Food not Lawns

Posted by Erica on Sep 10, 2010 in DIY, no till, permaculture methods |
yep, that’s corn.

Well, I guess we did do one major gardening project when we moved.  We were able to purchase two houses next door to each other.  We live in one, and the other is our workshop, affectionately called “The Greasy Spider” (more on that later).  We knew when we bought our houses, that the one we live in would require a new foundation so there was no point in establishing any gardens until that was finished.  However, the front yard of the shop was a solid mass of bermuda grass that seemed like a waste of space, and I hated to mow it.  I decided to try an experiment to get rid of the bermuda grass and make a front yard garden.  The challenge was that bermuda grass is extremely invasive with an underground root system that is not only tough, but one little nodule of root will start a new plant.  Plus, the roots can just go dormant and grow back later.  This project took two years and is just now ready to plant for the spring.  Here’s what we did:

Covered the entire yard in thick mil black plastic held down with bricks and rocks.  We left it covered for an entire year.  The neighbors had lots of questions.  Our yard became a landmark of sorts.  “we live just north of the house with the black plastic yard…”

wish I had a pic of the black plastic

We removed the black plastic and  brought in 2 large dump trailor loads of horse manure.  First layer was about six inches directly on top of the dead grass and soil.  I did not do any digging as I didn’t want to risk waking up any of the roots.  Then we covered that with a solid layer of cardboard with another couple feet or so of manure.  We let that sit for another year.

This summer I finally began digging in paths and now we have another layer of good hummusy mulch on top.  It is ready for spring planting!  So far, the only bermuda grass is what is creeping in from the edges.  I’ll just have to stay on top of pulling it out, but its better than a whole yard of it and no chemicals or pesticides were used.

I didn’t go by the books on this one. We could have used something other than just manure to layer the soil and add nutrients, but I just didn’t take the time to track down other resources. (see books on no-till gardening).  Instead, I used what was easy and available at the time.  I also let the weeds growing out of the top layer of manure get pretty out of control a couple times this summer until I finally pulled them out,  dug in my paths and brought in the mulch.  Working full time has forced me to let go of doing everything just right, and most of the time, I’d rather be sitting on my porch having a beer and playing my banjo.  Now that there is mulch, which means no weeds, I should have plenty of time to do just that.

There is no sign of bermuda roots anywhere which I hope means that they have composted and been eaten by worms.  I guess we’ll see over the next year if it really did work.

Oh, I forgot to mention, this is actually Violet’s garden.  We’ll see if she helps with the planting and planning in the spring.

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3 Comments

Jess
Sep 11, 2010 at 7:38 pm

I never realized the house next to yours is yours, too! I hope your time and effort has paid off with the crab grass, that stuff is crazy. I look forward to reading your updates to see what else you guys do!


 
Erica
Sep 12, 2010 at 1:40 pm

Thanks Jess! Actually, it took me a while to realize that crab grass and bermuda grass are different. Crab grass is an annual and the leaves are wide but thin, while bermuda grass is a perennial that has thicker leaves and stems. Their seeds look very much alike though. Crab grass pulls up fairly easily compared to bermuda grass.


 

[...] My neighbor wanted to split an order of meat birds so I used the opportunity to experiment with another no-till garden option.  We built the tractor out of PVC pipe and attached chicken wire to it as securely as possible and positioned it exactly where I wanted my next keyhole bed.  We staked it into the ground with re-bar and covered the top and west side of the tractor with tarps to keep the chickens dry and out of the sun.  I continuously added straw bedding and over the course of about 9 weeks they had created a rich garden bed.  The chickens did a great job scratching up grass, weeds, and fertilizing the soil.  However, the bermuda grass survived.   Looks like I will have to pull that out by hand, but since the ground is no longer compacted, it will be relatively easy to pull up.  If your interested in getting rid of a lawn of bermuda grass, check out my post here:  Food Not Lawns. [...]


 

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