• Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

Is it possible to get rid of a lawn with cover crops alone?

 
J. Cardina
Posts: 19
Location: Zone 7A, Comox Valley, Vancouver Island, Pacific Northwest, Canada
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hello all, I live on Vancouver Island in BC Canada and we have a large lawn, probably 3/4 of an acre or so over sloping, full sun, dry in summer but rained on all winter compact ground (gravel, sand, not much topsoil at all). We ultimately want to turn it all into not-lawn possibly garden or even food forest using permaculture principles as we learn more about them but in the mean time I don't want to waste any time getting started so until we decide what we are going to do with that land I want to improve it by building topsoil as cheaply and easily as possible and get rid of the grass.

I will not mow it again! (unless it helps get rid of grass )

In my imaginary perfect world I would get a big bag of mixed cover crop seeds, walk out there at the right time of year, chuck them around and sit back and watch as they grow plants that break up the soil, generate topsoil, fix nitrogen and somehow make the grass go away.

How far from reality is that perfect world?

I'm guessing those seeds might just end up sitting on top of the grass and getting eaten by birds as they try and fail to penetrate the sod...or could they?

This is a big area and I can't imagine getting enough cardboard or wood chips to layer on top of it and we have pretty much no spare money to do anything quick and dirty.

I do have a wet alder forest and swampy area in the back which possibly might furnish some resources as I'm turning them into coppice and falling most of them and have a lot of alder and black cottonwood primarily intended for firewood but with a lot of branches.

Any suggestions greatly appreciated.
 
Thomas Ziminski
Posts: 13
Location: Long Island
1
forest garden fungi trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Maybe you should sheet mulch as much as you can manage and grow some green manure, and cover crops over this area? Then chop and drop on other areas as you go slowly converting your lawn. It might be a good idea to add some of those branches too.

 
J. Cardina
Posts: 19
Location: Zone 7A, Comox Valley, Vancouver Island, Pacific Northwest, Canada
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thomas Ziminski wrote:Maybe you should sheet mulch as much as you can manage and grow some green manure, and cover crops over this area? Then chop and drop on other areas as you go slowly converting your lawn. It might be a good idea to add some of those branches too.



Hey Thomas!

That's a good idea for doing it slowly and inexpensively.

I'm kind of impatient to get rid of that lawn and hoping to do it all at once but it sounds like you're saying I must sheet mulch regardless as the cover crops won't grow on grass in any direct manner?
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Pie
Posts: 8966
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
129
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Personally I advise sheet mulching and green manuring it gradually and planting food forest or whatever you have chosen gradually, rather than making a sudden huge change and being overwhelmed. My own experience is it is extremely easy to bite off more than one can chew and it is better to start small, near the house, and work outward gradually. Don't try to do everything at once, is what I recommend.

 
Ben Stallings
Posts: 151
Location: Emporia, KS
3
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Is your goal to keep the groundcover short during the transition? If not, I would just stop mowing and let nature take its course. The grass can only compete because of the mowing; take that away and other plants will shade out the grass very rapidly. Of course, they may not be plants you want, but they will provide ample biomass for other projects.

I don't remember where I found it, but when I was researching water conservation tips for landscaping, I came across a page on the USDA.gov site recommending this very strategy. The logic was, whatever is adapted to your climate will survive complete neglect, and everything else will die out. Of course they also publish lists of invasive weeds, so I guess there's a balance to be struck!
 
J. Cardina
Posts: 19
Location: Zone 7A, Comox Valley, Vancouver Island, Pacific Northwest, Canada
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Ben Stallings wrote:Is your goal to keep the groundcover short during the transition? If not, I would just stop mowing and let nature take its course. The grass can only compete because of the mowing;


Of course! How stupid of me. That makes perfect sense. I'll try a bit of what everyone suggested and see what I can do and definitely stop mowing and let nature take it's course.
I don't care at all what it looks like, we live in the country, no home owners assocation around these parts.

Cheers for that Ben!

 
Paul Cereghino
gardener
Posts: 855
Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
15
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
When harvesting biomass it is nice to let it grow nice and tall, but cut before it lodges (starts flopping over). A good scythe works really nice, but is expensive to start, but I have found that a scythe has changed how I look at pasture... as it gets tall, its not a problem, it just means a larger harvest.

When the grass gets tall, the density of stems per square foot decreases.. you end up with dead spots. Those are potential niches for seeds to establish. I think that for an initial introduction use fast germinating and growing species... Mustard is great, but requires some fertility. I've always used chickens to help prepare the bed, but have gone from pasture, to chickens to mustard to crop before. Some people put their seeds in clay pellets to improve seed-soil contact, and reduce bird predation (search for seed balls).

Also, you cottonwood will coppice (grow back from stump), and fixes nitrogen. It can root from a branch stuck in the ground. It might be a useful tool for you.

I take chunks of my overgrown pasture and put them in big heaps, let them rot down, and then plant a tree (with a cottonwood companion?)

In the end, I think Tyler's advice is good. You sound like you are trying to figure out how to get somewhere. When experimenting it is nice to try things out at small scale before launching at the 3/4 acre scale.
 
Kris Minto
Posts: 137
Location: Ottawa, Canada -- Zone 4b/5a
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Like others above have mention, I would let nature take its course and start planting a small food forest near the house and expend ever year or two.

Make sure you plan out the location of the tree and put some mulch around them to keep moisture and other plant from competing with the tree.

Kris
 
S Bengi
Posts: 1355
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
8
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Find a vine that runs on the run that grows really fast. work hard planting/watering/fertilizing a few and let them cover your yard. After they kill the grass you can just kill the few vines and then plant your food forest.
 
J. Cardina
Posts: 19
Location: Zone 7A, Comox Valley, Vancouver Island, Pacific Northwest, Canada
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thank you again everyone, some excellent ideas here, I really appreciate it. I have a lot to learn but I don't want to let a growing season go to waste while I'm learning and observing.
Cheers!
 
Andy Reed
Posts: 85
4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
geoff lawton would suggest overstocking it with chickens, or using a chicken tractor type set up. Something like that would kill most of the greenery and eat all the seeds. Though I suspect the chickens may get frozen. It takes time, and so does sheet mulching, for a cheep sheet mulch, use sheets, or blankets curtains etc. You can normally get them for cheap at the dump, recycling centre etc. For that matter you can get cardboard for free from the recycling centre.
 
This parrot is no more. It has ceased to be. Now it's a tiny ad:

the permaculture playing cards
richsoil.com/cards


  • Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic