(go to kickstarter page)
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

What to do with all the grass  RSS feed

 
Yen Yus
Posts: 11
4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi

We have alot of tall grass on the land and the rainy season is almost over.

I'm thinking of waiting until they go to seed and then flail mowing the whole lot to turn it into mulch and build soil. What do you guys think?

Regards
IMG_20170323_121214.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG_20170323_121214.jpg]
 
Henri Lentonen
Posts: 69
Location: Finland
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Make compost in big container and put earthworms there: when it releases liquids, use the liquid for fields where you cultivate plants as nutrient and microbeboost.

It will release liquid sooner, than the compost is ready and has made the grass into soil.

When compost is ready, collect the worms and feed them to fish or chickens, use the soil for nutrients and microbeboost for fields where you cultivate plants.

I recommend using with composting this, have had good results: Kashimori, bokashi, effective microbes, has many names.
 
Yen Yus
Posts: 11
4
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Yes I guess you could make compost, but it's a 4 acre field. Wouldn't it be too much work? Also would it not leave the land bare if I collected all the grass and put it in a pile? Would it not be better to leave it on the ground as mulch for moisture retention?
 
Kyle Neath
Posts: 40
Location: High Sierras, CA 6400'
9
dog hugelkultur trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
What are your future goals with the land?
 
Henri Lentonen
Posts: 69
Location: Finland
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
If you just pile it in the ground, it will release the liquids to the earth.

My point was that you collect it in a big container so you can collect the liquid and use it for other fields. And also collect all the earthworms when they have multiplied and eat the grass and made it into soil.

Maybe you cut down all the plants in that field and leave half there as mulch and put half in a big container?

Sure it is more work but you get free nutrients and free food for farm animals, if you have any.

Other thing come to my mind was, that cut down everything and mix the earth and plant hemp: it has so good roots that it will make the earth better, and leave the hemp die there as mulch. Or where you live, I dont know how many months you have left of good temperature where plants can grow?


 
Casie Becker
gardener
Posts: 1313
Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
92
forest garden urban
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I think it depends on when the grass goes to seed versus when the rainy season ends.  Unless you need the seed, I would prioritize turning that grass into mulch before the soil dries. I don't know how dry your dry season is though.  Ours can be fairly brutal and coincides with the hottest part of summer.
 
Mark Kissinger
Posts: 17
1
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Why not graze it, and let it follow it's grass life-cycle?

Use animal services to symbiotically work the pasture: cows (and chickens--if you can actively manage their daily movements to systematically "harvest the pasture".

You could just let nature take it's course, and observe what happens. Nothing wrong with letting or encouraging the grasses form their own "grass-bassed" plant guilds.

The right seed mix could provide a year-around ground cover.  However, in the driest deserts, one must accept that the plants and soil must go dormant.

Most grasses also need periods of dormancy. Look into Michael Pollan's tome, "The Omnivores Dilemma", which describes

Polyface Farm is a farm located in rural Swoope, Virginia, United States, and is run by Joel Salatin and his family. The farm is driven using unconventional methods with the goal of "emotionally, economically and environmentally enhancing agriculture". This farm is where Salatin developed and put into practice many of his most innovative and significant agricultural methods. These include direct-marketing of meats and produce to consumers, pastured-poultry, grass-fed beef and the rotation method which makes his farm more like an ecological system than conventional farming. Polyface Farm operates a farm store on-site where consumers go to pick up their products. source: Wikipedia.

It terms of stacking functions, cows or other ruminants (llamas, alpacas) perform mowing & fertilization services, while offering multiple yields.

If you want to be more intense, you can go full-on Polyface Farms, and combine poultry into the mix.
 
Mark Kissinger
Posts: 17
1
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I don't see why you have to "do" anything, unless you're worried about fire danger.

The upright dried grasses will self-flail in the wind, re-seeding the field, and the stalks will eventually bend down to provide a mulch that doesn't blow away.

Over time, the growing and dying-back of the grasses' roots build up the sub-surface organic content of the soil, without human intervention.

Just continue harvesting the water as you are doing with your system of swales.

In the interim, the flowering plants are nurturing the insects.

