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Which cover crop to use? Lawn renovation

 
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A friend of mine recommended a cover crop to fix my soil issue. We have tried renovating our lawn 2 years ago with grass and the same half of the lawn always end up dying. Now it is very dry, dusty, and lacking any nutrients. We are in zone 9b, half the lawn is dead and not growing anything, the other half is thick with weeds.

Ideally I'd like to plant a cover crop that can be kept year round as a substitute for grass. This is new territory for us. TIA!
 
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Lara Lipskey wrote:A friend of mine recommended a cover crop to fix my soil issue. We have tried renovating our lawn 2 years ago with grass and the same half of the lawn always end up dying. Now it is very dry, dusty, and lacking any nutrients. We are in zone 9b, half the lawn is dead and not growing anything, the other half is thick with weeds.

Ideally I'd like to plant a cover crop that can be kept year round as a substitute for grass. This is new territory for us. TIA!

Welcome to permies Lara!


It would be helpful if you gave us a general idea where you are and anything notable about your climate. There's a *very* simple soil test where you dig up some dirt and put it in a glass jar (fairly straight sided to make it easier to read), add water, shake vigorously and let it settle. Stones drop first, sand next and it goes from there with clay taking the longest. ( https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/garden-how-to/soil-fertilizers/soil-texture-jar-test.htm )

The big difference between the two halves of your lawn has to have a reason. Simple possibilities for the dead side is that it gets hotter sun or less moisture or both. Another option which you might be able to check by digging a test hole, is that there is something below the surface - like a lot of rocks and no soil - that's affecting its ability to grow plants. I've seen what people bury thinking it will "go away," such as old septic tanks, that need to be changed from a liability to an asset. A sad option is that someone polluted that area and you may need a soil test to determine that. There may be natural ways to reverse that (lots of wood chips and mushrooms are a good start) but you need to know what it is first.

Clearly the "grow weeds side" is telling you that grass is not its "happy plant". Can you identify some of those weeds? Some weeds like acid soil, some less. Knowing what weeds are there might help people familiar with your zone suggest edible or otherwise helpful weeds that could replace the ones you've got (although you might be pleasantly surprised how edible some you already have are. ) Chopped and dropped weeds can be a great way to build up soil, but some weeds will help more than others.

No matter how this works out, a year round substitute fro grass sounds like an excellent goal!
 
Lara Lipskey
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Thanks for the reply! That half of the lawn does get mostly sun, little shade. The other side is closer to the house and is shaded. The area that is growing looks to be crabgrass. We are in the southern CA,  inland empire. On the higher elevation side so it can get a little bit colder in the winter than other cities in this county. There shouldn't be any septic tanks in this neighborhood as it is newer and nothing was on it before. Hope this helps!
 
Lara Lipskey
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Jay Angler wrote:

Lara Lipskey wrote:A friend of mine recommended a cover crop to fix my soil issue. We have tried renovating our lawn 2 years ago with grass and the same half of the lawn always end up dying. Now it is very dry, dusty, and lacking any nutrients. We are in zone 9b, half the lawn is dead and not growing anything, the other half is thick with weeds.

Ideally I'd like to plant a cover crop that can be kept year round as a substitute for grass. This is new territory for us. TIA!

Welcome to permies Lara!


It would be helpful if you gave us a general idea where you are and anything notable about your climate. There's a *very* simple soil test where you dig up some dirt and put it in a glass jar (fairly straight sided to make it easier to read), add water, shake vigorously and let it settle. Stones drop first, sand next and it goes from there with clay taking the longest. ( https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/garden-how-to/soil-fertilizers/soil-texture-jar-test.htm )

The big difference between the two halves of your lawn has to have a reason. Simple possibilities for the dead side is that it gets hotter sun or less moisture or both. Another option which you might be able to check by digging a test hole, is that there is something below the surface - like a lot of rocks and no soil - that's affecting its ability to grow plants. I've seen what people bury thinking it will "go away," such as old septic tanks, that need to be changed from a liability to an asset. A sad option is that someone polluted that area and you may need a soil test to determine that. There may be natural ways to reverse that (lots of wood chips and mushrooms are a good start) but you need to know what it is first.

Clearly the "grow weeds side" is telling you that grass is not its "happy plant". Can you identify some of those weeds? Some weeds like acid soil, some less. Knowing what weeds are there might help people familiar with your zone suggest edible or otherwise helpful weeds that could replace the ones you've got (although you might be pleasantly surprised how edible some you already have are. ) Chopped and dropped weeds can be a great way to build up soil, but some weeds will help more than others.

No matter how this works out, a year round substitute fro grass sounds like an excellent goal!



I forgot to quote! Also wanted to mention no herbicide has been used on the soil as far as I am aware.
 
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Location: SW PA USA zone 6a altitude 1188ft
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What grass did you plant during the restoration. While I'm not familiar with what grasses are appropriate for your area someone else here may. I'd suggest you might go to a local garden center. If they have a bin and a scoop with a scale; I'd take a guess that those choices are appropriate. Big box stores sell bags of grass that will grow anywhere in the world so many of the grass varieties are weeds in many other areas. This also makes the useful grass very expensive.
If you loosen up the soil, with an aerator, sow an appropriate seed, cover with about an inch of mushroom compost and keep it watered it should grow very lushly. If you use the mushroom compost you won't need any other fertilizer. I'd suggest buying the mushroom compost bulk by the cu yard. Google for a source in your area.
 
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Do you actually  see grass growing wild in your area? If not then grass may not be the ideal plant for your yard. Often gravel paths with mulched growing beds in between is more appropriate for your climate.
I can send you some winter hardy kale seed which should do well there over the winter.
I am glad you learned the Quote button. This site has lots of buttons which can make things simpler for you when you learn them.  One near the top is My Profile. There yu can fill out information which appears below your name when you post so others can quickly check where you live and what your weather conditions may be.  You can make a signature line that also contains more useful information.
Below the posting window is Attachments which you can use to add pictures of your powdery soil and weeds.
 
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