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Make your lawn amazing by introducing earthworm towns  RSS feed

 
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Scott,

I was planning to do this Italian-American Bronx style.  That is to say, wrap it up with tarps, or a chicken wire frame with dry leaves inside.  And it must be topped with the prerequisite 5 gallon galvanized bucket on top.  In the old days, they used to wrap the fig trees with linoleum, and put the bucket on top.  Kids would say they are going to the neighborhood that grows Linoleum trees...

I intended to plant it on the south side of the house up against the foundation and maybe surround it with large rocks.  Between the concrete foundation at 3 foot high, and the rocks, I thought it would have a chance for it to survive.  The Tip makes me nervous.  I know I would break it.  Also would not want to haul around the bucket to the garage or basement if it has a chance of making it in the ground.

Any thoughts about the wrapping technique?  I live in zone 6, and we lived in zone 5, The Bronx NY, when I was growing up.  We never covered ours and it always survived.


Al
 
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The old Tipping method, usually called the (insert Italian American slur referring to a certain breed of hen here) Tip, is where you dig a trench below root level to one side of the tree,  and tip the tree into the trench, and then cover it all with the soil from the trench. Reverse process in spring when temps are amenable. Never tried it but your method sounds equitable and I was taught my version (and it's name) by an Italian American nurseryman who had been in the game longer than I have been alive, so it should work fine...

I knew you were Italian already; y'all are the only ones buying and growing figs. I see one and I just know; it's like flying the Italian flag as far as I'm concerned...  And you ain't in the city anymore with those warm streets and buidings radiating heat all night that they soaked up all day; you can't do nothing and expect it to come through the crazy weather global warming is throwing around (jet stream amplitude variation is a bitch...)

S
 
Al Loria
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HaHa!  I've been outed.  It was that obvious, huh?  Us Eyetalian-Americans are almost the only ones who buy these trees and try to grow them under the most impossible conditions.  We must be nuts!  I know of only one person, who happens to live in SC, and he is not of Italian heritage, but he has a fig tree.  He sent me some pics of his and I knew I had to have one.

Love the line about the tick eating Hens.  I'm still rolling.  I never take offense to any of it. 

I've read about the tipping method and it does seem more advisable than the cover up with tarp routine.  And, you are right about it being colder upstate.  Much colder at night, especially. 

Well, its getting late, actually, it is past late, and I should be lowering my flag outside by now.  Green white and red just doesn't look good at night with a light on it.

Take care, and thanks for the tip on tipping.


Al
 
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Is this not about lawns?  Should I move it?
 
Al Loria
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paul wheaton wrote:
Is this not about lawns?  Should I move it?



Paul, I figured I strayed off my own topic and that of the forum.  If you wish to move it, please do so, but I think I am all done with the fig stuff.

I would hope you would leave this as I want to post pics of how well the lawn is doing in the future.  It is amazing that the high cut seems to have been a big part of the faster than expected recovery.


Al
 
Al Loria
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Scott Reil wrote:
I like buddy's regimen, but in the fall when weed competition is at it's lowest...

Compost topdressing I would do now; even out the lawn surface and start getting some humus in that surface zone. Core aerate now before the hots hit, topdress, and wait until fall for slit seeding...

WHAT topsoil? I saw little evidence of ANY...

HG




Scott,  managed to get another 1/4 inch of compost/topsoil applied over this past weekend.  My 20 year old dump pile compost supply is getting low so I inoculated some store-bought topsoil with my compost and hope that will do for now.  Looking into a 3 bin or a tumbler compost bin to put in the sun to speed up the production process.

Almost all the dead spots are filled in and my neighbors lawns are going into heat stress now with the 90+ degree heat we've gotten the past few days.  Mine is still super green and has to be mowed again.  Love the high mower setting and the tree shaded area of that front lawn.

As soon as it cools down, we will rent that post hole digger and get back to the worm pits.


Al
 
Scott Reil
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Sounds good Al; moving forward...

