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No-till seeding without removing grass?

 
Gerbert Thorne
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Hi, folks!

Not sure exactly where this thread should be, but I'm gonna stick it here and you feel free to move it if it's in the wrong place ^^

Anyways, I finally got a piece of land to use, and would really like to try growing stuff the Fukuoka-style on one part of it. I've been hearing about this no-till method, but how do you actually do it?
The area is not big enough to grow cereals like rye, wheat, etc., and I would like to focus on veggies, with a little bit of berries here and there.

The area is covered in just plain grass. My friend and I have been trying to think of a way to do seeding on this, but we can't think of anything.

If I were to seed something, would it be necessary to remove the grass?
Or can I simply disseminate the seeds on the ground and cover them in mulch? (I'm worried that the grass will smother the veggies completely; also what about the seed to soil contact - I'm thinking ~99% seeds won't even germinate with such loose soil contact)

Anybody has a more direct hands-on experience with this kind of stuff? Any particularities I should be aware of, steps I should take, mistakes to avoid?
Info greatly appreciated

Thanks, guys!
 
Matu Collins
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It really depends what kind of grass. Rhizomal grasses like quackgrass or Bermuda grass are very tenacious.

I have been experimenting with this for years now and my best success has been with an initial removal of perennials and their roots, addition of organic material, and heavy seeing with a little scratching in. Also, early consistent watering of little seedlings tapering off once they've taken hold.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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You are not likely to find anybody who has experience with this. The reason being the tenacity of grasses. They are on my zero tolerance list because they are just not compatible with most veggie production.

So Matu's method is one way. The other way is to sheet mulch; First mow the area down to it's roots, and leave the mowings in place and then water it-a lot-and add as much manures (green or otherwise) to rot against the grass roots, and then add a layer or two of overlapping (minimum 6 inches of overlap) cardboard laid down and moistened well. On top of this, add enough lasagna style soils, composts, and mulches to build a garden bed, in which to toss your seeds/seedballs.

Unfortunately, some of the more tenacious grasses, as Matu indicated, might still misbehave. You have to have zero tolerance for grasses, especially in the initial stages, so that they don't retake your garden space.
 
Kyrt Ryder
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Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b, 47.041 Latitude] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
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Cardboard + Mulch [not bark mulch, mulch that has a decent carbon/nitrogen ratio, leafy woodchips works well, as does used livestock straw bedding but be careful of dewormers or persistent herbicides]

Works BEST over clay soil, as the clay holds the moisture while the mulch is still solid, but over time sandy soil will suck down the humus and become a sponge as well.

EDIT: brace yourself, the film has heavy religious overtones but the method works.

EDIT 2: it's ideal to keep adding material over the years and don't forget the nitrogen. Paul [main guy in the film] handles that by using a deep-liter chicken yard and adding material from there.
 
Dan Grubbs
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If you don't want to go to the Back-to-Eden method and if seed-to-soil contact is a worry ... since you mention Fukuoka you might try making seedballs to plant your diverse plants in and among an existing stand of other grasses (not knowing what they are now).

I'm also guessing that the area has had little nutrient addition or means to foster a diverse microbial sub-soil ecosystem. In addition to good seedball coverage, if you can foster a diverse ecosystem in the soil, it will also help the things you plant among the grasses survive and compete and eventually take their place in the system. You may want to apply raw milk at a ratio of 3 gallons to the acre and also compost tea. I'm of the belief that the kinds of difficult grasses that can appear are enhanced by stress on the system that help troublesome grasses out compete other forages and plants. Help de-stress the system by adding natural inputs that foster microbial life.

Another option is to use animals to help the broadcast seed make good seed-to-soil contact.

Yet another option is winter/early spring (snow) seeding. When timed right, you can broadcast seed and the frost heaving of the ground can aid in seed-to-soil contact. Here's a quick explanation: http://articles.extension.org/pages/64559/frost-seeding:-a-cheap-alternative-to-improve-hay-and-pasture-land

Or better yet, blend all these techniques.

Good luck.
 
Su Ba
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So far, I've had zero success growing annual type vegetables via no-till into unimproved soil on my homestead farm. I've tried seeding and transplanting seedlings. While some stuff grew, nothing thrived except for the grass. So far I haven't discovered or developed a low input method that works for me.

Like Matu, I get good results by eliminating the grass, adding organic material, and loosening the soil.

In NJ I had grasses that could be mostly eliminated by simply using a shovel and flipping the soil over. The grass leaves got no sunlight and the roots were exposed, thus dried up. I would dig this way first thing in the spring, wait a month, then either till or dig again. Grass pretty much eliminated. New grasses came back via sprouting seeds, but the original grass was fairly well killed.

Here in Hawaii, that method doesn't work. I've got tropical grasses that are very aggressive and regrow exceptionally quickly. Plus the worst scourge ......Bermuda grass!!! It will choke out vegetables. Plus it's dense, deep rhizomes will challenge even my young fruit trees. So I've resorted to hand digging to initially get rid of as much as I can, then diligently removing any regrowth that occurs. I discovered that it is easier to dig down to remove a regrowing rhizome as soon as the new leaves break the surface rather than letting it go until the next crop rotation. I've had Bermuda grass kill a veggie garden simply by choking it out, out competing for water and nutrients. Landrace pumpkins are the only thing that I've seen produce in a garden bed infested with Bermuda grass.

