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My plan for prepping a new plot for seed  RSS feed

 
                                  
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Ok so I am going to renovate an area and I would like some feedback.
I plan to scrape off about 4-6" of soil and fill with a 50/50 mix of good organic compost/top soil. It's the west side of the house so it gets a fair amount of sun. I would like to plant a tall fescue monculture, one that's nice and dark and perhaps mix some blue grass in to fill between.
What do you think and what would else would you do, not do?

 
Scott Reil
Posts: 179
Location: Colchester, CT
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Stop.

Soil scraping?

For what?

Is it contaminated with something? Plutonium or lead?

Soil isn't bad unless it's polluted, it just get depleted. Adding the compost over your soil will be less work (and less energy in all it's forms) and get you there just as fast and a lot cheaper. Check out Northeast Al's thread or read Paul's article on lazy lawncare before you bust your hump and spend treasure and sweat on a project that may or may not turn out well (f'rinstance, doing it this time of year would be a really bad idea).

Do some lookin around BEFORE you decide what to do, not after...

S
 
                                  
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I have no top soil there, it's crap soil. I plan to use what I scrape to fill another area. That said I have read both threads. I just want a good base to start with.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Location: Oakland, CA
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Paul once half-jokingly suggested starting a lawn by letting rye & vetch grow over the winter, mowing in the spring, and mostly doing the usual thing from there. It seems like it will be a while until you have a normal-looking lawn in any case; I wonder if you'd be OK having a freakish one for a little under a year?

I've heard that vetch can be sown in a pumpkin patch, and won't take off until frost kills the pumpkins. Maybe one way to start would be to dig a small number of worm pits and plant pumpkins and vetch in them, then sow rye and turf grass when things cool off a little.
 
Scott Reil
Posts: 179
Location: Colchester, CT
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Ah crap soil...

Again, depleted ain't crap, it's just good soil treated badly (what does a junky look like after years of chemical abuse? Looks like crap...)

Joel, it's a cool idea; I like the nitrogen fixing capability and I have actually grown fond of vetch flowers, but it would get you run out of most neighborhoods in the US... 


Buddy not knowing where you are makes this harder, but I like the tall fescue idea (skip the blue grass; a sissy that needs extra water, extra food, and has more disease and insect susceptibility, and yes, I know there are new cultivars but have you seen the prices?). I would suggest dutch clover in there as a legume to feed the grass (stands in for Joel's vetch, but on a more permanent basis).

My plan for your area... in the fall...

Add two inches of topsoil and rake level with a grading rake... add half inch of compost...

Seed with TTTF and Dutch clover; water regularly but deeply, not often and shallowly...

Corn gluten in spring (9 lbs. per 1K sq.ft.) and cut very high all next season (4" and slit seed with TTTF again in fall...

Compost tea at nearly any point is great (look at Al's pics)

Enjoy turf with beer in hand...

And Paul is shaking his head and wondering why we are doing this much work, but it's LOTS less than you had in mind...

S
 
                                  
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Well no on the clover, I want grass and grass only.
  There hasn't been any chemicals used in this lawn in 20 years. Right now there's nothing BUT clover. Presumably because it's nitrogen deficient. I plan to use CT as well, weekly.

I'm in eastern NY near Conneticut if that helps. We have a lot of clay and not much of anything else.
 
Scott Reil
Posts: 179
Location: Colchester, CT
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Yep that helps. I have a pretty good idea of your soil now. I still stand by my plan. And the clover, but hey, go ahead and be all centered on the monocots (although I might ask you to show me grassland in nature that has no dicots...)

Now you need the nitrogen input yearly; tea monthly will take care of most of that,  though...

S
 
                                  
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Think Yankee stadium 
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Location: Oakland, CA
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I was curious about the scraping, but didn't want to ask. If there's a lot of clover, you can't stand it, and the soil is nitrogen deficient, things are beginning to make sense.

There will be a niche for legumes unless and until the soil has plenty of nitrogen in it. Mowing your clover more often will help open up niches for nitrogen-dependent plants, especially turf grasses, because clover doesn't like decomposing clover nearly as much as grass would. Importing a huge amount of compost might also work, but would work better if the compost just went on top of the clover, and the clover composted in place.