I suggest inter-seeding with a mix of climate-adapted perennial grasses and wildflower species, so you won't need to replant.

If possible, select varieties whose blooms, or seed-head maturity periods occupy different portions of the growing season.
 
Casie Becker
gardener
Posts: 1313
Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
92
forest garden urban
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
In my experience, long grass doesn't 'self flail' in the wind. If left standing it dries out and provides very little (if any) protection to the soil drying out in wind and baking in sun. If the wind is strong enough to break the grass it is also strong enough to carry it entirely out of the area. This may be different in an area that supports very dense growth, but if anything, that picture looks like the grass is sparser than what I work with.
 
Todd Parr
Posts: 846
Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
12
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
If funds allow, I would cut it now and leave the grass in place, and put down as many different types of seeds as I could find, hopefully before the rainy season is completely over and try to get as diverse a crop as possible started for chopping and leaving as mulch.
 
Yen Yus
Posts: 11
4
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Casie Becker wrote:In my experience, long grass doesn't 'self flail' in the wind. If left standing it dries out and provides very little (if any) protection to the soil drying out in wind and baking in sun. If the wind is strong enough to break the grass it is also strong enough to carry it entirely out of the area. This may be different in an area that supports very dense growth, but if anything, that picture looks like the grass is sparser than what I work with.


This is exactly what happened last summer. They did not self flail, just standing there and the soil was really dry and cracked.

My overall goal is to improve my soil and land as a whole. So maybe it's best to flail it with a mower when seeds are ready so they can self sow.

Regards
 
Cody DeBaun
Posts: 35
Location: Denton, TX United States Zone 8a
5
dog forest garden toxin-ectomy
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Yen, I think you've got it.

Bill talked about how when starting a property, particularly a larger one, the best method he settled on was letting the grasses grow out and seed, scything them down, rinse/repeat.

He talked about how it really bothered any neighbors, who would try to get him to give over that grass or at least do something with it himself, instead of letting it 'go to waste'.

In reality what he was doing was building the right environment for the soil ecology and the worms that keystone that environment. Build it and they will come- toss a bunch of worms out on bare dirt and they will struggle to build it themselves.
 
Mark Kissinger
Posts: 17
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I think Cody sums it up pretty well. I hadn't realized the seeds didn't naturally make it to the ground.
If knocking down the plants to form a mulch works better to build up the soil, then that's what to do.
 
Leora Laforge
Posts: 45
Location: Saskatchewan
10
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Put that grass through some cows, or sheep, or goats, whatever is available.

If you have no livestock find a neighbor with some who is willing to herd them across your land. You want some of the grass eaten and the rest of it trampled. Do this at a time where seeds will be viable. The animals will stomp the seeds into the soil so they can germinate, and enough grass should be trampled that all or most of the bare ground is covered. Also free fertilizer from feces and urine.
 
Tj Jefferson
Posts: 123
Location: Virginia USDA 7a/b
9
bee chicken hugelkultur hunting
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Yen, I am specifically using a finishing mower on my cover crops and running it FAST with high-updraft blades. I used a single blade rotary and had irregular piles. The finishing mower shreaded and spreaded!

Like you were saying, put down your succession seeds before you mow. Obviously herbivores are great but that means fencing and predatory protection, and I'm also without that facet.

Please update so we can see what you did!
 
Joseph Lofthouse
garden master
Posts: 2262
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
417
bee chicken food preservation fungi greening the desert
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

I wonder how soil was built before flail mowers were invented? Before humans started trying to help?
 
Tj Jefferson
Posts: 123
Location: Virginia USDA 7a/b
9
bee chicken hugelkultur hunting
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Joseph, I think many of these areas were subject to frequent burns and roaming herbivores. I'm not currently able to do either and Yen may be in a similar position so I attempt to meet him where he is and assist in his succession plan to something more sustainable... I trust this was a rhetorical question?
 