Don't know why you are suprised about the longer cut; both Paul and I have inequivocally stated time and again that this is the number one tip to organic lawn control. Why do you think all the rest of the industry wants you to cut at two inches? So they can sell you all their chemicals!

HG
 
Al Loria
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Scott Reil wrote:
Sounds good Al; moving forward...

Don't know why you are surprised about the longer cut; both Paul and I have unequivocally stated time and again that this is the number one tip yo organic lawn control. Why do you think all the rest of the industry wants you to cut at two inches? So they can sell you all their chemicals!

HG



I am surprised by the results.  No way did I think this would have had a fairly simple solution to it.

Not wanting to speak for Paul, but I have seen him frustrated at having to preach the high mow being very key to a healthy lawn, and his getting vague answers as to the heights people are mowing.  Some believe high is 2 inches. 

We've been brainwashed into thinking we have to have a golf course lawn, weedless, perfect, and short.  That will keep you feeding your lawn environmentally harmful chemicals forever.  And drain your pocket at the same time.

I found it hard to understand that just mowing 3.5 to 4 inches and doing a few other simple, and actually cheap amendments, would bring results this quickly.  We have been led to believe it costs money and constant applications of synthetic chemicals to have a great lawn.  When it is almost free, as in just raising your mower to the highest setting, one tends to be skeptical.  Nothing is free, right? 

I took a couple of pics tonight after we mowed.  As soon as I can get my son to post them, I will.  In the fall, it should look awesome.  And, now I am thinking of ways to reduce the lawn area.  After reading Gaia's garden and looking at the permaculture forums, I am seeing the benefit of less lawn. 

You guys made a believer out of me. 

Scott, I appreciate all the time and patience you've taken getting me on the right track

Paul, I am an administrator on a cancer support group site, so I know a little of what goes into keeping a site afloat.  You do an amazing job educating others by sharing your knowledge and time.  Thanks.


Al



 
Scott Reil
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Al the cancer reduction angle for going organic is not to be overlooked either; there is increasing evidence to support the link between cancer and lawn pesticides.

A recent Canadian study looked at mother/child pairs in two groups; one where the children had leukemia and one without. It was not suprise to me to find that the incidence of lawn chemical use was 65% higher in the leukemia group, even showing up more significantly in blood. A four step program; apply, get sick, go to hospital and MAYBE survive, maybe not...

Glad to hear this is working for you. Keep up the good work and start spreading the word...

S
 
Al Loria
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Here are the pics of the lawn taken last night.  You can see the difference from the May 2nd photos.  The only watering that was done was over the seeded area, and not much at that.  The simple and easy steps of mowing high, spreading a little compost and organic fert was all it took.  The worm pits should even make it better.
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Al Loria
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A couple more.

Let me know what you think.


Al
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Scott Reil
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The color is great; means those protozoa in the tea are chomping bacteria and releasing plenty of nitrogen, which is the big beauty of the tea...

Not a lot of weed gras or broadleaf; looks better than mine! (but I have more clover...  :wink

S
 
Al Loria
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Scott,  thanks for the compliment.  The Fall pics will be the real proof.


Al
 
                                  
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Nice, Al! I am going through a similar process so I know the feeling.

Can you, or better yet, Paul, tell us more about the worm pits? I don't remember reading about them in Paul's cheap and lazy article. Are you doing them all over the yard? Are you adding your own worms? Will the worms spread throughout the soil, between pits?

I am thinking about building a small worm bin, cultivating worms, and manually adding them to my garden and lawn. But maybe there are better ways?

Thanks,
Ryan
 
Al Loria
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Ryan, the worm pit explanation is in Paul's article.  Here is the link. http://www.richsoil.com/lawn-care.jsp

I will be doing the entire lawn as soon as I fight off this toe infection I have.  In fact, going to see the doctor in a few minutes.

The worms will come by themselves when the soil gets better.

The only thing extra I added to the process was putting on Humates.  I wish there were some additional threads and posts about whether or not Humates are effective.

Good luck.

