Looking for a scorched earth approach to keeping the ground free from grass
September 12, 2004 1:28 PM   Subscribe

What's the best way to render a (small) patch of ground (semi-) permanently vegetation-free? [mi]

I'm trying to construct a 12 yard by 22 yard patch of dirt in the middle of an established field (well maintained 3" tall grass). I would like to kill the grass, till it up and level it. I would also like to prevent grass/weeds from regrowing.

I'm thinking that there must be a product out there that will inhibit vegetation over long periods of time (think 3-5 years).

Does anyone have experience with a product/technique that will achieve this? Bonus points for a product that is/will:

• relatively inexpensive
• non- or minimally harmful to humans
• easy for a non-expert to apply
• available without a license/not illegal, banned, or unethical to apply to a field
• not change the drainage patterns of the field
• stand up to continuous foot traffic and heavy use
posted by cadastral to Home & Garden (21 answers total)
Just to clarify... the grass-free area will have to remain as dirt... so concrete or crushed stone, etc. won't work.

Looking for a vegetation-free patch of dirt.
posted by cadastral at 1:43 PM on September 12, 2004

Something involving good old plastic mulch perhaps? It seems to fit most or all of your bullet items, except one... if you cover the mulch with dirt, you're back where you started I guess.
posted by Stoatfarm at 2:04 PM on September 12, 2004

You could apply bleach liberally to the area, although that is poisonous... I've been told it does a great job of killing trees, etc, surreptitiously.
posted by shepd at 2:23 PM on September 12, 2004

posted by sfenders at 2:23 PM on September 12, 2004

Salt will do it and is relatively cheap. A plastic tarp will also kill off the foilage by depriving it of sunlight and artificially increasing the temperature. Maybe doing it late in the season followed by a session early next year would do the trick? I don't see how grass could grow back if it's prevented from seeding though you'd get the occasional weed blowing in.
posted by substrate at 2:28 PM on September 12, 2004

Diesel. Diesel is the ultimate tool when you want to kill your neighbour's plants in a retaliatory attack. So, er, it should work pretty well on bare grass too.

There's a quirky thread which asks the same question right here.

I don't quite see why you want it to be just dirt for all that time though, that would strike me as odd.
posted by wackybrit at 2:29 PM on September 12, 2004

tobacco water. nothing will grow.
posted by ethylene at 2:47 PM on September 12, 2004

(Nothing nefarious... i'm making a cricket pitch)
posted by cadastral at 2:53 PM on September 12, 2004

If you're in the US (and Canada, I believe) you can ask your local Master Gardeners group.
This cricket site recommends barriers but I think it will all depend on where your pitch is located because I think some grass grows along runners, some doesn't.
posted by Stoatfarm at 3:15 PM on September 12, 2004

I'm pretty sure that you are going to have to regularly apply herbacide to your patch over the next 3-5 years--anything that prevents any grass/weeds from growing for that period with one application is going to, de facto, cause serious environmental damage to your field.

Using diesel fuel or bleach is really pretty horrendously irresponsible--that stuff is going to leach into the water supply sooner or later, not to mention kill soil bacteria, worms, birds, mice, etc. Commercial herbicides are designed with some environmental considerations in mind--the best break down in sunlight, target certain specific enzymes in plants but don't kill everything that moves, etc.

Round-up really is the best herbicide out there in general--works just like it's supposed to, not too bad for the world--but there might be a better product for this specific purpose. You are going to have to go to a garden-supply store anyway, so you might as well ask for guidance while you are there.

It might also be worth putting in calls to local parks to ask how they maintain their pitches--if you can scale their approach back to your purposes, it would have the great advantage of certainly working.

Another option is to cover the whole area in black plastic sheeting until everything dies, and repeat when necessary. Don't see how this can fail.
posted by armchairsocialist at 8:55 PM on September 12, 2004

Triox - Total Vegation Killer. In my experience it works for about a year.
posted by internal at 9:03 PM on September 12, 2004

I was also going to recommend Triox. Be careful with it. It really does create 'scorched earth'. In Southern California where it doesn't rain much, it's pretty permanent.
posted by ikkyu2 at 1:16 AM on September 13, 2004

: A goat chained to a stake.
posted by troutfishing at 6:04 AM on September 13, 2004

To expand on that : by my solution, you can convert your "problem" into tasty milk and tangy cheese and -if that be your taste- in a year's time, roasted goat (barbecue).
posted by troutfishing at 6:08 AM on September 13, 2004

If you are thinking of diesel, don't. We prosecute people every week for doing this. It works, but if you have kids or animals or eat plants or even garden anywhere near the affected area, you're taking a needless and stupid risk with your health. Also, it could lead to fines and/or civil suits against you if anyone finds out.

Likewise, people get very cranky if you salinate the water table. I'd give salt a miss too no matter how much it makes you feel like a rampaging mongul warrior.
posted by bonehead at 6:10 AM on September 13, 2004

bonehead - I guess that rules out Agent Orange as well.

: )
posted by troutfishing at 7:01 AM on September 13, 2004

Thanks for all the suggestions.

No Diesel... got it...

Salt is tempting (perhaps if all else fails).

I think I'll go with the Triox.
posted by cadastral at 11:07 AM on September 13, 2004

What, you didn't like the goat ?

How about a small, rotating blowtorch, set up on a timer, to periodically burn off new growth ?

Or a small computer controlled toy lawnmower or tiny steamroller - batteries charged by a little solar panel - that just mowed or crushed the ground flat ?

How about simply :

1) Digging down a few inches and laying down heavy gauge plastic and laying in a bed of small round pebbles ?
posted by troutfishing at 12:19 PM on September 13, 2004

Nothing nefarious... i'm making a cricket pitch

As a Brit, I'm going to protest! You need grass for a cricket green! That's why it's called a 'green' ;-)
posted by wackybrit at 1:16 PM on September 13, 2004

Kill the men, drive the women and children before you, and sow the ground with salt after burning anything left alive.

For city sized patches or larger.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 2:17 PM on September 13, 2004 [1 favorite]

That would be a hell of a big cricket match.
posted by troutfishing at 8:42 AM on September 14, 2004

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