Joseph Lofthouse
garden master
Posts: 2262
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
417
bee chicken food preservation fungi greening the desert
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
On this forum, I frequently hear some variation of the question, "What should I do?" I don't like the question, because it implies that we are capable of understanding the ramifications of our actions. As far as I can tell the original poster's question is something along the lines of "How can I manage the land in this photo in order to 'build' soil".  As far as I can tell, there isn't any way of knowing how soil is actually built, or which intervention would be most helpful, or how any intervention would be better than doing nothing at all. And building soil to what end? If I increase the humus in soil to the benefit of some species, I am degrading it for use by other species. If I mow, I'm benefiting some species at the expense of others. If I introduce animals, I'm benefiting some species to the detriment of others. If I cut the grass, I'm also cutting the wildflowers, and disrupting the pollinators, etc.

In most of these cases, I come to the conclusion that doing nothing is the highest good that can accrue to a piece of land. My general sense of the matter, is that life will take care of herself, regardless of any interventions, or flailings that we might attempt. Seeds know how to fall out of plants and grow in the ground. Animals know how to eat seeds and plants. Plants know how to protect themselves from animals. Microbes know how to decompose plants, whether or not they are in a pile, or laying on the ground, or standing up. Whether or not humans get involved life will continue it's cycles. 
 
Tj Jefferson
Posts: 123
Location: Virginia USDA 7a/b
9
bee chicken hugelkultur hunting
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Joseph, that is a thoughtful response.

My land is probably not dissimilar to many properties. It was quite degraded when we bought it (turns out to have been a Christmas tree farm after tobacco plantation, yikes!) and I think I could allow natural succession to continue. In a century.

Without assistance the Sahara will likely recover. I still think using human ingenuity has a place and Greening the Desert is a laudable project. So philosophically I think humans can both degrade rapidly but (I hope) can rebuild fertility more rapidly than just natural processes. "I come to the conclusion that doing nothing is the highest good that can accrue to a piece of land". I don't dispute your experience but I think sometimes human intervention may be beneficial. My property has been essentially fallow for at least 15 years and had the same speciation as recent clear cuts!

But I understand completely the philosophical basis. Mostly my goal is to introduce species and shade, and add some stuff I can eat while I enjoy the view. This area should be a riot of diversity and productivity. I hope to play a part. 
 
Mark Kissinger
Posts: 17
1
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
With only the photo to go by, it seems that the grass is doing quite nicely just as it is.
Have you observed it for a few seasons to see how it does with minimal interventions?
It appears that you have taken steps to maximize the capture of rainwater.
As long as the grass continues to thrive, let it come to it's own equilibrium,
unless you require some specialized yields from the land that a good grassland ecology can not provide.
A field of grass is its own reward!
 
Marco Banks
Posts: 471
Location: Los Angeles, CA
40
books chicken food preservation forest garden hugelkultur trees urban woodworking
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I agree with the folks above who encourage you to graze it.  Is there someone nearby that has cattle?  I'm sure they would love to put their herd on your land for a couple of days and let them gain a couple of kilos for the service of taking that grass down for you.

Gabe Brown talks about the livestock eating a third and tromping two-thirds of the grass down onto the soil surface.  The roots will self-prune and leave all that wonderful carbon in the soil, and the urine and manure will add a tremendous amount of nitrogen into the system as it also feeds the microbial community in the soil.  All of those variables (the bio-mass stomped onto the soil surface, the roots under the surface, and the poop/pee) will aid tremendously to soil building.

If you're unfamiliar with Gabe Brown, you might wish to watch a couple of his videos.





Best of luck.
 
Yen Yus
Posts: 11
4
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
First of all thank you for all your input.

This is our first year on the land. I've attached a picture of what the land looked like last summer.
We did not own it then. The soil had deep cracks in it and looked completely lifeless. All this because of overgrazing and over tilling. So I too believe in the natural way but, maybe if we didn't build the swales (which took us over a months work) then the land may not have been able to retain as much moisture. So maybe human interaction with nature (as we are a part of nature), in a carefully planned minnimal way, is ok.

İ just want to help the land recover from its previous state. I have not yet seen how the land will do if we leave it to its own. So I may just flail mow it partially as an experiment. All in all I'm pretty happy that the native grass is back and nature is recovering and healing.