I have used thick dense mulch to eliminate most grasses. It's a method I use around trees, taro, and bananas. But some of these tropical grasses, plus Mexican elderberry, will survive for months under ground. As soon as the mulch decomposes and thins, the dang grass and Mexican elderberry comes back with a vengeance. Recently I've resorted to several layers of cardboard, then thick mulch atop that. Unless the cardboard is several layers thick, that Mexican elderberry will grow back right through it.
 
Zelda LuAnn
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What works for me is to just simply pile up a very thick layer of brown pine straw over an area & just let it sit there blocking the sun off of the grass... it will die, the ground below the straw will also get "softer". Then when I'm ready to plant, I just move the straw away and plant. I still use the pine straw to keep on the bed for mulch. And contrary to old tales, it does NOT ruin the soil or make it acidic. It maintains steady moisture, decomposes nicely & worms love it.
 
Todd Parr
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I have had the best results by far by laying out big sheet of black rubber and leaving it in place until everything under it is dead. It softens the ground more than I would have imagined. Once everything is dead, I put down an inch or so of compost and plant the area. I have planted without the compost and it works, but I had much better results with compost.

I would love to try the idea of the pine needles if I had lots of them available.
 
Casie Becker
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This is my rose bed. Three years ago it was unimproved 'lawn.' That is to say it was a mix of native weeds and grasses that survived being treated like a parking lot. It's not the most impressive picture, the perennials are either dormant or freshly cut back (by about two thirds) and it's a little early to plant the next season's annuals. All that brown stuff is s a 4 inch layer of aged horse manure. But the only remaining grasses and weeds are outside the bed. This is actually prime growing weather for most Texas weeds, and the grass would be growing if it had more water. I started with a 12 inch layer of ramail wood chips the first fall we were here and started planting by digging pits in the mulch. Because I didn't put down cardboard before the mulch, I did have to pull grass out for about the first six months. Grass is easy to pull when it's rooted in twelve inches of wood chips.

A lot of native and perennial plants can survive in unimproved soils. I don't know that I'd want to try most cultivated vegetables. At the very least I would want to top dress with a thick layer of compost or manure. The soil organisms will incorporate these for you (in Texas you'd need to mulch to get activity in the very top levels) but you'd need to give them time. Not pictured, because I've dug in amendments since then, are the three other garden beds in the front yard that I started in the same fashion. I learned from the first bed and put down cardboard first. A double layer of cardboard kept me from having to pull more grass, except where it snuck in at the edges. If you're dead set in near immediate planting, I would think a lasagna style bed would be a good compromise. Layer the amendments you'd like in your soil, (compost materials, mulches, manures, seaweed.. whatever) thick enough to double as a thick mulch, put it on top of cardboard if you're comfortable using cardboard. Then cut trenches or pits where you place seeds or plant starts. If you have grass like mine, you'll have to watch the planting locations for grass incursions, but by the end of the first growing season you'll have a weed free, no till garden with a good start on a functioning soil ecology.
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Casie Becker
pollinator
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Just have to repeat, that's a very unimpressive picture, but the bed is actually thriving. Last summer it had pepper plants and Siam Basil happily growing among the roses. And this season had a good amount of dill and borage self seeded there, you can see a little bit of the borage making it's way back up through the manure. I decided the benefits of a hefty application of manure in this season out weighed the benefits of a second bed of dill and borage. I've enough in other areas of the garden.
 
R Ranson
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Hello Gerbert, welcome to permies.com

There are lots of different ways to go about starting a no-till garden. Some ways work in some locations but not others. The best advice I've found on this site is to try lots of different ways, one of them will be right for you.

Grain growing dosen't need as much space as one might think. I don't know what part of the world you are in, so I don't know what grain grows well where you are, but here we can grow oats, wheat and barley quite easily. If the place will grow grass, it will grow grain. Growing even a small plot of grain (one meter square) can be very fulfilling. It's surprisingly easy and it's amazing how much grain you can get from a tiny plot.

Here's a rather long thread about my experiment last year with growing grains (and other things) on former lawn, without tilling it first. There were some challenges to be sure. The biggest challenge with my vegetable experiment was that the rains stop about the same time it's warm enough for the vegi seeds to germinate. The grass, with already established roots very quickly outgrew any veggies that managed to sprout.

One thing Fukuoka mentions in one of his books is to sew the seeds in tall grass, wait a week or so for the seeds to germinate, then cut the grass as mulch. That way you don't need to import mulch. It will take a year or two to really take off, but there should be some success the first year.

There are people who have had success with growing garden over lawn... but they live in different climate to me.

Also, this video had an interesting idea for growing squash - which is great at smothering lawn.