Al

 
Scott Reil
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Humates (sometimes known as brown coal) are just that; a high carbon input that increases your Cation Exchange Capacity (ability of the soil to hold onto nutrients).

So if there are nutrients to hold onto, it's great, if not, it won't do much. My other objection to humates is a sustainability issue; if you have to mine this rock, a minerally stabilized form of carbon, then ship it across the country (it's found in the Rockies mostly), where you put it into soil where it will be solubilized and put back into the atmospheric cycle, isn't that like burning coal as far as the carbon footprint goes? Just to put carbon back in the soil which you can do with humus, which you can get as compost, along with a lot of other goodies?

Humates don't make sense to me from a green perspective... just skip the carbon intensive mining and shipping and go right to compost, which is at least already in the atmospheric cycle...

S
 
Al Loria
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I'll agree about humates being a non-sustainable form of soil enhancing.  What I really don't understand is are there the same advantages from just using compost?  In that case, why all the hoopla about humates in the first place. 

I tried doing some more research today, and most of the positives come from companies that are connected with the distribution of humates or products derived from humates.  I would rather use my own compost than the humates if there is no advantage to humates in the first place.

I did increase my amount of compost production by getting a Vermont Solar Composter made out of recycled food barrels.  Along with the compost pile I have going, this should provide a good supply for lawn and garden. 
 
Scott Reil
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It's carbon in soil, Al, either way... That's ALL humate does, while compost does much more... the humate IS more concentrated, but so what? Just use more compost!

Carbon increases CEC, but it does not matter if that is mineralized carbon, charcoal, humic carbon, or (and here's where the compost really wins hands down) biological carbon... (the most nitrogen intense lifeforms, bacteria are C:N of 5:1, fungus around 20:1, protozoa at 30:1, nematodes a whopping 100:1!)

Which of these makes more of themselves? (Hint: It ain't humates; like coal or oil, you CAN'T make more of them as we have bacteria that break down lignin now. The epitome of non-sustainable sourcing!)



S
 
Al Loria
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You've convinced me, Scott.  Does not make any sense to pay for something that is not as beneficial as my own compost.  Problem solved, money saved.  Wow, I get a win-win on this one.

 
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Wow!  So are these new pictures taken just one month after the first?  If so I am a believer in this method!  Well I was before - but now even more so!  We have a lot of decaying grass from mowing clippings being left on the lawn.  I know that it good for the lawn to some extent but since it has been wet now mushrooms are popping up everywhere. 

Am I correct that Paul doesn't think any type of aerating is a good idea?  Other than the worms taking care of it? 

How many holes did you end up digging Northwest Al?

If I don't have my own compost what do I do for the half and half mixture in the holes? 

THanks!
 
Al Loria
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x96mac wrote:
Wow!  So are these new pictures taken just one month after the first?  If so I am a believer in this method!  Well I was before - but now even more so!  We have a lot of decaying grass from mowing clippings being left on the lawn.  I know that it good for the lawn to some extent but since it has been wet now mushrooms are popping up everywhere. 

Am I correct that Paul doesn't think any type of aerating is a good idea?  Other than the worms taking care of it? 

How many holes did you end up digging Northwest Al?

If I don't have my own compost what do I do for the half and half mixture in the holes? 

THanks!



It has been raining so much here that I can't get the rest of the holes dug.  I think I might just continue to do them one big hole at a time for the rest of the summer if this continues.  Every day I've been off it has rained.

If you don't have the compost for the holes, use leaves, twigs, grass clippings or whatever you have that will decompose.  Possibly buy a couple of bags of compost or topsoil. (I'm gonna get yelled at for that one.)

The one big hole we dug (in the picture) and replaced the existing grass back on top of, has the grass growing at a much faster rate than the rest of the lawn. I know the holes do make a difference.

Look, I din't aerate, except for using those stupid shoes with the spikes on them, and it turned out well. So I am not going to aerate.  I really did not expect it to be so good so soon.  And the little reseeding I did was not a big factor in this.  The soil is better and the grass is growing. 

