We just finished planting an area in our back yard which was previously part of the lawn last fall.
After the leaves fell, we raked the leaves from our lawn onto the area to be smothered. Some people use newspaper for smothering grass. We realized after using newspaper that it was very time consuming for large areas and it took a while to build up a supply to have enough for the job.
For this project, we rolled out the paper on top of the raked leaves, then covered the paper with more leaves. You need to have enough leaves on top to weigh down the paper. A shredded wood mulch also works well.
This photo shows the layer of leaves on top of the paper.
There are some great advantages to smothering grass this way.
mycorrhizal fungi as well as not promoting weed seed germination.
Most of all it is a lot less work than removing the sod. The added layer of leaves and decaying sod creates a wonderful layer of humus and adds organic matter to your soil.
The paper and leaves need to be left for at least two seasons, ie. paper in the fall and plant in the spring or paper in the spring and plant in the fall.
This photo shows the area planted the following spring.
Here are some other before and after photos where we used wood mulch to smother the grass. The area was heavily infested with creeping charlie so we needed the extra weight of 2-3" of wood mulch to kill the creeping charlie.
Paper and mulch added