 
R Scott
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R Ranson wrote:Hello Gerbert, welcome to permies.com

One thing Fukuoka mentions in one of his books is to sew the seeds in tall grass, wait a week or so for the seeds to germinate, then cut the grass as mulch. That way you don't need to import mulch. It will take a year or two to really take off, but there should be some success the first year.



This works even better if you can use a crimp roller, but can still be futile if you have an aggressive grass.
 
Gerbert Thorne
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Damn it, I've wiritng up an answer and then an error message appeared and now I have to do it all over again... :/

------------

R Ranson wrote:Hello Gerbert, welcome to permies.com
Grain growing dosen't need as much space as one might think. I don't know what part of the world you are in, so I don't know what grain grows well where you are, but here we can grow oats, wheat and barley quite easily. If the place will grow grass, it will grow grain. Growing even a small plot of grain (one meter square) can be very fulfilling. It's surprisingly easy and it's amazing how much grain you can get from a tiny plot.

I've been thinking about getting a few chickens (about 3-4 hens and a rooster) for my yard, and would like to grow the food they need for winter right in the yard. There's a lot of currently unallocated space, so I was thinking of planting 10x10m (32x32ft) or 20x10m of wheat/barley if you guys deem it enough for that small a flock.
Otherwise, my regions staple crops are wheat, barley and corn, so I think no problems there ^^


Also, this video had an interesting idea for growing squash - which is great at smothering lawn.

I had a small garden in the city which was left unattended because I was away for most of the spring and summer, and when I came back, everything was overgrown, except for the squashes. Around them nothing grew. Thanks for reminding me of this




Todd Parr wrote:I have had the best results by far by laying out big sheet of black rubber and leaving it in place until everything under it is dead. It softens the ground more than I would have imagined. Once everything is dead, I put down an inch or so of compost and plant the area. I have planted without the compost and it works, but I had much better results with compost.

I just recently discovered I have the very same thing, and this is what also came to my mind. Will try out for sure.
Can you tell how long does it take until the area is ready? About 3 weeks or so?



Zelda LuAnn wrote:What works for me is to just simply pile up a very thick layer of brown pine straw over an area & just let it sit there blocking the sun off of the grass... it will die, the ground below the straw will also get "softer". Then when I'm ready to plant, I just move the straw away and plant. I still use the pine straw to keep on the bed for mulch. And contrary to old tales, it does NOT ruin the soil or make it acidic. It maintains steady moisture, decomposes nicely & worms love it.

There's quite a few pine trees in my neighborhood, I'll go around and rake up the fallen pines and try this method as well. Got any advice on which veggies would do better in soil prepared this way (I mean, do the pine needles make some grow better than others)



One more thing I'd like to ask. There was a patch of corn planted in the back of my yard. The guy cut it down and left the leaves (which I know is good for a number of things) and stalks, low-cut, with the roots left in the ground. What can I do with these roots? Do I have to pick them out, or can I plant around them and leave them in the ground to rot (which everyone tells me is not possible and it's gonna take a long while)?


--- Thanks everyone for great ideas and answers provided, they're really helpful!
 
Todd Parr
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Gerbert Thorne wrote:Can you tell how long does it take until the area is ready? About 3 weeks or so?


It depends what is growing there now. Regular grass shouldn't take too long, but I have quack grass and it can take 3 months or more, depending on the temperature and the amount of sun that hits the plastic. A nice side effect of the black rubber is that snakes love it and every year I have lots of baby snakes living under it.
 
Zelda LuAnn
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Gilbert,
As far as which veggies grow best in the pine straw... I've had good success with everything I've planted with it. One tip though, be sure to pull the straw away from the seeds that you plant until they get sprouted up pretty good. Just a few inches or so of space for them is fine. Mostly what I've grown has been summer veggies... tomatoes, peppers, beans, cucumbers, corn, squash, zucchini, etc. Another thing I do is experiment with companion planting. This seems to really help things grow better & have fewer pests & diseases. One of my favorite combos is green beans, tomatoes, bell peppers all mixed & grown together with cilantro and marigolds. (I also grew some sweet potatoes in with that combo & it worked out very well... lots of production & no pests or chemicals.)
Cosmos is good to grow with corn/bean/squash... and there are others as well. I'll try to locate some pics if that would help.
 
Roberto pokachinni
pollinator
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Regular grass shouldn't take too long, but I have quack grass and it can take 3 months or more, depending on the temperature and the amount of sun that hits the plastic.
Quack grass (and some other perennial spreading grasses) are really REALLY challenging to get rid of, and take time.

The two things that I like about using black plastic are 1.That it's black, and so it gets really hot, cooking what's underneath. 2. It's plastic, so it can be rolled up for a few minutes to check what's going on periodically.

The second part, I feel, is the best attribute for a number of reasons: 1. Since you can roll the plastic up at any time (I suggest once per week, early in the day so you don't take away from the killing heat potential), you can WEED again. Anything you don't like-KILL.

I personally do not like the plastic thing, but it works to kill tenacious grasses-if it is monitored-in as short of a time as possible.

