How to Kill Grass & Plant Ground Cover


Turf grass is by far the most popular ground cover used in home landscapes. But some homeowners choose other types of ground cover for lawn coverage for a host of reasons. Some ground covers are more attractive than grass, require less watering and care or grow better in shaded areas. But before you plant ground cover in your lawn, you must first kill the resident grass. Otherwise, the new ground cover will be slow to establish itself as it competes for water and nutrients.

Step 1

Dig up the existing grass with a sod removal machine or a flat-edged spade. When digging, cut the roots roughly one inch below the soil line. Lift removed patches, shake off the excess soil and compost them.

Step 2

Spray the grass with a glyphosate broad-spectrum herbicide if there is too much grass to dig. Follow the manufacturer's instructions and spray the grass when it is actively growing. The grass should be dead in a week to 10 days. It will turn the color of straw. If not, spray the grass again at the interval dictated by the manufacturer.

Step 3

Rototill the soil (herbicide-sprayed dead grass can be rototilled into the soil to act as a fertilizer) to a depth of 6 inches. Then spread 2 inches of aged compost over the soil and rototill it again to a depth of 8 inches.

Step 4

Rake the lawn smooth.

Step 5

Broadcast the ground cover's seed over the ground at the rate recommended for the species you intend to plant. You may broadcast the seed by scattering it over the ground by hand or by using a broadcast seed spreader. In either method, broadcast half of the seed over the lawn while working in horizontal rows. Then broadcast the other half of the seed while working in vertical rows. If you are broadcasting the seed by hand, you can better estimate the amount you should spread over an area by breaking the lawn up into fourths or eighths. Then evenly cover one section of the lawn at a time.

Step 6

Cover the seed with a thin layer of soil if necessary for the variety of seed that you are planting.

Step 7

Walk over the broadcast seed or roll over it with an empty lawn roller to increase the seed's contact with the soil.

Step 8

Water the soil with 1 to 2 inches of water (a rain gauge placed on the turf will help you calculate the amount of water). Continue to keep the soil moist until the ground cover seed germinates.

Things You'll Need

  • Sod remover
  • Flat-edged spade
  • Glyphosate herbicide
  • Rototiller
  • Aged compost
  • Broadcast seed spreader
  • Top soil
  • Lawn roller


  • Colorado State University: Ground Cover Plants
  • University of Illinois: Turf Removal
  • University of Nevada: Ground Covers
  • West Virginia University: Ground Covers
  • University of Minnesota: Preventing Pollution Problems from Lawn and Garden Fertilizers

Who Can Help

  • Colorado State University: Ground Cover Options
Keywords: kill grass, plant ground cover, lawn care

About this Author

Emma Gin is a freelance writer who specializes in green, healthy and smart living. She is currently working on developing a weight-loss website that focuses on community and re-education. Gin is also working on a collection of short stories, because she knows what they say about idle hands.