I would suggest you get a compost pile going.  I went out and got one of those recycled food container composters and it is speeding up production.  Should take about a month total for the first load. Here's the link for the brand I have. http://www.jackscomposters.com/ The only difference is mine is a black drum and is either 52 or 55 gallons. I also have a pile going in the corner of the property.  I am going to compost the lawn and garden all summer long, or until I run out of compost.  I do want to save some for the fall, though.

I am seeing worms all around the property, but the slugs are coming as fast as the worms.  The price of wet weather.

Good luck, and post some before and after pics.  May not happen as fast, but you will be amazed when it does.
 
Scott Reil
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Well Al this rainy weather hasn't hurt your turf much, so there's that... 

Gotta say that your lawn is a good ad for organic landcare. You couldn't get a turn around like this with chemicals. Bringing in biology is the secret; life begets life...

Nice job AL...

S
 
Al Loria
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Scott, thanks again.  I really am amazed at how quickly it has turned around.  I'm sure the rain has something to do with it too.  I find myself stopping to look at it every morning as I leave for work. 

Organic is the only way to go.  Anyone should be able to get results if they follow the mow high and no chemical route.   I am dying to get more compost on it though.  Trying to churn out as much as I can this year.  Not that I need for the lawn to look any better.  Only want it to stay that way.  I don't even care about the weeds.  it is green!

By the way, I did over seed the lawn with clover.  Lots of it.  It started to come up, then pooped out.  Only the preexisting clover is still there.  Small white flowers on a green background do look cool.  I wish the red would have taken hold.  The clover we seeded on the slope in back is taking off like gangbusters.  Go figure.

P.S.  Figs are just now popping up.


Al
 
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If you really want to scale up your compost operation, you might get some inspiration from Rob, writer of the blog One Straw. He has a deal with a local cafe, and all sorts of other schemes to get more organic matter into his soil.
 
Al Loria
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Joel, That is one serious compost bin.  I am going to seriously consider building one myself.  Might only be a 3 bin for now.  I have plenty of leaves that I can draw from all year long.  The bottom of our slope is a natural trap for fall and winter wind-blown leaves.  The thickets back there stop just about anything.  I am right now using the bottom of the slope as an additional slow compost heap.  I've been layering the walkway with the bamboo-like ornamental grass we have to cut down as it becomes invasive.  It is over the leaf bed and makes a nice soft walking path.  I also have the leaf pile at the edge of the property and the rotating composter.  The rotator is doing a bang up job at quick production.  I have it in full sun and tonight's check shows it well on its way to provide the first 30 or so gallons of black gold.  The other systems are just mainly nature taking its course, and the earthworms and whatever else gets to it will eventually break it all down.  The bin system will be the icing on the cake.  I just need to grow more greens for the compost and I will be set.  Tomorrow, if the rain holds off, (not likely,) I will machete the wild rhubarb and weeds.

I need to get that two man post hole digger and get the worm pits done.  Then I should be set for a rough winter without having to lose the lawn again.

I will post the pics of the holes when we do them.


Al
 
paul wheaton
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Al,

My first thought was to ask "can I use those pics for my artilce?" but then it seems like you may have done more than mow high and stuff like that. 

So you mowed high, and you used some homemade compost, and ...  what else? 

Maybe (with your permission, of curse) I could use the pics and have one sentence that says what you did.  Was this over one month?
 
Al Loria
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Paul, 

The first thing I did before ever finding this site was to put down the JG organic fertilizer during a hot spell in April.  Then I added humates (maybe a waste of time) and I just remembered I did use gypsum (might have been another waste of time and money).  After reading your article and finding the site I started to mow at the highest setting my toro recyler mower will mow. I reseeded the bare sport with JG shady Nooks, also in April. I did some other reseeding by the walkway, which you cannot see in the pics, with Agway high traffic tall fescue in June.  I added compost from the back lot that had been mellowing there for 20 years.  I only watered enough for the seeds to germinate which was about 2 weeks plus, then I backed off on the watering because of all the rain we had.  It has not rained in over a week now, and although it has some burning, my lawn is still the greenest in the development.  And I will not water it unless it is all turning brown.

