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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Getting Rid of the Grass

When I first moved in with Monkey Man nine or so years ago, the backyard was a mess. A great expanse of weed with some well established trees. Good trees mind you, but he can't take much credit for them. The old Polish woman who lived here before Monkey Man had planted a plum and three lemon trees. There were also lilac trees but not much else. Actually, to give some credit to Monkey Man, in the ten years before I came along he had planted a couple of gems - a fig tree and a terrific Japanese maple which has grown enormous. But my neighbour Mr P told me that he reckoned the old lady would turn in her grave if she saw the neglect Monkey Man had inflicted on her garden. Gardening is just not his thing. He likes mess and jungle and non clumping bamboo (don't get me started on that one again). And, it seems, weeds.
Here are some before and after pics from a previous post I did a few months ago. You can see in the before photo that we're in the middle of a renovation - and look at the mess! And loads of grass. Oh and look how little Eldest Monkey Boy is.
Before...

After...
Now, I'm a bit reluctant to post this next photo of this bit of my garden as it looks today... because it looks terrible. I know you will be shocked at how dreadfully messy it is. My only defence is that we've been on holidays and the fortnight before that we were in renovation plastering chaos... and I'm rather lazy and like to focus on the bits of the garden that are working like the veggie patches and ignore the rest. Anyway, here's a rather nasty view of the grass down the back.
Anyway, this week I was reading Dixibelle's blog and she was writing about strategies at her place to reduce weeds and one of her ideas was to mulch the paths that were currently 'lawn'. And it struck me that I too should be done with the grass altogether and maybe mulch all over. And plant more stuff where the grass is and extend my veggie patches even further. Or maybe gravel over some bits? It's hard for me to envisage so I'm a bit hesitant to completely commit but... I think I'm about to embark on a de-grassing project.

So I've been googling about (you know I'm very fond of the google) and have started a little folio of web images of non-grassed gardens. And I would greatly appreciate your input. You can see from my shameful photo some of what I'm dealing with. This shot shows the trampoline to the right, the chook shed, slide and broad bean patch in the distance and is taken from under the plum tree. That colourful thing to the left is a sitting hammock that swings from the plum tree and those planks of wood are seats too. It's actually a nice spot - shaded in summer and sunny in winter... and impossible to see your feet in spring.

So do you have any advice? Am I fighting a losing battle? Have you de-grassed at your place? Any images or links you can direct my way or advice you have to convince me to de-grass or otherwise would be greatly appreciated. Oh, and I don't have much money to spend. So lots of pavers or expensive gravelly things aren't going to work for me. What do you reckon?

17 comments:

  1. Getting rid of grass can look great, but ensuring that you do not get a weed infestation my be a problem depending on what you want to do with the area.

    Many people choose to put a geo textile layer down, but this has to be used cautiously in conjunction with planting as it will inhibit the worm population, therefore de-oxygenating the soil

    Good luck! Jen

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  2. I'm thinking, I'm thinking! Can think of plenty of ways to extend your garden (put down carpet or plastic first to kill grass/weeds, then layer newspaper, mulch etc.) but you prob know all that. Plus extend the chook run! Don't know what you could put down in the other area apart from forest mulch/bark and that costs $$. Hope someone has some good ideas for you! cheers Wendy

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  3. I am gradually trying to get rid of our grass (or should that be weed infested mass of couch that is masquerading as grass that my partner is ridiculously attached to...). But because I have to do it by stealth I am only able to convert bits at a time. My most recent being to create a new potato bed using the no dig method where you just put potatoes and straw and manure on top of the grass. Other than that - I think someone told me that the councils sometimes give mulch away for free (or very cheaply).

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  4. I really feel for you as you really have got a lot to do, buuuut don't dispair because the easiest thing to do is cut the grass as short as you can then cover it with newspaper,thick as you can the more the better, cover every inch of the grass. Then cover this with a layer of lucern hay, then chicken poo(you would have lots of that) and then a thick layer of straw. YOu can get horse exaust, usually for free which has lots of straw in it. On top of all this put compost piles,little piles to plant into. Flowers,veggies, or whatever you like. Everything will grow so quickly if the water is kept up and the grass will be no more. The newspaper will make sure of that and it will become compost as it breaks down. Good Luck, post a pic when your done, would like to see it.

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  5. I know...I turn my back for a couple of days and I am knee deep in grass I have almost eradicated it from the veggie patch .... mulched paths with paper and cardboard underneath. I am gradually doing away with it in front of the outdoor kitchen (but the greenhouse has stopped this bit of digging for the while), now I am faced with getting it out of the green house. I plan to extend the pond ... just to get rid of grass in the future. I hate cutting it...it is so over rated! I have done as jeanetteann suggests in the veggie patch over time...works a treat! Good luck.

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  6. I live in Brisbane and had good success with sweet potato. It out competes buffalo and couch grass. I use a red leaved variety I got from bunnings that is supposed to be an ornamental variety, but it still makes small white skinned / fleshed tubers thatbare really tasty. I also have a green leaved variety but it doesn't form tubers. Each plant covers a couple of square meters, but it propagates like crazy from cuttings.