I'm not sure about live stock as they are partially responsible for its previous state. I do see the logic in the way that they break down plants and poop them out with beneficial bacteria. I also read that their hoofs help plant germination and moisture retention. So I will also consider this option.

Regards
20151104_105513.jpg
[Thumbnail for 20151104_105513.jpg]
 
Nicole Alderman
pollinator
Posts: 1215
Location: Pacific Northwest
129
duck forest garden hugelkultur
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I see a lot of people mentioning grazing cattle. Cow are expensive and so are fences to corral them in. Don't geese also eat grass? I'm pretty sure a flock of them are cheaper and portable electric fencing for them is likely also cheaper. According to some on this thread about housing geese geese don't require much--if any--shelter. They also don't compact the soil as much as a cow.

Personally, if this was in my "zone" 4 or 5 (where I rarely go), or if I didn't know what I want to do with the land, I'd probably either (in order of most intensive to least intensive):
(A) Spread some edible cover crop seeds or native plants and then mow the grass down, leaving the clippings on the seeds. (I'd do native seeds if this was going to be a wild land. Forage grasses if you wanted to have it be pasture, or cover crops if you wanted to turn it into a forest garden or field crops)
(B) Just mow it, leaving the clippings there, especially if I were thinking about grazing on it later and didn't want trees sprouting up; or,
(C) Just let it's do it's thing and leave it alone. It really depends on how much time/energy/money you have.

What are your plans for the area, both this year and years in the future? Do you want it to be pasture, a garden, an orchard/forest garden, field crops, wild land, or something else?

Edited because I just saw your response after I had posted .
 
Marco Banks
Posts: 471
Location: Los Angeles, CA
40
books chicken food preservation forest garden hugelkultur trees urban woodworking
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Yen Yus wrote:

I'm not sure about live stock as they are partially responsible for its previous state. I do see the logic in the way that they break down plants and poop them out with beneficial bacteria. I also read that their hoofs help plant germination and moisture retention. So I will also consider this option. 


The key is to only put livestock on the land for 1 day and them move them.  Give them only enough space to graze what is before them.  Move them frequently.  Basically, once the grass stalks are 5 leaves tall, put the cows out there and keep them tightly packed.  They'll stomp much of the grass down that way.

But then get them out and don't put them back on the same land for another year.  Graze it hard, and then let the land recover fully.

If you choose to plant a cover-crop in the off-season, you can graze the cows again a second time in the year, this time to clean up your cover crop.

Sheep and goats are a whole different thing entirely.  They nibble plants off right down to the ground.  geoff lawton calls them maggots, the way the denude the landscape.  But cows will move into tall grass and smash down what they can't eat.
 
Hans Quistorff
pollinator
Posts: 711
Location: Longbranch, WA
34
chicken goat rabbit solar tiny house wofati
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I find it best to just go about the field regularly with a scythe. I mow according to my desired outcome.  Where undesirable plants come up I mow them before they set seed. [daisies for example]  If what I mow is not going to smother something I want to grow I let it drop.  If I want to have it reseed I cut it when the seeds will come loose then mulch areas with out cover like the bottom of your swales.  If it is an area that has good coverage and you Want to build soil from the roots like in mob grazing mow it before it starts to make seed stalks but has time to regrow before it drys out.

I have 9 months of wet and 3 months of dry. Some of my land has very deep sub irrigated soil so I harvest the vegetation for mulch for my berries and trees. Some of my swale ponds I want to make bigger so I fill them with long grass in the fall so nothing grows in them during the winter. Now I am beginning to pull that mulch out of the ponds to the edge where it smothers the growth on the edge then when it dries out I can harvest mulch and soil and expand the pond to hold more water next winter. I did not have to dig swales. As  I did the mowing and observing there was a natural swale that made a big Z across a 2 acre field; all I had to do was enhance it and fill in the ditches that pas land stewards have dug. My wife love the riding mower so I can map out areas that need to be mowed short for her to do.

So my advice is don't try to do everything at once or the same. Keep trying what seems best for each microclimate and observe and adjust in the future,  Let the land teach you what it wants to be.
You can watch me doing some of this here.
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!