My lawn is mostly fescue from what I see.  I don't think KBG would have ever survived.  The Fine fescue in one spot is really looking nasty, but it is confined to about a 5 foot diameter.

The worst spots in the center, which you can see in the earlier pic, did not do well with the reseeding and the grass you see is what filled in naturally.  Total time from first pics to second set was about 3 weeks.

This past week I put another 1/4 inch of compost on it.

I dug the first set of worm holes and still have yet to complete them.  4 so far.  The largest hole which I posted to show yo the soil has the greenest fullest grass on it.  that grass was the cut off that was on the top of the hole and it looks better than any other spot.  This makes me think that the worm holes will work, but they might need to be broader than the post hole size.  Also the soil in the large pit is soft enough to push a stick into it about a foot deep.  I'm sure the roots like that soil too. 

In your opinion, should I wait until fall to do the rest of the worm pits?

In short, I mowed high, used organic fert, humates, gypsum, and reseeded the bare spots. 


I am going outside right now to pull a plug to see if the worm pit hole grass has deeper roots than the neighboring soil.  You got me curious. Will report back.

Feel free to use my pics any way you wish to.  I really can't wait to see how my fall pics turn out. 



Al



 
Al Loria
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Paul,
These are the two plugs from the lawn.  The one on the right is from over the worm pit, and the one on the left is about 1 inch outside of the pit.  You can see the difference in the root size.  The top soil is thicker loamy material on the right and the grass is greener and fuller.  The soil was very dry and hard to dig into with a hand shovel.  Even the worm pit area was fairly hardened. The plug on the left is smaller in diameter because the ground was very hard and I could not easily get a larger plug.

I do believe the soil is better in the worm pit area and it appears that more topsoil has built up in the root zone.  The roots did go slightly deeper, but the clay on both samples was so hard and dry that it would have been impossible to remove them intact.  The roots below the bottom of the plugs were not substantial, however.

Both samples are better than when I started out this year with almost no topsoil to speak of.  The clay under the roots was hard to dig through, yet it was crumbly when a piece was taken out to examine.  It was not like the concrete I expected, but still almost impossible to dig by hand. 

So that is the update for now.  Any additional suggestions would be appreciated.


Al

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Al Loria
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In the continuing saga of this lawn project I have an update.  We just had a downpour of epic proportions.  I figured this is the time to check for worms on the lawn.  After fifteen minutes of looking for worms fleeing from the flood, or even and abandoned worm hole, I found none.  This is disheartening to say the least. 

Under every pile of leaves still on the edges of the property there are worms a plenty.  In the garden and on the slope we have worms too.  I am seriously thinking the compaction of the soil is preventing a good enough habitat. 

Short of starting over I am thinking of big worm pits in the fall with massive amounts of leaves and twigs.  A mini Hugelkultur of sorts.  That, or else it comes down to a total redo with trucked in topsoil and a rototill.  That is the last thing I want to do, especially since I blew out my knee and am waiting for the results of the MRI I had today.  May not be able to do either by the fall anyway.

The other thought I had was to put down cardboard, pile leaves, manure and straw in a lasagna garden style on a spot in the center of the lawn and put in some switch grass or a flower bed so it does not look like crap. Then let the worms come into there and hopefully extend their range to the rest of the soil.

Anyone else have a thought?  I'm open to all suggestions.


Al
 
Al Loria
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I just went out and rooted around again to see if there was anything living in the soil after yesterday's 2" rain.  Where the original worm pit was in the photos above I found worm castings in a small open spot between the grass crowns, and then a worm.  There were numerous worm castings in the 18" diameter area of the pit.  Only saw the one worm, but it does prove the pits work.  Looks like that is the answer for the rest of the lawn come fall.  The post hole size pits were blended in and too hard to locate.  I have a shepherd's crook with hanging baskets over the large pit as it was the only place we could drive it into the ground.  It made it easy to find the site.


