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A lawn with no irrigation  RSS feed

 
Dinah Brickel
Posts: 8
Location: Austin, TX (zone 8)
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We will be moving into our acreage property next year. In the meantime, I'm trying to learn as much as I can about smart design (permaculture, energy efficiency, etc). I'd like to put in a lawn (100' X 50' maybe) for our kids to play on. I was thinking of digging about 2 feet deep and fill in with stuff we can gather from the property like leaves and twigs. Then mix in peat moss with the dirt/soil and top it off with compost. I'm looking into using Turfalo or Grassology - both boasting lower water requirements and slower/restricted growth than Bermuda. We are in Central Texas (zone 8 ) where the weather is hot and humid for 5-6 months of the year. Is this the right way to do it? Please chime in with your thoughts and comments. Thanks!
 
Jd Gonzalez
Posts: 225
Location: Virginia,USA zone 6
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Have you considered zoysia grass? The house we bough already had zoysia established and has not been watered or fertilized and the lawn is relatively green (except in winter when it turns a georgeous "blond") color. I'm in a zone 6b in Va.
 
Miles Flansburg
steward
Posts: 4028
Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
174
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Howdy Dinah, welcome to permies!

I do not know about texas but my best lawn was in Wyoming. I hauled in enough old horse manure to cover the soil with a foot of it. Tilled it in to about two feet deep and never had to do anything but water once in a while.
That was long before I found out about permies, so I would do it a little differently now.

Here is an article by Paul Wheaton about lawns that might help.

http://www.richsoil.com/lawn-care.jsp
 
Brian Vagg
Posts: 60
Location: Northern California - Zone 9b
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food preservation forest garden fungi
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Surely you would be able to create some really good soil (over time). A couple considerations:
- After about a year you will get quite a flush of mushrooms. I am not sure how long that will last but, it might impact how you would use the land.
- For the first few years the lawn will be pretty spongy as the biomass breaks down

If you have the patience to wait while the area settles you could have quite a fertile lawn. Keep us posted if you do decide to move forward.
 
Dinah Brickel
Posts: 8
Location: Austin, TX (zone 8)
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JD - We had neighbors who had zyosia for their lawn - beautiful. They're the first to green up in the spring. I think I crossed it out due to cost, but will revisit that option.
Miles - I will see what the nurseries and dirt yards have for manure. Here in Texas, if you apply 1/2 - 1 inch of compost to your lawn in early spring, you should be able to cut your lawn's watering needs by 1/3 in the summer.
Brian - This is a project slated for the fall. . . of 2015, but I will post how it all works out. My plan is to work on it up to the dirt/peat moss layer and have it watered and settled during the winter. In the spring will be the compost layer and the grass. What does it mean if mushrooms show up? Is it good?

BTW, we will be using rainwater for all of our water needs. Would love to hear more ideas/suggestions/corrections on how to achieve and maintain a lawn with no or very little irrigation.
 
Rebecca Norman
gardener
Posts: 1273
Location: Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
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This very website has a wonderful article about how to grow a lawn using less or no added water. Your plan sounds like it might be overkill (eg 2 feet might be more than you really need to dig and improve your soil, and peat moss is probably expensive and not the best for water and nutrients, compared to other cheaper possibilities).
http://www.richsoil.com/lawn-care.jsp
 
Dinah Brickel
Posts: 8
Location: Austin, TX (zone 8)
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OK, so the 1st layer will be debris from the property, next layer will be a mixture of the dug out dirt and compost, last layer will be soil. I'll be adding compost to the grass every spring as well. Thanks everyone!
 
Luke Townsley
Posts: 131
Location: Dugger, IN Zone 6a
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I just saw this thread. It's really hard to imagine a good reason to dig 12" down.

Unless there is a reason you need an instant perfect lawn, in which case you should water, I just don't see going to that much trouble as long as you can get a half decent stand of grass in that area right now.

I'm not sure what you have, but personally, I would consider seeding/planting something that can survive drought and give you enough growth to recover from the wear. What you already have could well be one of the best choices. Adding a legume such as clover might be helpful. It doesn't all have to be the same kind of grass.

Other than that, I would let the grass grow as tall as possible, During temperate rainy times, let it grow extra tall, then cut it down fairly short to make the roots go deeper and slough off and generally keep it as tall as possible throughout the year.

If you want faster growth and to hold more water in the soil, topdress it with a layer of organic fertilizer, compost or manure put down during times when the grass is growing well enough to grow through it quickly. Another alternative is a chicken tractor, just move it before the grass is worn down too much. A moderate amount of activated Biochar might also be a nice addition.
 
Dinah Brickel
Posts: 8
Location: Austin, TX (zone 8)
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Hi Luke! I read an article from a local magazine about some property owners in my area. Their lawn was lush and green whereas everyone else's was yellow. They had St. Augustine, which has a higher water requirement than zyosia or Bermuda, but they never watered it. The article was pointing out they had about 18 inches of good soil and credited the health and low maintenance of their lawn to the rich, deep soil.

Our property is "virgin" property and it's about 8.5 acres. We will start building our home this Fall/Winter; the lawn, the following Fall. I've looked into grass alternatives, but nothing so far is very heat hardy. The purpose of the lawn will be for our boys to play on, so it would have to to withstand the traffic. I really like your idea of adding clover. Thanks!
 
paul wheaton
master steward
Posts: 22374
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
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I would like to suggest that folks avoid peat moss. While it has upsides, it also has downsides.

I would also like to suggest that rather than focusing on just one species for a lawn, to consider many species. Polyculture is a powrful tool for the toolbox.

I think that if you are in texas, biochar would be worth considering. And in the northern climates - biochar is okay, and as much as I don't like biochar for gardens (because hugelkultur is superior) I think it could be a good soil amendment for a lawn so that the lawn does not become lumpy as woody bits under the surface decompose.

And, of course - the magic ingredient is deep topsoil.

When selecting grasses, be sure to select varieties that grow tall. Do not select varieties that grow short (the claim being that you mow less often) - those varieties often end up being out competed by other species. Including other species of grass. And the way to get the benefits that are advertised is to (gak!) spray.
 
paul wheaton
master steward
Posts: 22374
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
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I want to point out an old thread where a guy had this:





And I suggested that he try the "worm pit" technique (dig a hole and refill it with a lot more organic matter)




the results:



 
Alex Ames
Posts: 406
Location: Georgia
5
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No water, no chemicals including fertilizer. I have centipede grass and
I cut it short. In the Spring I have tons of weeds. Instead of spraying them
I mow them and they burn off, then the centipede starts to run fueled by the
weeds and worm castings. So this was my last mowing for 2014.
image.jpg
[Thumbnail for image.jpg]
 
Alex Ames
Posts: 406
Location: Georgia
5
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This shows our viewing arrangement for the recent total eclipse of
The Hunter's Moon. Coffee in hand and framed by the pine trees.

It is night here now and I can assure you there are 3 or more deer
sleeping out there. In the morning I can see where they matted it down.
image.jpg
[Thumbnail for image.jpg]
 
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