I generally use very dense mulch, or the cardboard method I described, or a combination of the two because worms seem to thrive under it. And worms will benefit your long term soil health in ways that will make your garden thrive. The thing about the black plastic or rubber is that the heat that kills the undesired species also kills the surface of your Soil Food Web. The black plastic is, to me, like using a chemical herbicide: It's a last ditch effort, a last resort if I can't do it with something that is less aggressive and antagonistic... like with super spreading perennial grasses. It's nearly impossible to lift up damp cardboard to inspect and do subsequent weeding... you have to do a super thorough job the first time... and pray, or give it more time. If you have the time, cardboard and mulch are much better at killing even perennial grasses, because you build soil with every part of it, and you don't end up with a bunch of plastic or rubber deteriorating in the U.V. in garden and on your land.

would like to grow the food they need for winter right in the yard. There's a lot of currently unallocated space, so I was thinking of planting 10x10m (32x32ft) or 20x10m of wheat/barley if you guys deem it enough for that small a flock.
You might pose this question in the critters forum.

The guy cut it down and left the leaves (which I know is good for a number of things) and stalks, low-cut, with the roots left in the ground. What can I do with these roots? Do I have to pick them out, or can I plant around them and leave them in the ground to rot (which everyone tells me is not possible and it's gonna take a long while)?
Don't believe the hype! Definitely plant around them. Always ask yourself: what would Fukuoka do.
One thing Fukuoka mentions in one of his books is to sew the seeds in tall grass, wait a week or so for the seeds to germinate, then cut the grass as mulch


It's great that you are into Fukuoka by the way. He's the man. One of my favorite adaptions of his thoughts/methods.
 
Dave Miller
pollinator
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Here's what I have been doing to convert my wild lawn/himalayan blackberry/canada thistle areas into food forest:
- Gather a large amount of wood chips from tree services.
- Go on craigslist and watch (or advertise) for someone giving away firewood that has started to rot (or let it start to rot in your yard). Right after wind or ice storms is a great time to look on craigslist.
- Gather a large amount of newspaper and remove the slick inserts. Ideally, find someone who subscribes to the Wall Street Journal - they rarely have inserts, and are in nice big sheets. I have used both cardboard and newspaper, but I have had a lot more success with newspaper, especially the Wall Street Journal. Seems kind of ironic that that newspaper would be the best choice for converting lawn into gardens.
- Gather your perennial seeds and sprout them in pots. When transplanting perennials to 1 gallon or larger pots, fill the bottom 1/3 with old wood chips, and the top 2/3 with soil + compost mix. Soak the entire pot in a soluble mycorrhizal fungi mix and let it drain back into your bucket.
- Use a scythe to cut "hay" from your tall grasses right before it goes to seed. This will be your green mulch.
- Use a scythe and/or lawn mower or grazing animals to cut everything else, as short as possible.
- Do any earth moving/smoothing etc.
- Put down any soil improvements (minerals, manure, nutrients, etc.)
- Put down your green mulch (recently cut grass). It is OK to skip this step if you don't have green mulch.
- Put down compost if you will be cutting through the newspaper to plant (e.g. perennials). If you will be planting above the newspaper, put the compost as the second layer from the top.
- Put down the newspaper, overlapping well. Keep it moistened so it doesn't blow around. Don't try to do too large of an area at once or the newspaper will dry out and blow around.
- Put down wood chips as the final layer.
- There are of course many sheet mulching recipes. Most of these call for humongous amounts of compost which IMHO is only practical for a smaller area. My backyard is 1/2 acre. I like to put the compost near the top layer, so that it acts as an inoculant and fertilizer to the layers below it.
- Lay out your potted perennials where you are going to plant them.
- Cut a hole in the newspaper the size of your pot. Dig a hole twice as deep as the pot and fill the bottom half with chunks of old wood (hugelkultur-ish) or old wood chips. If the pot is close to being root-bound, add a healthy layer of soil between the wood and the bottom of the pot. Soak the pot in soluble mycorrhizal fungi mix if you did not do so previously (e.g. when it was repotted into its current pot). The purpose of the wood in the hole is to act like a sponge and also provide nutrients.
- Ensure that the top layer of wood chips does not come in contact with the plant stem - there needs to be a clear space around the plant stem.
- If the original lawn or whatever was aggressive, you will need to ensure that none of it has access to light around your plants. Personally I like to wait a while (weeks) before cutting any holes in in the newspaper.

I have made and used seed balls on a sheet mulched area, but I waited until the sheet mulch was close to being decomposed. i.e. you don't want the sheet to be a barrier to your seedling's roots. But the mulch needs to have already smothered the lawn or whatever was growing there before. You will also need to have at least a little soil and compost on top of the sheet in order to support seedlings.

I am not trying to say that this is "the" way to do it, all I am saying is "this is what I did, and it worked for me".

I am in SW Washington State, zone 8b.
 
