Turf Alternatives


Site Selection

Plant Selection

Design Guidelines

When to Plant

Prepare the Site



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Prepare the Site

Removing what's there and prepping the site is crucial to the successful establishment of your new plants. Although there are chemical options for removing turf and weeds, physical and cultural methods, like tilling or covering with plastic, can work. Diligence is key when removing persistent weeds, regardless of the method chosen.

  • A sodcutter, available from equipment rental companies, is effective for turf removal. However, it also removes some of the topsoil, which you'll need to replace. The hard ground underneath the cut will need to be loosened as well. If your project area is not too large, you can remove grass by hand digging.
  • Repeated rototilling or spading can help unearth persistent weeds. Buried vegetation decomposes over time, adding nutrients and structure to soil. Typically, three or four turns over the site in a 5 to 6 week period will do in most of the green stuff. Watch for resprouting weeds. Also take care to not till too deeply where established tree roots can be damaged.
  • Another method is to cover sunny areas with black plastic, which acts like a solar oven and cooks the vegetation underneath. Leave the plastic in place for 2-3 months, then rototill or spade the area.

After vegetation is cleared away, choose soil amendments such as organic compost, lime, sand, or topsoil that suit the plants you are putting in. After the final tilling, level the area with a rake. Plant soon after site preparation because weeds will leap at the opportunity to germinate on bare soil.


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For more information, contact Scarlet Tang or Todd Murray
WSU Cooperative Extension (360) 676-6736
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