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Am I destroying soil/mycelium structure by pulling weeds? (pics)

 
Dougan Nash
Posts: 67
Location: Eastern Shore, Maryland
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So I have a hugel bed that is 3 years old, it has 3 massive logs underneath of it and this year it seems to be oozing mushrooms. It is unfortunately taken over by Bermuda grass and what I believe to be sedges. I hesitate calling anything a weed, but Bermuda grass fits the bill for sure. I went out today and out of frustration started ripping weeds out. It has been pretty wet here lately so there is no resistance or breaking off. They seem to be coming out with ease. But after pulling a few I noticed really beautiful mycelium all over the straw. I kept ripping and now I am wondering if I am destroying the soil structure by doing this? I still plan on weeding the beds really well in the next couple days as I am really sick of having a grass mound.

This whole thing started with me wanting a strawberry mound and my berries just aren't sending out runners. I might move them next year and turn the mound into a perennial flower bed. Anyway, here's some pics of the mushrooms and mound:









Also, here is a pile of weeds. What can I do with these (other than composting) to get the organic matter back into the soil without the Bermuda grass taking over again? I would love to do a chop and drop, but that's just asking for runners.

 
John Elliott
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Dougan Nash wrote: I kept ripping and now I am wondering if I am destroying the soil structure by doing this? I still plan on weeding the beds really well in the next couple days as I am really sick of having a grass mound.

Also, here is a pile of weeds. What can I do with these (other than composting) to get the organic matter back into the soil without the Bermuda grass taking over again? I would love to do a chop and drop, but that's just asking for runners.


Not really. Those underground hyphae and that soil structure is fairly resilient to digging in a few places. To really damage it, you have to turn the soil completely over, let it dry and do it again, you know, like regular farmers do. Minor disturbances, like a chicken scratching or a mole burrowing, or a dog digging, the fungi have co-evolved with that. They haven't co-evolved with John Deere turning them over, drying them out, and compacting them in the process.

Just keep pulling the Bermuda out and feed it to whatever will eat it: rabbit/guinea pig/goat/etc. Bermuda grass relies on two things to compete with other plants: regular mowing and deep stolons. If you mow it regularly, but don't pull up the deep stolons, you are giving it everything it needs to take over. I have it in my hugelbeds, but it sure has a difficult time trying to make it; with lettuce and chicory towering above it, there's little light making it down to the ground. And every time I do maintenance on the hugelbed or plant something new, I pull on the runners and yank them out from 6-12" deep. It's very sad Bermuda grass and very puny looking since I don't give it the environment it likes. Which is fine with me, because I'm allergic to the stuff.
 
Cristo Balete
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Location: In the woods, West Coast USA
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Yeah, Bermuda grass is just one of those lousy things you need to pull. The best way I've found is NOT to pull it with your hand so you year a snap, because that means you left a big chunk of root behind. Stick a shovel in and lift carefully, trying to pull up the roots, then lift the grass and root off the shovel, drop it in a bucket. I escort mine off the property! And while the grass is there it is using up all your great soil stuff, that's why it's so darn healthy.

One of the very best composts I ever had was mushroom compost, so your Hugel bed is a really great one if you are getting mushrooms. Plants and seeds just love all those rotted/composted mushrooms/toadstools.

You might try really, really thick mulch, like a minimum of 6" on the soil after you've gotten rid of the Bermuda. And keep it very thick, plant right in the mulch. But you'll have to go around the outer edge of the mulch with a shovel, like above, and remove any grass that starts to show up again. I read once where someone had some Bermuda grass come up at the edge of their garage slab, grow across the 20 foot slab. Never turn your back on it!!
 
Dougan Nash
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Location: Eastern Shore, Maryland
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Thanks guys. Unfortunately this is a back yard operation, so I have no animals to feed it to (other than my dog). I was thinking about putting it all in a bucket and pouring boiling water over the weeds and letting it steep until it cools. Afterwards I was wondering if I could mulch with it.
 
siu-yu man
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Location: zone 6a, north america
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boiling it will kill all the myco you just pulled out.
instead, you could try ken's grass fertilizer recipe:
http://farmwhisperer.com/article/liquid-grass-clipping-fertilizer
if you're sure you don't have any seeds, i would personally skip the straining through t-shirt part.
 
Craig Dobbelyu
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As mentioned already, the soil will be ok but I thought I'd throw in my two cents on methodology for removing the grasses. Instead of tearing it up and then having to figure out how to render the grass inert, just sheet mulch the whole thing and start over with a thick cover crop of your choice. The grass will die and add nutrient to the soil and you'll have a clean surface to work with going forward.

I just recently did this with a section of garden that that had been reclaimed by grasses. I started by cutting the grass short and leaving the clippings in place. Next, I covered the space with multiple layers of cardboard and paper feed sacks which had been soaked with water heavily. On top of that I added about 8 inches of compost and then topped it all with about 8 inches of straw. I watered it down really well and then a seeded it with my custom cover mix. Clover, vetch, dandelion, buckwheat, oat, peas, mangles, kale, broccoli, radish, beans, wild flowers, squash, lambsquarters, and like forty other things all go in and then I water it once more. It's working out well so far. Everything seems to be coming up in force and there's no sign of grass.

Best of luck
 
Cristo Balete
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Dougan, even 1/2" of the white roots will start it up again, it's that hearty and that successful. I would bag it and take it away.

You will see results, it's pretty satisfying to carefully pull up the roots in long stretches, being careful not to break them. Your area isn't as big as it might feel, and if you stay on it, get those roots out of there every chance you get, you will see a difference. Even when you think you're done with the digging, kick the soil around with your fingers and you'll find bits of it. Then mulch over to soil keep the soil moist for your own plants.

The heavy sheet mulching Craig suggests will slow it down, but it will always be around the edges of the mulch until you get the roots out of there.

 
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