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Lawn Solarization  RSS feed

 
Bryan LeGare
Posts: 2
Location: San Joaquin Valley Zone 8A
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Hope I have the right forum here (Newbie). I want to get rid of all the lawn on the property I recently purchased and replace with local drought tolerant varieties (ground covers, bushes, trees). Because the lawn is/was both fescue and some bermuda along the boarders, I'm wondering if I would need to dig it all out by hand (I'm disabled) before solarizing. My primary reason for solarizing is to kill off all the grass/weed seeds and unwanted bugs, as well as helping to release some of the soluble nutrients. I live in Fresno CA so getting soil temp to 150-165 degrees is very obtainable in summer months using a solarization method, but wonder if leaving the old turf there would be an insulator to the soil? I stopped all watering when I moved in five months ago so most all of the lawn area's are brown (we've had only a very small bit of rain). Has anyone done this? Any help/input greatly appreciated. Cheers!
 
Bippy Grace
Posts: 13
Location: Elgin, Texas 581 ft elevation/ zone 8b/ 34 inches avg. rainfall (hah)/ Mediterranean climate
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My Mom used the black plastic solarizing on chunks of our yard as a kid, I don't think it did the ground any favors. I do understand the problems that come from being disabled/with limited mobility and trying to garden, if you have the energy sheet mulching with a few layers of cardboard on the bottom is a pretty good way to go, but gathering and moving that much material can be hard on one's body.

I'm a permie nerd from way back but I have my own disability/mobility issues, and I'm probably going to rototill to get the grass up on a few beds this year, because I've been gathering materials for sheet mulching and using a broadfork to double dig for 4 months now, and I'm about 1/5th the way through where I wanted to be in establishing beds for this year. Sometimes you need to use a less-than-perfect method for getting started, and as things get established (and easier!). I have access to a trailer, but I have a little 4 cyl eco friendly Honda Fit with no towing anything, and getting enough material for a lot of mulching into plastic totes that I can haul around in my econo car is just... slow. Really, really slow.

I'd say split it up- solarize one third, do deep mulch on another third, and see if you can get someone to till for you on the last third. You can gather deep mulch materials while the first third is being solarized, to deep mulch THAT bed when it's done being fried. You''ll get a deep mulch bed to start with this year, a tilled bed to start with this year, and time to get everything together for the last bed.

My two cents, might not work for you, but it's pretty close to what I'm doing!
 
Bryan LeGare
Posts: 2
Location: San Joaquin Valley Zone 8A
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Thanks Bippy, I appreciate your input!

Solarizing with black plastic would be very difficult as it would prevent the solar rays from entering the soil and being trapped under the clear plastic; black will absorb heat, but it won't transmit it very far into the soil. In order to be effective, the soil needs to reach extreme temps to kill off (most) all the seeds and pretty much all of the nasty bugs. UC Davis has some interesting articles on solarization free to the public from their website www.ipm.ucdavis.edu

I was actually able to find some additional info (Google) on people solarizing lawns and it seems that it isn't really necessary to dig it out before hand (realizing that there may be some bounce-back growth from some deep rooted varieties). I am going to give it a shot come June/July to see how it works. I'll post back the results (if I can remember)

Thanks again for your input, I picked up some valuable info on sheet composting!
 
Nick Kitchener
Posts: 477
Location: Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada
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Yeah, I'd go the sheet mulching method myself.

Remember that the grass will only grow when the growing conditions are suitable for them. Likewise, seeds will only germinate under the appropriate germination conditions.

If you sheet mulch and plant with ground covers etc, then all the new environmental niches are taken up by the new plants and there isn't really any opportunity for the grass any more.
 
Peter Ellis
Posts: 1432
Location: Central New Jersey
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One thing to keep in mind about solarization - it kills the soil. Not selectively the things you want to kill, but everything in the area that you solarize.

Then when you want to move along with the things you want to grow, you have a sterile soil, with nothing in the way of the supporting ecosystem that your new plantings need present in the soil. You have to build all of that from scratch. And, by making a clean slate, you've also made a great opportunity for colonization by things that you may not really want there.
 
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