Richard Gorny
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All my attempts to sow directly without any preparation has miserably failed. Even plants commonly considered as invasive do not want to grow without soil preparation here. I had zero success with seed balls as well. I'm in a middle of forest, on a very sandy land, covered with clumps of grasses, and pine trees here and there. I assume all forest animals, mostly birds and insects were taking care of my seeds faster than they have managed to germinate. The only no-dig way for me is to use cardboard/newspaper cover and lots of mulch on top and plant in pockets filled with compost. I use both ramial chipped wood, straw and hay, as well as autumn leaves. I would love to have a better option but so far that's the only one that works for me here.
 
Todd Parr
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Roberto pokachinni wrote:

The two things that I like about using black plastic are 1.That it's black, and so it gets really hot, cooking what's underneath. 2. It's plastic, so it can be rolled up for a few minutes to check what's going on periodically.

The second part, I feel, is the best attribute for a number of reasons: 1. Since you can roll the plastic up at any time (I suggest once per week, early in the day so you don't take away from the killing heat potential), you can WEED again. Anything you don't like-KILL.

I personally do not like the plastic thing, but it works to kill tenacious grasses-if it is monitored-in as short of a time as possible.

I generally use very dense mulch, or the cardboard method I described, or a combination of the two because worms seem to thrive under it. And worms will benefit your long term soil health in ways that will make your garden thrive. The thing about the black plastic or rubber is that the heat that kills the undesired species also kills the surface of your Soil Food Web. The black plastic is, to me, like using a chemical herbicide: It's a last ditch effort, a last resort if I can't do it with something that is less aggressive and antagonistic... like with super spreading perennial grasses. It's nearly impossible to lift up damp cardboard to inspect and do subsequent weeding... you have to do a super thorough job the first time... and pray, or give it more time. If you have the time, cardboard and mulch are much better at killing even perennial grasses, because you build soil with every part of it, and you don't end up with a bunch of plastic or rubber deteriorating in the U.V. in garden and on your land.


I never roll it up to weed. I do this so I don't have to weed I lift a corner after a few months and see if everything is dead. If it isn't, I leave it there longer.

The black rubber probably does kill everything in the top inch or so, but as I said, the snakes love it. I think the worms just move down a little deeper until the rubber is removed. Also, voles and other creatures tunnel everywhere and do a great job breaking up my clay soil. I mulch and plant the soil as soon as I remove the rubber, and it seems to bounce back very quickly, and in my opinion it's less destructive to the soil and soil creatures than tilling. The problem I have had in the past with the cardboard and thick mulch combo is that quack grass can grow right up through it, even if it is 6 or 8 inches thick. I have been able to kill it with woodchips piled a foot and a half deep, but to do an area of any size, it take a tremendous amount of material and it's nearly impossible to plant in wood chips that are more than a foot deep. It works much better for me to kill everything with the rubber, put down an inch or two of compost, and cover it with a couple inches of woodchips.

I only use black rubber roofing that I get free from roofing companies when they tear it off buildings for a commercial roofing job. The rubber is guaranteed not to break down in UV for at least 20 years I'm told. I can tell you that in the 6 or 7 years I have been using it, it shows no sign whatsoever of deterioration or stiffening.
 
Chad Shearer
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Location: Spring Grove, United States
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At one point in time, I had a discussion with a well educated fellow who discussed things such as "toxins" that grasses have been known to put into the soil that are intended to make it extremely difficult for other plants to have access to that soil.

For the life of me, I can't find anything about that in my current research, but I did find this article on below ground plant competition.

 
Thekla McDaniels
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I can add one idea that has not been mentioned: enclose your chickens on an area you want cleared of all vegetation. They'll take care of it for you and deposit plenty of high nitrogen material as well.

Another thought is to use a no till drill to seed cover crop type plants into the weedy area, then mow or crimp them down or graze them. Then no till drill white clover into the area, and let it germinate and establish. Then when you want to plant annual vegetables, you can just clear the clover from the space where you will place your started vege, and keep the clover down lower than the vege.

Getting this weed/grass converted to rich soil is a project that has as many approaches as there are gardeners / farmers. One thing I think is important not to lose sight of is the value to the soil food web of having living roots in the soil as much of the time as possible, as they feed the helpful soil community. The less you till the ground, the easier it is to keep the living roots in place. I think this is part of why so many people end up interplanting annual vegetables with perennials, and or have such goodl uck creating "edge" conditions to support their annual foods.

What ever you do, remember to have fun with it. Try lots of things, try combinations of strategies, and don't get discouraged. It has always taken me years to turn weird unproductive ground into productive soil. It has gotten faster now that I inoculate the soil with mirco-organisms ( just a light sprinkling from nearby productive soil) and remember the conditions the mirco-organisms need.
 
eric koperek
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TO: Gerbert Thorne
FROM: Eric Koperek = erickoperek@gmail.com
SUBJECT: Planting Crops into Standing Weeds & Grasses
DATE: PM 2:29 Saturday 19 February 2016
TEXT:

