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Organic Lawn Care For the Cheap and Lazy.. in Virginia

 
                  
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LOVED this article! 
In the five years my family has lived here, I have added NOTHING to the grass (I'm terrified of chemicals), and now we have more weeds (crabgrass, dandelions, yellow clover, onion grass, wild strawberries) than grass it seems.  Starting new with truckloads of topsoil sounds like a miraculous solution, but I am wondering when the best time to begin is.  I live in Virginia (23321), zone 8, and I have about 3 to 4 inches of topsoil over clay.  Please also note that I'm about to plant a raised summer vegetable garden.  Will this interfere with my lazy-friendly organic lawn?

One more thing:  after reading Paul's take on cedar mulch, I am wondering how he feels about rubber mulch (maybe I didn't read far enough).
 
paul wheaton
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I don't know what rubber mulch is - but I'm pretty sure I'm against it.

If you are gonna add topsoil, make sure it comes from some old field that is full of weeds. 

Do NOT get the stuff where they mix dirt with that industrial waste they call "compost".

 
                  
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Thanks for your quick response, Paul.  Also, I just want to say I think you're the BEST.  Thank you for being so accessible and for offering organic advice to laymen and laywomen such as myself. 

In case you're interested, rubber mulch is "recycled tires."  A couple of stores near me sell little, round rings of rubber mulch to place around young trees.  The idea is to let water through but not weeds, but who knows the sins of old tires?

I read your thread about the 14-year-old lawn and your idea of planting cowpeas to get seed-ready soil in 90 days.  I intend to try this in my back yard, and I'll pull the crabgrass and dandelions out of the front yard with my new Weed Hound.  My latest question is, can I go ahead and plant the cowpeas this month (it's May, and I'm zone 8, I think... zip code is 23321)?  I am trying to have my lawn beautiful by August for my husband's return from deployment.  I am planning on renting a tiller to rip up my lawn and then using a broadcast spreader to lay out the cowpeas.  Once the cowpeas are mature and I till them into the soil, I guess I'm supposed to wait 2 weeks and then lay in the tall fescue seed, right? 

On a side note, would crowder or cream peas work well for the above treatment?  I've heard they are tasty, and I may as well feed my family while I'm going through all the trouble.

Again, thanks for keeping this site going.  The knowledge you're offering is priceless!
 
paul wheaton
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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Thanks for your quick response, Paul.  Also, I just want to say I think you're the BEST.  Thank you for being so accessible and for offering organic advice to laymen and laywomen such as myself.


Wow!  Thanks for the kind words!

In case you're interested, rubber mulch is "recycled tires."


Oh!  Well, in that case, I am absolutely against it.  I would remove it immediately and hope that I don't somehow get grief from the garbage pickup folks about how they don't accept toxic waste.

I read your thread about the 14-year-old lawn and your idea of planting cowpeas to get seed-ready soil in 90 days.  I intend to try this in my back yard


Cool!  Take lots of pics!

and I'll pull the crabgrass and dandelions out of the front yard with my new Weed Hound


Well, you're more industrious than me.  I've gotten to the point that I cannot imagine ever pulling another dandelion. 

My latest question is, can I go ahead and plant the cowpeas this month


Yes!

Once the cowpeas are mature and I till them into the soil, I guess I'm supposed to wait 2 weeks and then lay in the tall fescue seed, right?


Yes. 

I wanna say that since fescue takes so long to germinate, you could start a little earlier, but .... no .... you can't.    Well ... maybe you can plant it after a week if it has been really dry.

On a side note, would crowder or cream peas work well for the above treatment?  I've heard they are tasty, and I may as well feed my family while I'm going through all the trouble.


I'm not familiar with either of those. 

Cowpeas are good because they do good at growing thick, tall and shading out everything underneath.  You might try a couple of experimental patches.  But I gotta say that peas would not do well this time of year - they like things a bit colder.  (cowpeas are actually beans)




 
                      
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Hi Paul and everyone... thanks for all the wonderful information.  I have one question about the suggestion to leave grass clippings or use them as mulch - given that there are weeds growing among the grass, isn't this just going to spread the weeds and their seeds around?  If I already had lush, full, tall grass and was mowing regularly to chop the heads off the weeds before they could flower that would be one thing, but I'm not there yet.  My yard is in pretty good shape but there are some weeds, and I'm afraid of accidentally doing them a favor by spreading them around this way.  Am I not better off tossing the clippings for a while until the grass is taller and the weeds in retreat?
 
paul wheaton
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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With a tall, thick, healthy turf, who cares about the weed seeds.  They will germinate and quickly die. 

After a while, you will have fewer weeds and, thus, fewer seeds.

And then when you get a dandelion seed puff, go out, pick the seed puff and blow the seeds all over you lawn.    It's fun!

 
                      
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Thanks for your quick reply, Paul.  Your positive attitude about the weeds is great, but I'm not yet 100% convinced.  What about areas where there isn't grass, such as around trees and flowers? 

One other related question: I've got some kind of mold/fungus problem on an apricot tree.  I don't yet have a good solution and am trying to avoid harsh chemicals.  Until I get there, though, it's my understanding that the fungus thrives on the tree's fallen fruit and leaves, and that it's important to rake them up (http://www.essortment.com/all/peachesnectarin_rjcx.htm).  I don't want to overdo it and remove all the leaves from other nearby trees unless I have to... can you offer any guidance as to where / how to draw the line?
 
paul wheaton
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For your question about your tree, please post that in the organic practices forum. 

As for being 100% convinced, what percent are you at now? 

Does it help to have a parade of people tell you about how it worked for them?

Anybody else out there reading this wanna help this "moshe" person believe?

If nothing else, there is the big thread in this forum that has quite a few people marveling at how well my techniques work.

At the very worst, if you try what I say this season, how bad could it get?  It takes a couple of months for you to start see it the real perks.  Try it and see if your own eyes can be persuasive. 



 
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