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The Great Grass Debate

 
Landon Sunrich
pollinator
Posts: 1703
Location: Western Washington
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So - there are so many forums - I never know which to post in (permie-chats?). I'm new here!

I have built my mound (a hugle with oyster spawn) and am wondering what to skin it with.

Here are my thoughts - and hold onto your armchairs - grass

Are you jaws dropped? Is Bill Mollison going to arrest me!?

Alright so seriously - I'm thinking of using a delicate grass which is good for grazing (anyone with practical pasture management skills on the site?)
and I would never dream of a mono culture. Those are nightmares

I'm thinking

1) Dactylis glomerata L - Orchard Grass which I'm hoping has delicate blades and a mild easy to pull root system.

http://www.turf.uiuc.edu/turfSpecies/tourfunction/UtilityMowedFrames.html

2) Secale cereale - Rye - for its deeper more penetrating roots

http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=sece

3) Mixed Clovers - These seem like a no-brainer since they fix their own nitrogen.

http://pubs.cas.psu.edu/freepubs/pdfs/uc083.pdf

Clicking is fun!

Lest I forget and look like a total jerk - There are two 90 year old apple tree presiding over the whole affair. So yes technically a food forest post. Also I have geese - I'm pretty sure they'll eat like kings come spring. Best believe I have plans (and not a rotation - a progression).

I'll have photos up soon.
 
Renate Howard
pollinator
Posts: 755
Location: zone 6b
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Is it going to stay grazed or do you want to plant more in it in the future? Not sure why you'd want a delicate grass for grazing. Geese aren't delicate about grazing and can handle tougher grasses, at least the ones I had could.

If it's a smaller plot I might go with a deer plot seed blend - one with lots of kinds of clover plus annual rye and add in some bluegrass, but that's what would do well in my region. I don't know where you are located, grasses are kind of by region/climate. The annual rye was relished by pigs, cattle, and other animals when I planted it, and it grows well into winter so you can start grazing it sooner. If you want the "grass" to die out to make room for something else, I'd pick a short-lived clover like red clover plus an annual rye or oats or wheat instead of the bluegrass because once that gets established it's pretty long-lived.
 
Landon Sunrich
pollinator
Posts: 1703
Location: Western Washington
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My thoughts are to cover crop it with grasses/clovers to get a layer of life up and kicking as quickly as possible and then mob graze it in spring as the first and and last plot in a rotation that goes from one side of the lawn to the other and back again - Salatin style - getting a concentration of manure and urea while there's still rain to wash it down into logs. After the final grazing I am going to use hot coals to burn out the roots of what I have planted in small keyholes. I'm talking about spots the size of diner plates. This will adjust my pH a bit towards the vegetable side of things, and should remove all traces of compitition from a very select area which can than be planted in both annual veg and perennials. Rhubarb, parsnips, carrots, alliums and a good flower mix are what I'm thinking for a late spring planting.

I am totally unattached to the Orchard grass. Do you have experience with it? I don't - my experience has been in row cropping and wildcrafting. But I am looking to try out a good grass as mine is pretty rough and rank, its also full of creeping flowers like buttercup. My geese shun it for the the greener stuff over at my neighbors whenever they get a chance, and I am pretty sure geese are going to be a regular part of my food system - they have a great tempermant, take care of themselves, and put on weight really quickly, they're not even that noisy until they get to butchering weight and their voices drop. So I'm looking for some good grass to support them.

It will most likely not be grazed to far out of the first year - seems like a waste of a huglekulture - I would be looking to have the grass more or less out by the second spring. I think I can manage that using fire, a digging knife, and a kama. What do you think?

It's not planted yet. Totally open to more input. Straight Rye/Clover would be more conventional. Looking to seed tonight or tomorrow. Also thoughts on germination? It is mid-July.
 
Adam Klaus
author
gardener
Posts: 946
Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
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I would strongly discourage orchard grass for your hugel. I have a lot of orchard grass and my experience with it, is that it forms very strong clumps that are very difficult to eradicate. It is a good pasture grazing species because it is productive in the cold weather of early spring and late fall. It does not runner much. But it forms very desnse crown clumps and very deep fibrous root systems. I would definitely use an annual grass that will die out on its own. Better still, use an annual clover that will provide better soil improving qualities.

One other caution for your plan, I think that small, dinner plate clearings will be too small for good vegetable growth. Clearings that size will have neighboring grass (or other plant) roots quickly colonizing the area, so your dinnerplate size area will quickly become more like a teacup. Grass roots are the only weed competition that I feel really hinder vegetable growth. Again, clover would be a much more compatible choice for covering your hugels while stlll allowing for good vegetable growth. I also like chicory a lot for its large taproot and ease of eradication.

good luck!
 
Landon Sunrich
pollinator
Posts: 1703
Location: Western Washington
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Adam - Cool. And thank you. Very helpful post.
 
John Elliott
pollinator
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Crimson clover does very well on my hugels. Grows about twice as big as it does on non-hugel areas.
 
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