1. It is practical to grow cereal grains by seeding into established pastures, meadows, range lands, abandoned fields, et cetera. Use no-till equipment or broadcast seed directly into standing weeds. The best time to seed is usually during the dry or dormant season when weeds are not actively growing. For best results use pelleted seeds (if you are surface planting). Pelleted seeds greatly increase seed germination and seedling survival. In years with good rainfall, expect yields of 60% to 70% of conventional grain crops. Translation: Expect 40% yield losses due to weed competition and other factors. For example, here in Butler County, Pennsylvania, I can fall plant winter wheat into live standing weeds and expect to harvest about 24 to 28 bushels per acre. Conventionally planted winter wheat yields around 40 bushels per acre around here. This is a very economical way to grow a "pancake garden" = grain for household use rather than commercial sale. Costs are low because there are no inputs other than seeding and harvest. Note: In years of poor rain or drought you will NOT get enough grain for harvest but you will get grass for grazing and protection of soil from wind and water erosion.

2. To convert a grassy, weedy pasture into a field for vegetable crop production you need to seed cover crops. Choose a plant that grows quickly and produces large amounts of biomass = stems & leaves = mulch. Common cereal rye = Secale cereale is a good example. Seed rye at 2 to 3 bushels per acre using no-till equipment or broadcast seed directly into standing weeds. Mow weeds immediately after planting to cover and protect germinating rye seedlings. Wait until rye grows 5 to 6 feet tall or when grain reaches soft dough stage. 6 foot high rye yields 8,000 to 10,000 pounds = 4 to 5 tons per acre of long straw = minimum amount needed for 90% weed control. Cut down rye with a sickle bar mower or flatten using a roller-crimper. Seed or transplant directly through rye mulch using no-till equipment. Alternatively, you can seed or plant by hand. Rye mulch controls most weeds until crop closes the rows and covers the field.

3. If you have a serious weed problem plant buckwheat using no-till equipment or broadcast seed by hand. Mow buckwheat when it is in full flower but before it sets seeds. Buckwheat will blot out most common farm weeds. Follow buckwheat with Dutch White Clover = Trifolium repens, Crimson Clover = Trifolium incarnatum, or Sub Clover = Trifolium subterraneum. Transplant vegetable crops directly into established (1 year old) field of low-growing clovers. Mow clover immediately before setting transplants or apply a circle of mulch around each transplant (to give crops extra time to get established). Crops only need to be protected for 3 to 6 weeks. Once established, crops will overgrow clover living mulch. NOTE: For best results, fertilize and irrigate generously, at least 1 inch of water weekly (1 1/2 inches for sandy soils). Apply dilute soluble fertilizer in irrigation water. Remember that you are growing both a cash crop and a mulch crop in the same field at the same time. Both crops need to be well cared for. Don't be stingy or crop yields may drop 50% or more. Dutch White Clover living mulch provides 90% weed control under average field conditions = as good as or better than synthetic chemical herbicides.

4. To establish Dutch White Clover broadcast or drill 12 pounds per acre directly into standing weeds. Mow immediately to cover and protect germinating clover seedlings. Irrigate if possible to speed clover germination and growth. You may need to mow every 2 weeks until clover becomes well established. Adjust mower height so that clover is NOT cut.

5. If you have an extreme weed problem, plant FORAGE MAIZE using no-till equipment. A 12 to 15 foot high crop of forage maize produces 30 to 36 tons of biomass per acre in about 100 to 110 days from seeding. Kill maize by roller-crimping or by mowing with a sickle bar mower. You can leave mulch crop standing in the field over winter if convenient. Plant or seed directly through maize mulch using no-till equipment. If desired, top seed Dutch White Clover over field at the same time crops are seeded or transplanted. Tiny clover seeds work their way through holes in the mulch and provide extra biodiversity in your fields. I grow pumpkins using mulch-in-place winter rye or forage maize. Mulch provides 90% to 95% weed control and keeps pumpkins clean and bruise-free. Expect 30,000 to 35,000 pound per acre yields with good soil fertility, irrigation, and warm weather.

6. You can plant fast-growing vine crops directly into standing weeds. Choose fields with the MOST weeds. Use no-till equipment or plant by hand. Mow weeds immediately before transplanting or immediately after seeding. If possible, irrigate crop to speed germination and growth. Apply dilute soluble fertilizer in irrigation water. If desired, top seed any species of low-growing clover immediately fields are planted. Mow or use a circle of mulch to protect young seedlings for the first 3 to 6 weeks. Once vines begin to run, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, tomatoes, squash, gourds, and melons overwhelm weeds = grow right over them. We get our best melons from the weediest parts of our fields.

7. Plant a crop of Red Clover = Trifolium pratense into standing weeds using no-till equipment or broadcast by hand. Mow weeds to cover and protect germinating seeds. Irrigate clover if possible to speed growth and increase biomass yield. Let clover grow for 1 year. A well-established field of red clover will provide enough nitrogen to grow 100 bushels of corn per acre. Red clover will eradicate most hard-to-control weeds. Mow red clover immediately before planting corn. Use no-till seeder to plant corn. Mow again 2 weeks later using swather and dividing board to keep cut clover from falling on corn rows. You may have to mow again, 2 weeks later, depending on the germination and growth rates of corn and weeds. Once corn gets up and established (4 to 8 leaves or about 18 inches high) it will out-grow both weeds and clover. Note: Use this method with any species of tall-growing clover.