Al
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Al Loria wrote:After fifteen minutes of looking for worms fleeing from the flood, or even and abandoned worm hole, I found none.  This is disheartening to say the least. 



My first thought reading that, was:

"I bet your drainage is far better than your neighbors'. The worms in your lawn have had to abandon their basements, but are probably happy in their attics; other worms in the neighborhood are refugees."

Then I read your follow-up comment. Congrats on happy worms, that can shelter in place!

Among other functions, I believe the post holes are serving as "dry wells" of a sort. The more mixing and root/decomposition activity at the bottom of them, the better water will drain from them.
 
Al Loria
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I may have to agree on the dry well effect of the pits, Joel.  I constantly read of the difficulty of amending clay soil with a lawn in place.  The difficulty lies in the time involved.  We are talking years, and not many are willing to wait.  I started off thinking I was beating the time line after the lawn greened up and filled in so quickly, only to have it regress during the summer heat.  The only encouragement was finding a worm over the worm pit and lots of worm castings.  Getting organic material to migrate deep into the soil takes a while and there are times it looks like it isn't happening.  It can be discouraging.  I do notice draining from the places that had normally had standing water from rain running off the walkway are absorbing water at almost twice the rate as before.  So, there is visual evidence that something is going on.

If others had done the worm pits and found that the advantages spread horizontally to include the entire lawn I wish they would post the results.  Until then, I guess I will be the guinea pig and keep reporting on whether Paul's idea works or not.

The lasagna/sheet mulch method worked in our garden as I have seen organics moving 2" down into the clay soil in only a few months.  You can't do that on an existing lawn without killing the grass and having to reseed.  If money and time were no object I may have just buried the whole thing under 4" of topsoil and at least have had a good base to start from.

As the first rule of real estate purchasing goes; location, location, location.  Organic lawn care's rule must be; patience, patience, patience.  And then, wait just a little longer.


Al

 
Scott Reil
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Location: Colchester, CT
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Al one reason I always talk about the tea is exactly that lawn in place restriction; tea actually uses that lawn to advantage in amending the soil... To whit...

When we are using a compost tea, we are more concerned about moving biology than anything else in the tea. Sure there are humic acids and some humates and some fulvics and such, but the real action component, the thing that will get your soil back to good, the stuff that will open clay, is the biology...

"What is he talking about? We are discussing putting nutrtion and soil conditioning in soil, and he is going on about biology? What, is this guy nuts?"

Yes, but that does not mean I'm wrong. To whit...

I talked about using the lawn when we use tea. It uses it two ways; one as the first cracks in the otherwise impermeable surface (if you can't pound in a sheperd hook, what is a root gonna do?), and secondly as shelter and habitat for our biology... The roots have broken ground enough to get some air in there; where air can go so can water. Our tea moves in around the rootws and begins to soften and wet around them. As it seeps in it pulls fresh air in behind it. As the tea mosture seeps down further, it creates new fissurees and seepage that some of the biology follows into. Fungal hyphae begin to worm down further and further, opening the soil as they go, leaving paths of nutrient as they die off. The fugus and bacteria cluster around roots as the roots give off polysaccharide exudates, what Elaine Ingham calls cake and cookies. As the protozoa we have added in our tea begin to eat the bacteria they release nitrogen that the grassthenm uses as food. SOme bacteria reduice thatch as their food source, some eat fungi. As we get more life, we get more death. More death is fodder for more bacteria, which is more fodder for more protozoa, which is more nitrogen for grass. Etc, etc, etc...

This is why meadows don't need fertilizing or aerating. This is how grass works when we have to start from bare rock. Tea speeds that up, but it does it in a grass friendly way. Digging pits and adding woodland soil components is a good fix for woodland soils, and worms will speed your lawn process, but all the digging and twigs and such? A lot of work. Tea brewing is a bit of work, but it won't hurt your back usually...

