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Rototill before laying sod?  RSS feed

 
                            
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Hi! I'm new to this forum and relatively new to organic lawn care.  I haven't used any chemicals on my lawn since I moved in about a year and a half ago.  The previous owners used chemicals and the soil was in pretty bad shape.  Sandbur weeds have taken over the lawn.  I live in Oklahoma and my yard gets 6+ hours of sunlight, but all that is currently growing is a little bit of bermuda and a lot of the Sandbur.

This spring and last spring, I used Corn Gluten Meal as a pre-emergent to try to prevent the seeds/stickers from germinating.  I also have been hand-picking the mature Sandbur plants.  However, there just seems to be too many.

I have devised a plan to take back control of my yard.

1) Remove as many of the Sandbur as possible by hand
2) Remove as many of the Sandbur seeds/stickers as possible by dragging old carpet over the ground to pick up the seeds/stickers.
3) Add 2 inches of topsoil/compost.
4) Add bermuda sod (I chose bermuda because of the amount of direct sunlight)

If I can keep the sod healthy, I'm hoping it will out-compete any remaining Sandbur seeds.

My question is should I rototill my lawn before laying bermuda sod?  The plus is that rototilling will help integrate the old soil with the new topsoil/compost.  The downside is that rototilling could actually help the Sandbur seeds/stickers that are still in the ground to germinate.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks!
 
                                      
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I'm not real knowledgeable on southern grasses, but tilling before laying sod will always give the sod a better and faster root formation and deeper root system quicker. Sod is pretty thick and should keep the weeds at bay to some degree once under the sod.

Tilling will break up root systems of weeds but will also till in weed seeds. 6 of one, half dozen the other, but loose soil always grows a better plant.
 
paul wheaton
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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I looked up sandbur.  Ug.  That stuff sounds like a real drag. 

Since it is a grass, it will probably be happy with high mowing and all of the stuff we normally use to combat weeds.

Tilling will distress what is there and ... well ... plant all those prickly seeds. 

I'm trying to think of a really easy strategy and everything I think of involves lots of work.

Can you use a power mower with a bag?  Maybe before tilling you can mow super low and get up all of the little burs.  ALL OF THEM.  And then start a compost pile. 

Then till and lay down the sod. 

 
Leah Sattler
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oooh sand burs. yuck. my personal experience with these as a fellow okie is that you have to change the soil structure. they usually only like it if it is very well drained. are you in a sandy area?  the bermuda will outcompete it if you give it a chance with some soil that will retain the moisture. you have to give one vicious/noxious weed an advantage of the other 
 
Gwen Lynn
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I live in sandbur country too. Welcome to this forum, fellow sooner-okie!

Our home was built in what once was a soybean field, not far from the Arkansas River. All the homes in this neighborhood have been plagued by the dreaded sandburr devil!

I'm going to assume you have sandy/loamy soil (like ours, that dries out quickly), those conditions allow sandburrs to get VERY prolific. A friend of mine has mostly clay in her soil. Never seen a sandburr at her house. To give our soil some nutrients, we brought in stall cleanings (composted pine shavings, horse manure, etc) from a local riding stable. Scattered it around our front yard, raked it in and & laid scraps of bermuda on top of it. If we would have added more organic matter to the soil, it surely would have helped even more; although I suspect we'd still be finding sandburrs next to my neighbor's neglected yard.

The sod farms around here used to let you follow the sod trucks around & pick up scrap for $ 10.00 a load, but that was 16 years ago. There was (and is) no need to till this soil before planting. It's so easy for bermuda to grow in it, and mind you, I'm talking about a grass that has been seen growing through asphalt! It wasn't long before it took off & started sending runners all over the place. Of course we kept the sod watered through dry spells (& that is key). I'm sure you could seed bermuda, but we didn't have the time or patience to take that approach. Covering the soil seemed to be an important process in smothering out the sandburrs.

Through very minimal maintenance (we are lazy! ), we seem to be able to keep the sandburrs at bay. They thrive in dry conditions. Water is a simple solution there. We watch out for them to rear their spiny heads in drought times. The tend to return only in the hottest, sunniest parts of our yard, which border our neighbors yard.

When we find them, we (at least) tear/dispose off the seed heads (burrs) before mowing, as to not scatter them. When I'm really motivated, I'll go after the whole plant. They are shallow rooted, not hard to remove. They tend to sprout up in areas where the bermuda is thin, and along my neighbors yard, who tends to neglect his yard/mowing & has a good crop (bad crop?!) of them growing every year right next to our lawn. Dang it!

When we first started dealing with them, we would mow low, bag the seed heads & get them off the property. I didn't compost them because I wanted them outta here!!! I know, it's not the permie way. Sorry Paul, but I had an "Out damn spot" attitude to these buggers.

Otherwise we rarely bag our clippings & use a mulching mower regularly. If you watch for sandburrs, you'll learn to recognize them easily, before they go to seed. They'll send out stems that are longer & straighter than the rest of the plant. If you pick one apart, you'll see the seed heads starting to form inside. This is the best time to mow & bag them if possible. That way they won't stick as much to the inside of your mow bag. More recently, I've allowed english ivy to grow in parts of my yard where the bermuda won't. No sandburrs there, probably because of the partial shade. Sorry if this TMI about sandburrs, but I hope it helps! 
 
                            
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Thanks to everyone for the responses! 

As Paul said, virtually every solution involves a lot of work.  I have very sandy soil, so like Leah mentioned I am going to try to change my soil structure over time by adding compost.  I am going to fertilize the new sod with ringer since I have heard such good things about it.  Like WenVan said, I'll try to keep the lawn watered because the sandburr likes dry conditions.  I plan to water deeply and infrequently because the sandburr roots are shallow.  My hope is that the grass will outcompete the sandburr.  We'll see what happens.

Thanks!
 
paul wheaton
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