8. You can plant any kind of winter cereal (oats, wheat, barley, rye) and Dutch White Clover together at the same time. The clover will not harm the grain but will suppress most common farm weeds. Drill or broadcast seed into standing weeds using no-till equipment then mow weeds to cover and protect germinating cereal and clover. Harvest grain the following summer. Expect about 40 bushel per acre yields in fertile soils with average rainfall. Yields can rise to 80 bushels per acre if fields are fertilized and crop is irrigated with 1 inch of water per acre each week.

9. For more information on old-fashioned biological agriculture please visit: www.agriculturesolutions.wordpress.com -- or -- www.worldagriculturesolutions.wordpress.com -- or -- send your questions to: Agriculture Solutions, 413 Cedar Drive, Moon Township, PENNSYLVANIA, 15108 USA -- or -- send an e-mail to: erickoperek@gmail.com
 
Gerbert Thorne
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Thanks, Eric, I will try to seed crimson or white clover on a patch of land and see what happens.

Thekla McDaniels wrote:
I can add one idea that has not been mentioned: enclose your chickens on an area you want cleared of all vegetation. They'll take care of it for you and deposit plenty of high nitrogen material as well.

It's a clever idea! However, the entire land should be prepared this spring and yields are expected by the end of this fall.
I don't mean to bitch about things, but my folks expect this to be a good yield/profit piece of land within a year. I am doing everything by hand (no machinery, and no money for stuff either), and the most advanced piece of tech is the wheelbarrow and a lawnmower (which I must use sparsely as I don't have fuel for it).
So, I'm looking hard for shortcut solutions, but everything takes so much time - which I am generally fine with, but the pressure seems a bit too much at the time. This was supposed to be a project that I'd enjoy, instead it's turning into a mind-boggling source of frustration.

Anyways,
I have started a black plastic patch (didn't mow it first, but no biggies), it seems to be doing good - there's interchangeable days of hot sunny days, and cold rainy ones.
I am also experimenting with removing only the tufts of grass that are in the way of rows where I'm about to seed (so far I have a row of radishes - as I hear these are great at breaking up the soil - and a row of peas).
One more thing I will be experimenting with is seeding around the grass, the same as above but without removing the grass - so I will see how much can my veggies fight the grasses.
And there's still the part covered in corn stark, which has nice loose soil. I'm going to leave them in the ground on one part, and pick them out on the other. Hopefully the plants will grow equally good on both areas ^^

Some raised beds will also find their place somewhere in the garden, as well as a few spiral gardens

Thanks for all the advice you gave, I will try to follow them and make something of this



Here are a few pictures of the grasses in question and the land in general
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This is the grass in question
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And how it looks when pulled out
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My part is all the way up until that tree in the middle, behind the corn field (it's a lot to do with only hand tools). The land in front of the shack is filled with bricks, so I'm gonna put the raised beds and spiral gardens there.
 
eric koperek
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TO: Gerbert Thorne
FROM: Eric Koperek = erickoperek@gmail.com
SUBJECT: Planting into Live Sod
DATE: PM 2:43 Friday 26 February 2016
TEXT:

1. In your photographs I see moss growing in your field. That means you have ACIDIC soil. Apply 2 tons of agricultural limestone per acre = 1.5 scale ounces of limestone per square foot of land. If limestone is unavailable or too expensive, substitute wood ashes from household fireplaces. 2 parts wood ashes = 1 part agricultural limestone by weight = apply 3 scale ounces of wood ashes per square foot of soil.

2. The best non-chemical way to kill aggressive grasses is with landscape fabric (weed-block), geotextile, or black plastic. I prefer to use landscape fabric or geotextile because they are much more durable and so can be rolled up and reused for many years. The next best solution is to use waste cardboard overlapped at least 6 inches and well weighted with rocks or big clods of earth. Scrap sheets of plywood, gypsum board, or rolls of worn-out carpet also kill aggressive grasses by blocking sunlight. The third best solution is to mulch heavily with straw, hay, leaves, or wood chips = apply mulch not less than 8 inches thick. FIND THE CHEAPEST SOURCE OF MULCH AND APPLY IT TO YOUR LAND RIGHT NOW = IMMEDIATELY = DO NOT DELAY. You need to kill the grass NOW so you can get your crops planted on time.

3. If you want this to be a commercially viable project the first season you must be ruthlessly practical about your time and budget. From your comments I deduce that you do not have much money to spend. You have an old lawn mower and some hand tools. Your most useful hand tool will be a garden fork. It is much easier to dig dirt with a fork rather than with a spade or shovel. Choose a crop or crops that do not require much care. Vine crops are ideal because they are mostly self-weeding. Once vines are established, they will over grow just about any weed, even species 5 or 6 feet tall.