S
 
Al Loria
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Scott, you know the type of soil I have here and the challenges associated with it.  Has to be one of the worst types to work with.  Yet, the nutrient and water holding capacity can be great.  The problem is compaction and lack of aggregation.  The tea makes sense if it can bring in the biology that will create enough life down deep so that as organisms die off they leave channels and paths for water and nutrients to follow.  I have read articles stating the tea does exactly as you said, and others that say it is anecdotal.  Why are there no conclusive studies?  Unless I just haven't found any yet.

I did a short time brew for the first tea application.  Varying the length of time of the brew increases the amounts of certain organisms and I believe the longest brew time raises protozoa counts.

Dying off of Roots and organisms, increases in humic acids and fulvic acids all help with aggregation, which is the key to drainage, aeration, and deeper root growth.  I see your point of CT being more of a lazy man approach, but getting those organic solids deeper into the soil is made quicker by adding pits that put the organic material in place for the soil to open up more quickly as they decay and places long term food for the biology, worms etc. to use.  It just takes way more work.

The results of the worm pit can already be seen.  Deeper roots, worms, and softer soil.  But if dig pits all over the lawn, I might as well till the whole thing and be done with it.  All of the things we do to achieve a good lawn either takes money, time or labor.  Therein lies the rub.  Both systems, pits and CT have their place, as well as starting over from scratch.

Our lawn in the Bronx had to be there 60 years or more when I was growing up (the house was built in 1854.)  My dad never used any fertilizer, mowed at least 2-3 inches high as I remember, and we never raked or bagged the clippings, and rarely, if ever, watered.  We had a very large double lot with about 4000 sq. ft. of lawn and it always looked great with hardly any weeds.  We had night-crawlers coming out of our ears too.  As a kid in the 1960s I remember for years pushing a reel mower around that must have weighed 80 pounds until we convinced dad to get a gas operated mower.  Doing absolutely nothing will get you great results too if you want to wait decades.  Probably this is the biggest reason people use chemical treatments on their lawns.  Instant gratification. 

Now, I have this postage stamp lawn I'm trying to make look half as nice and expending 5 times the energy to do so.  Mother nature and time is wiser and more efficient than we'll ever be.  I believe everything was created to work in perfect harmony.  Only man, and his desire to change his environment, shows the folly of that pursuit.  We are such impatient beings...

I'm going to keep recording whatever I do the lawn here in the hope someone finds it helpful.  I welcome anyone to add their own experiences on how to have a decent lawn without using harmful chemicals that can injure our kids, pets, water systems and neighbors.  We do owe it to those around us to be responsible stewards.

Scott, as always, thanks for the input.

Al
 
Al Loria
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Out of boredom I decided to do a sediment test to see the composition of the alleged soil.  I went to the middle of the lawn to a spot that has remained bare and was about 6" in diameter.  I dug down about six inches for the sample.

The results are; 28% clay, 71% silt.  Sand almost non existent.  A small amount of organic material floating on the surface. 

On the triangle table this does not look good.  Any chance of amending what seems like dirt for all intents and purposes into soil that will support the existing lawn?  Or am I screwed and have to start from the get-go?

The more I delve into this, the worse it gets.  I never would have guessed silt being that high a proportion of what I thought was mostly clay, and that the grass would have grown so well in the spring.



Al
 
Scott Reil
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Sounds like river dredged fill, Al. Not a lot of upside there...

So what you add on top will help; tea like I said will start to make your "dirt" more like soil, but adding actual compost on top will start creating new soil in place. Topdressing doesn't involve a lot of hole digging, but it won't aerate as quick as your pits. YOU have to decide the sweat equity level that works for you...

S
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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If P. A. Yeomans' writing is any guide, the effect will spread horizontally from the pits as the seasons change.

For instance, a clump of grass trying to adapt to drought, living say a foot away from one of the post holes, will find that water is available in the subsoil just a little farther away, and be encouraged to delve a little deeper. This effect will be more rapid after that big downpour.

Maybe there are sneaky ways that involve less effort, like overseeding with oilseed radish in the fall?


