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Starting new lawn in rocky/woody clay  RSS feed

 
                            
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As the title states that is what I am trying to do in addition to doing this in the most severe drought conditions this state has ever seen (Exceptional now which is worse than extreme) and now I am trying to beat the cold weather that is coming (in Northern SC).

We finally got a little rain between Thanksgiving and now, the first rain I had seen since August. I planted rye grass in some of my difficult areas for errosion control where steep slopes abound and water runoff areas before we do start getting rain. I also planted a 500x30ft area where the power company dug and really messed up the grass.

Every time I rake, boxblade or disk all I bring up are egg sized (sometimes larger) rocks, twigs, roots, and branches. The 30 acres are in a pine tree farm and I clear cut 2 acres in the center for our home. I have spent COUNTLESS hours with my son picking up rocks and wood and dumping them deep in the woods.

Now that we have had a bit of rain in the past 2 weeks I can't do anything! I have to wear muck boots and I sink about 2-4 inches into the clay/dirt. The rye is long but I am no way near able to mow since the tires would just sink. Forget raking or disking the areas that did not grow so I could re-seed since both the ATV and tractor would either get stuck or just tear up the ground way too bad.

What do you all suggest. I want to grow something that will keep errosion to a minimum but most of all a grass that will give me a good solid bed to walk or drive the ATV/Tractor on without getting all muddy and sinking in the ground.
The 500x30ft area is 300ft from the closest water source PLUS the line needed to cover the area. NOTHING, NOT EVEN A BLADE of grass grew in this area since I was not able to hand water. 2-3 weeks went by before the first good rain (the only major rain) but nothing grew. Soil testing was done by the AG office and I was told that a good 10-10-10 was needed and that is what I had put down. Where the grass did grow (with some thin or no grass areas) I watered every night for about 1 week. That was a loss of between $150-200 in supplies.

I know rye will die by June or so here but I don't care. I need to get something growing to keep errosion at bay and something that will build the ground so I can get around.  In the spring I plan to re-plant some TF or some Bahia grass for the final lawn.

Rich
York SC
 
paul wheaton
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does it frost/snow there?

I suspect that you will have better luck planting in the spring.

I wouldn't use any fertilizer until after the first mow.  Most seeds/seedlings seem to do better starting off without fertilizer. 

 
                            
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We have had a few mornings of frost but not many. I am in South Carolina and temps have been daytime in the 50's this week, 60's last week and just after Thanksgiving in the 70's for about a 10-12 days.

The 10-10-10 that I dropped was before I seeded and it was recomended by the local farm supply store who read the soil testing I had done by the local AG office.

This is rye grass, the toughest thing I can think of that will grow fast even though it will not last into the hot months. Bottom line I need SOMETHING to prevent errosion during the winter.
 
                            
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Well it happened! I guess we can't complain since were were .600 of an inch away from the driest year on record. Tody weather models expect 2-3 inches but the local guy predicts 1.5-2 inches. It has rained for the past 2 days with a short dry spot yesterday afternoon and I took advantage of that. When we arrived from dinner Friday night I found a huge and ugly washout, same spot where it has happened in the past before the house was built.

I went to Lowes and bought some 4in corrugated pipe, some adapters and a few traps with drain grates. It did not take much to trench a bit more along the washout and I found that it was full of a yellow/orange sand. Apparently builders just pushed it over from the driveway and covered it over, the sand was dry just like peat moss does when it get's wet while the dirt/clay was wet so I think I found ONE cause. I put a trap at the top with a grate and set the pipe down hill over to a natural creek and since it's raining heavy now I can say it looks better. I could not pack the trench up since most of the dirt washed away and it's too wet for me to get the tractor out without tearing up my grading. I need to steal some dirt from somewhere on the property to replace what I had lost.

I found a couple of other washouts but not as large and a few cracks/cave in's near the septic tanks, looks like a sink hole. I guess they did not pack very well when they installed the 2 tanks. All I can say is that it appears I will need to install a LOT of drainage pipe to get all the problems resolved. I think the $10K I just came across that was going to go towards the installation of a radio tower at the house will end up going towards a backhoe for my Kubota.
 
paul wheaton
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Annual ryegrass?

Ok - you need something that will grow in the cold and create a strong matt, right? 

Well, how about hairy vetch?  It grows in the early spring and generates a lot of biomass.  The trick is that it will grow to six feet tall if it isn't mowed. 

Any grass seed isn't going to do much right now - probably not even gernminate until march sometime.  And when that rolls around, you should probably use tall fescue.


BTW --- having cut down all those trees, your soil is probably really acidic.  You will want to have it tested.


 
                            
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Yes annual Rye and it has germinated since Thanksgiving. Granted it took some time but I think it needed much more water than normal due to temperatures below 60. We have only had 2 hard freeze nights and daytime temps in the 50's to 70's since Thanksgiving. This week is going to be different with temp's in the teen's at night.

Tall Fescue and Kentucky 31 is what I was planning on for most of the lawn with some Bahia grass for the slopes since it's much tougher. Hairy Vetch ? never heard of that. I did about 6 soil samples through the property and most areas are quite good, took the results to the local AG supply and they stated around the house 10-10-10 would do just fine.

I thought the ground was firming up since it felt good today so I went out and cut down a few trees out of need. Winds picked up last night and with all the rain we had I thought 2-3 of them had to be taken out to clear a path for the DishNetwork signal since it was going in and out. Signals improved but when I took the tractor out with the grapple to clean up the trees I sunk. Too much weight so the trees will need to wait to be moved out. Well 2 hours later of repacking and taking the tractor tire ruts out.. well maybe at least I packed the dirt down better where I drove and repacked.
 
paul wheaton
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annual ryegrass will not survive a hard freeze.

If you are going to tinker with any grass seed at this time, go with tall fescue.

 
John Meshna
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Location: Vermont
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I'm guessing spring comes much sooner in SC than Vermont so, pretty soon you'll be able to plant some grass seed and mulch the area down.
  Between now and then you can prevent some wash outs and help the soil along by frost seeding some winter rye or winter wheat.  You can put the seed in a 5 gallon pail and walk along broadcasting it as you go.  It won't make you a nice long lasting lawn but it can withstand the cold winter and come up right away, as soon as the conditions are right for it and hold the soil in place as well as condition the soil.  Winter rye and winter Wheat can grow in conditions lawn grass cannot tolerate.  Once the weather gets steady and you have the time to plant the grass seed, you can mow the wheat or rye down short and over seed right into it without tilling or disturbing the soil.  Eventually the rye and wheat will die from being cut so much and the summer heat will burn it out.
  These grains can grow in some pretty crappy soil too so, you can throw them into wash areas and cover them with heavy wheat straw mulch or old hay to hold the soil in place for a while until the weather and time graph line up and you can get out there and do a proper job of it.
 
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