Scraping the soil that your clover has begun to enrich will just open up clover's current niche even wider. I think most people on this forum would recommend leaving them there to do their job until it's done (either by the clover, or by the compost deliveryman). There's no guarantee that you'll scrape away all of the clover; if it comes back, or a more-objectionable legume species is accidentally introduced, scraping probably will have been counter-productive.

The good news about clay is that it has a huge capacity to store nutrients, meaning ultimately a longer period between fertilization. The bad news seems to be that huge capacity is almost empty. I wouldn't throw the clay away, though, I bet it will perform really well once things are established.

It's too bad there isn't a nitrogen-fixing grass species we can recommend.

Another option to provide nitrogen in-situ is to dedicate some space near the lawn to a nitrogen-fixing species. For example, an alder hedge, trimmed fairly severely and often, will produce a lot of compost, and it's possible that this could be spaced & timed so that decomposing alder roots are within reach of growing grass roots. A narrow patch of sweet peas or lupine might be more to your taste, and of course the nitrogen can come from far away if need be.
 
                                  
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I'm not trying to scrape away the clover, I have sidewalks and borders which currently are level with the soil. I want to remove the soil down a few inches, replace it with more nutrient rich soil/compost and re-seed. The clover will come back but in time It will disappear with proper care.

I plan to do the same with the flower beds, or just put a foot on top. Give your plants good soil and they will thrive
 
Al Loria
Posts: 395
Location: New York
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Scott Reil wrote:

Compost tea at nearly any point is great (look at Al's pics)



I never did use compost tea.  At least not so far.  I used my compost, and not really all that much of it...Yet.  I guess it made its own tea in regards to the biology it created.  I'll hit it pretty hard in the fall.  I am going to give the tea a try though when this rotating composter is done with its first batch.  I have aerators from aquariums waiting to go.

I have a pretty good idea Buddy lives near me, so the soil is definitely heavy clay if that is the case.

You saw how little topsoil I had.  It had eroded almost totally away.  Buddy, save the money and your back. Don't strip it, fix it.  Joel is right about the nutrient holding properties of clay.  Work with what you have, then give it some time and you should be fine.

I'm still debating the idea of the slit seeding.  If mine looks this good now it might be overkill, unless slit seeding it means a better overwinter for the lawn.

Our slope is doing great with the clover, trees and shrubs.  Low-brush blueberries and Service berries have already been tasted.  Buddy, clover is your friend.

The garden is the only problem spot.  Leaves are yellowing on the Zucchini, beans and cucumbers.  I'll have to post a thread on the permaculture forums if it continues.  The reason I bring it up is that I put bagged topsoil (mistake on my part) and composted manure over cardboard on the existing back lawn in kind of a quick sheet mulch. It started off really well, but now has issues.  Who knows what kind of topsoil you are going to get?  Then what do you do, start all over?  A cousin of mine had 4 inches laid over his backfill on his new home and it took three years and an irrigation system to get it to be only acceptable.  He uses a lawn service and they mow low and use chemicals.  Costs him big bucks and it still is not right.  I told him to go the same route as I did, and he is finally considering it.

My results were quick, and I too had originally thought of turning it over and starting fresh in the fall.  Now I am willing to stick with the program and wait three or more years for whatever weeds there are to die off. The little bit of clover flowers and dandelion actually look nice, once you change your mindset.  Might use the corn gluten like my neighbor did, next year though.

Scott is right about trying to grow a lawn now.  The few bare spots that our dogs created by digging holes is having a hard time with the seed I put on it a couple of weeks ago.  Odd thing is that the dogs only dig now in those few bad areas.  They do not dig any longer in the center of the lawn, now that it has filled in.  They always sniff the ground intensely before digging.  I wonder if they can smell crappy soil and love to dig only there, or is it just a coincidence?

Good luck, Buddy.  Whichever way you decide go I wish you the best. 


Al

 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/email
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