you are done, and I’ve watered it once since Saturday because it looked dry already.

For aesthetic reasons, I plan to cover the bed with a mulch of reed canary grass, which is like hay but has fewer weed seeds. That last step will have to wait until the wind stops blowing. After that, I’m hoping for a nice snowy winter and an early spring.

front garden after planting
A few years after the smothering of the grass, the garden was a high point of the front yard.

1 thought on “The Smother Method

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.