 
Al Loria
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Very interesting reading about P.A. Yeomans and the equipment for Keyline.  I want one of those plows to put those nice little slits in the lawn.  If that can improve fertility it has got to be one of the easiest ways to do it.  Shame they don't make a small walk behind that a homeowner can use on a small lawn. 

I looked at the oilseed radishes as well.  The neighbors would just love that growing in front of my house.  I think the dogs would trample it before it grew, as it does not like traffic.  I also checked out Groundhog radishes.  Supposed to be a bigger taproot and decomposes more quickly.  That also has to be an easy way to break the ground open.  Maybe, if I selectively plant it, the short season to the winter kill might not be all that bad looking for long.

We seem to still be coming back to the worm pits as a way to do it once and then forget it.  The labor expended might be one day's work for me and my son's.  And if the benefit is lateral, then it has got to be the best way outside of dumping 4 inches of topsoil and reseeding. 

The most valuable information I have gleaned from any source is that getting organics in the soil is what will get it to be soil.  The pits do it quickly without having to tear up what I already have.  I can't rip it all up or dump topsoil and have our four dogs not have a place to poop and play for a month. 

i'm leaning more than ever to doing the pits in the fall.  I think with the post hole digger and a few hours we could have enough organic material 12 to 18 down to at least get fair soil in a year or so, and probably good soil in 3-4 years.

When I dug that hole yesterday I needed some soil to back fill the hole and went to the side of the house, right next to where the lawn is now the worst, and dug up some from the flower bed up against the house.  20 years ago I tilled in peat moss about a foot down and mulched it for a few years.  Since no one really goes down that side and you can't really see it from the front too well, i just let the bushes and daffodils and crocuses alone for many years.  That soil was black and rich and awesome.  It is right up against the crappy dirt on the lawn.  I could not believe the difference from 12 inches on either side of the border.  The flower bed can be dug with a hand shovel and no effort, and the lawn side is like a rock.

I think I have a pretty clear picture now.  So, it looks like Paul's pits are going in this fall, along with topdressing with compost, and CT (A la Scott) sprayed liberally.   If I get up the courage I'll add the radishes too.

I'l post the pics of the pit holes when we dig them and then the follow up as it progresses.

Thanks guys for all the suggestions and help.  I hope the pits work out well so there can be a record for others to see.



Al



 
                        
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Al, its interesting that you said that only 12 inches a way the soil was still so-so.  Anyone know why that would be?  Shouldn't the flower bed have acted like a huge worm pit?

As I understand the worm pit idea you dig a hole then refill the hole amend the soil.  Then worms are attracted to the pits and work the surround dirt, helping to regenerate it.

It sounds like you did the same thing with the flower bed.  You amended the dirt with a bunch of organic matter, which should have attracted worms and help regenerate it.

I'm not trying to be critical, I'm just trying to understand what might have happened.  I'm in a similar boat.  I have a disastrous lawn with terrible soil (dirt really).  I just want to understand this technique.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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I agree, that's interesting.

Maybe the peat moss is still repelling the grass roots? Or perhaps the worms have enough space in the garden bed, and never have to venture out of it.

Thanks for the info on other varieties of tillage radish. It seems like an exciting opportunity for plant breeders, especially if one could make use of the Triangle of U.

I think the dogs trampling them could be a good thing, especially if you have some not-too-onerous way of keeping them off half the lawn for a short time. The dogs can ensure that the radishes never get big enough to bother your neighbors, and if I understand correctly, they get deep a lot faster than they get heavy. You don't need as much biomass as a veggie farmer might need, and canopy closure is definitely not what you want. Maybe 2 weeks is all you need, rather than 4 as in the photos from the groundhog company website.

There are subsoiler attachments for walk-behind tractors: Rescia Guiliano is the first one I found.
 
That feels good. Thanks. Here's a tiny ad:
Intrinsic: An Agriculture of Altered Chaos
https://permies.com/t/95922/Intrinsic-Agriculture-Altered-Chaos
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