When Portland landscape designer Margaret de Haas van Dorsser wants to transform a lawn into a new garden bed, she avoids the hassles of stripping sod. Instead, she simply smothers the turf under four to six layers of newspaper and a load of manure, and lets the grass decompose naturally.
When the manure is applied in fall and allowed to sit all winter, the underlying grass disappears, roots and all.
Then, at planting time in spring, she plants directly through the rotted manure without having to till it or other amendments into the soil.
In fact, she strongly advises that the manure not be tilled in, so as not to encourage weed seeds to germinate.
This technique works well on cool-season grasses such as bent, blue grass, and fescue, but is not recommended for lawns of Bermuda grass, St. Augustine grass, or zoysia.