To remove an entire lawn of dead grass, Sonoma County Master Gardeners recommends cutting the lawn into long strips with a sod cutter and turning the strips over to compost. Black plastic sheeting can also be placed on top of the lawn to speed the composting process.
Solarization is a method of lawn removal that is completed at the beginning of summer when temperatures begin to warm significantly. To remove a lawn using solarization, cut the grass as short as possible. Then, water the lawn and cover the area with thick, black plastic. Unroll the plastic sheeting so that the edges overlap to trap in heat. Allow the plastic to remain on the lawn for up to eight weeks or until the grass appears to have composted. New grass seed can be planted after removing the plastic.
Another method of lawn removal requires placing cardboard or six to 10 sheets of newspaper over the lawn. Saturate the newspaper or cardboard with water, and place compost on top of the wet paper. Scatter any seeds desired, such as grass seed or flower seeds, and add 3 to 4 inches of mulch on top of the compost. This method allows grass to grow when pesticides or herbicides have killed grass or damaged soil quality.
Grass can be removed with a shovel. Turn each shovel scoop of grass over to expose dirt and cover the dirt with newspaper, compost, seeds and mulch to regrow grass.