I didn't see a welcome or say "hi" forum. This is mostly a lawn care post so I figured I'd post here.
First, I'm new to this forum. So, hello everyone.
I want to say thank you Paul for writing your "Organic Lawn Care For the Cheap and Lazy" article. I remember reading it years ago when I moved in to military housing and was responsible taking care of the lawn. Your techniques Mow high, Water deeply but infrequently got absolute amazing results.
They had just renovated all of the units in the block and hydro-seeded it. I had limitations on how high I was allowed to cut the grass. So, I cut it as tall as I was allowed (heh, got in trouble a few times for it being too tall). Also, I was able to train the lawn to grow deep roots by watering less and less.
The real proof to me came when you looked up and down the block. The lawn I was responsible for was very green, thick, and healthy looking. It had very few weeds and I didn't spend much time on it at all. Many of the neighbors on the other hand, were working the butts off. Mowing all the time, raking and watering fertilizing. The worst part was most of their lawns weren't as lush, green or as weed free.
You made me a believer =)
Anyway, I've moved around since then. Now, I'm renting a place where I'm responsible for the lawn, again. The first thing I did was get a mower that could cut 4" and started training the lawn to grow that tall. The soil's a wreck, so I'm trying to figure out how to water. Watering infrequently/deeply doesn't seem to be producing the results I remember.
Your article mentions soil needing to be in good shape for the watering to be effective. Well, the soil needs a lot of TLC, its really bad especially in the backyard. There are alot of bare spots that are like concrete. The soil drys bone dry, it cracks and gets hard as a rock if it doesn't get watered regularly.
I've taken a few steps. I've been watering alot more than I want to (especially the thin spots), in an attempt to get the grass to grow. This didn't produce the desired results, well sorta. The grass didn't want to grow in those spots, however, plantains, clover and a bunch of other stuff I can't identify did. It first, I was disappointed with all of the weeds. But then I dawned on me. Plantains will break up that rock hard soil and help with soil erosion. As I cut it, it will help hold the mulch in place, which should add some organic matter. The clover is a welcome sight, since it adds N and adds organic matter the same way as the plantains. So, I'm going to try and continue to encourage the weeds to grow and cover/break up all the bare spots. I'll keep mowing it, eventually, I'm guessing the lawn will grow in as the soil improves.
I've started a compost pile. I figure when its done, I can spread it on the lawn. Wow, the microbial life is dead. I turned it recently, I saw some of my kitchen scraps (like onion peels) still intact after a week.
Any advice from you or anyone on this forum would be welcome. Remember I'm in a rental, so I don't want to spend much money on a place that isn't mine and may not be in for a long time. I'm willing to put some work into it, but ultimately, "Cheap and Lazy" is my goal. (sorry for the long post, I've been lurking for awhile)
It sounds like you have a good start on turning things. It can be hard to go from "worked up to just how I want it" to "new and dead." Your mentality is right: keep mowing, let the weeds do the hard work of breaking up the soil and adding organic matter. Back off to doing the infrequent and deep (as you your dirt/soil can take) watering. That will favor whatever can grow with that depth of watering. At first it will be the shallow weeds, but as you build your soil and the depth increases, grass will be more favored. The tide will turn!
I had the same situation with my house: Overworked, dead farm dirt (hence the farmer selling it!). At first I had a concrete lawn, then a weedy lawn, but the grass is sweeping through as time goes on! I wish I had a time lapse video from start to now, it would probably look really cool to see the transformation. I'm probably lazier than most, I've been mostly mowing high for 4 or 5 years now...but I'm happy with the results that are slowly coming in! Grass is coming in where it has never before.
So keep on, keeping on! Mow high, add as much organic material as you have interest and energy to do (compost, kitchen scraps), let rain or water infrequenly, and wait.
Maybe take some time lapse photos and make a cool movie!