4. Water is the best agricultural investment you can make. You don't need fertilizer, mulch, tools, or anything else as long as you have plentiful water. Find the nearest water source and figure out how you will get the water to your crops. If you have to buy 300 feet of garden hose, spend the money. Every dollar invested in irrigation returns at least 10 dollars in vegetables.

5. In the Austrian Alps tillage is not allowed due to danger of erosion, land slides, and avalanches. We have to plant into live, standing, native pastures. No herbicides are permitted. The trick is to use planting mounds or planting holes. Forget about the rest of the field. Concentrate all of your efforts and resources only on a few spaces where crops are planted. Ignore all surrounding areas. This will save you much time and money. Dig a hole just large enough to set your transplants. Mulch transplants thickly using nearby grass and weeds. APPLY MULCH AT LEAST 8 INCHES THICK. If you have access to any kind of animal manure use this to fertilize your crops. Collect cow manure cakes from a pasture. Manure can be fresh or dried. Dump 1 or 2 bushels = 8 to 16 gallons of manure on top of the ground to make a small mound. Seed or transplant directly into manure pile. You can also mulch each planting mound, if desired. Space hills 10 to 15 feet apart for large-fruited pumpkins, squash, gourds, and melons. Leave surrounding weeds and grasses alone. Just protect vines for the first 3 to 6 weeks until they begin to run. Once vines begin to climb no further care is necessary (except irrigation, if possible). With no fertilizer and no water you can expect about 8 American tons = 16,000 pounds of pumpkins or winter squash per acre PROVIDED YOU HAVE PLENTY OF MULCH TO PROTECT AND FEED YOUNG TRANSPLANTS. (This assumes you have normal rainfall and warm weather).

6. Do NOT try to grow small seeded crops or any plant that grows slowly. Your soil is not ready for these demanding plants. Concentrate on vegetables that you can transplant or that have big seeds (like pole beans). Sweet potatoes are an excellent choice for subsistence farming because they grow well in poor soils and do not require either herbicides or insecticides. Protect sweet potato transplants with mulch only for the first 3 to 6 weeks. Once vines are established they will outgrow most farm weeds.

7. If desired, you can divide your field into widely spaced planting strips. Each strip is the width of your lawn mower. Mow the rest of the field and use the cut vegetation to mulch your planting strips. This will save you vast amounts of labor and you won't have to buy any mulch.

8. Search diligently for any source of free or cheap mulch. Use wood chips, saw dust and other high-carbon mulches for paths and row middles. Use higher-nitrogen hay, straw, grass clippings, leaves, and weeds to mulch raised beds, hills, and vegetable rows. ALWAYS APPLY MULCH AT LEAST 8 INCHES THICK. Keep the ground covered with mulch year-round. Pull aside mulch only enough to set plants or seeds. Add more mulch every time you plant or anytime a weed pokes through the mulch. Keep piling on the mulch and leave your soil alone. You can sprinkle lime and fertilizer if necessary directly over the mulch. Soil thickly covered with mulch attracts vast numbers of earthworms. The worms till and fertilize the soil; all you have to do is feed the worms = add more mulch. Austrian farmers have been growing bountiful crops since the Middle Ages using nothing but dirt and mulch. (If you want to apply manure spread it underneath the mulch to control flies and odor). Typical Austrian truck farm = 10 hectares = about 25 acres and earns $100,000 dollars a year = not less than $4,000 dollars per acre. These farms use nothing but mulches (both living and dead), and some manure if available. 1 hectare = 2.47 acres. 1 acre = 43,560 square feet = 208.71032 feet long x 208.71032 feet wide = strip 22 yards wide x 220 yards long = 4,840 square yards.

9. You can make your own soluble plant food by soaking equal parts manure and water by weight for 1 hour. Filter then apply "manure tea" only to growing plants. This is the poor man's equivalent of "Miracle Grow".

10. A field covered with 8 inches of spoiled hay mulch -- or -- a living mulch of any species of low growing clover will support an earthworm population of at least 1 million worms per acre = 23 worms per square foot AFTER 4 YEARS OF CONTINUOUS COVER. Worm populations can easily exceed 2 million per acre within the first 4 years if conditions are especially favorable. 1 million earthworms = Lumbricus terestris produce 2,000 pounds = 1 ton of castings = manure daily during the growing season. That is a lot of free organic fertilizer!

11. You can top seed Dutch White Clover = Trifolium repens, Crimson Clover = Trifolium incarnatum, or Sub Clover = Trifolium subterraneum directly over standing weeds and grasses. Mow immediately after seeding to cover and protect germinating clover. Note: Clover grows much better if soil is limed. The clover will suppress but not entirely eliminate competing broad leaf weeds and grasses the first year. Expect 90% weed control the second and following years once clover living mulch is well established.

12. For more information on old-fashioned biological agriculture please visit: www.agriculturesolutions.wordpress.com -- or -- www.worldagriculturesolutions.wordpress.com -- or -- send your questions to: Agriculture Solutions, 413 Cedar Drive, Moon Township, Pennsylvania, 15108 USA -- or -- send an e-mail to: erickoperek@gmail.com

 
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