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  7. Vinegar is a great way to kill off grass or weeds, just use it in a spray bottle and spray it daily until it dies, then spray off any new growth. It might help you cut the grass back enough to see the yard from a new angle and come up with a plan to do with it.

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  8. I think I'd do it gradually - mulching with newspaper and cardboard to clear the grass - and then as a small area is cleared, plant it up with more veggies. Not that I've done this myself, mind you, but I've heard it works...

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  9. I de-grassed my garden some years ago and have never regetted it. I put down 25mm shingle in its place, which looks nice and is easy to maintain. (Lots of photos on my blog - especially on the "My Plot" page).

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  10. Earlier this year I got rid of my front grass. Love it now. I mulch the small sections and it is now so low maintenance and look so neat. I have also reduced the lawn areas in the back yard with garden areas of the last three years. Some areas I replaced with veggie gardens.

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  11. Your 'after' shot is just gorgeous! Love that you showed us your real photos too!

    The classic Permaculture Sheet Mulch ('no-dig' or 'lasagna') garden beds are what jeanetteann has described, and worked quite well for a 'lawn' section of our side yard (in between fruit trees we planted), as well as using Hugelkultur garden beds (similiar to 'no-dig' garden bed but using bigger prunings/ branches) on the front 'lawn' too... I say lawn, but it was weedy-dirt patches really, and though the added garden beds are not necessarily neat and pretty, they sure do grow lots of vege's and that's better than a wasted area! More about those garden beds here: http://eatatdixiebelles.blogspot.com/search/label/PermaBlitz%20and%20Permaculture

    In between our raised wicking worm beds, and these no-dig productive areas we've created, we will mow the 'lawn' low, lay several layers of newspaper, then mulch well with some 'forest litter' mulch we have... suffocating the weeds! This can then be walked on, & when it breaks down and you might shovel it on the growing areas, or perhaps turn the walkways into growing areas themselves (as long as we make somewhere else to walk!) This idea of mulched pathways is cheaper & less permanent than pavers. You could also make some 'swaled' pathways too, to redirect water, and backfill the swale with gravel/ pebble, something heavier than mulch but will allow the water to flow through without taking the content with it! (We are doing this for the overflow pipes off our raised wicking worm garden beds, towards our fruit trees).

    In between our fruit trees, the 'kitchen garden' area, and along fence lines, I am growing flowers, culinary and medicinal herbs, perenials where possible. This is to attract bees & good insects, hide the weeds and make it look pretty too!

    Another productive but pretty garden I admired recently is Erica & Nicks: http://www.nwedible.com/2011/09/great-cover-up-carpeting-your-garden.html

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  12. So many fantastic ideas. Right, I'm getting out there right now.

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  13. Great! I also forgot to say we are going to use the chook house, which is portable, to let our new chickens earn their keep (once they are big enough, we are not into child labour!) and remove the grass/ weeds in the 'lawn' areas too, then add newspaper or cardboard and mulch. There are only so many areas the chook house will fit, and the rest we will mow first and do it that way!

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  14. I love your before and after photos too - how lovely everything looks in the second photo. And don't worry too much about the third, parts of my yard look like that at times too.

    I have gotten rid of a large amount of my front lawn, but it was a lot easier for me as I did it in the middle of winter when it hadn't rained for quite some time. So there were bare patches everywhere. I just covered the yard with cardboard and mulched directly on top. It was fun and looked a lot neater, but your grass looks a lot more lush than mine ever did.

    I'd be inclined to mow the area down short first and then look at the lie of the land. You'll feel better and be able to think more clearly when it's all lovely and mown. Then you could decide where to have paths and where to have beds. My favourite garden beds are big mounds that I have built up with compost and mulch, and then planted directly into. I like them much more than my wooden raised beds - they look more landscapey!

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  15. I'm with the folk who say yay for more vegie beds!! However with young kids...I love having a bit of lawn for a picnic, for kicking the soccer ball on, for painting on huge sheets of paper, for playing with the chooks and now the bunny, for the trampoline in summer...and also because our lawn is in shade most of the day so vegies wouldn't survive there anyway.
    I'd do as Ali suggests, mow it, get out a picnic blanket and lay there and contemplate.

    If you cleared your grass and lasagned it with paper and mulch permie style, perhaps you could grow vegies in some spots but also use the cleared area as an open art studio? A space for mosaic, paint, putting bits and bobs together and clay modelling...?

    Hope you can join in the bloggy meet up.

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  16. I like the idea of mulching the lot. Newspaper, laid wet and thick is your friend in grass control, very effective. You could then add pine needles, or tip mulch or my favourite at the moment is saw dust (so soft and pretty and a bit longer to break down) - it might make a nice soft landing for your little one. We're gradually whittling ours away but have lots of native grass we want to keep.

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  17. I always love looking at your before and after photos and especially the "now" ones! Happy to hear the planks of wood laying there serve a purpose, good place to sit with a cup of tea and decide what to do next! Another holiday away?
    I must admit i do love a little bit of green grass but i got rid of all my lawn areas quite a few years ago and layed gravel instead but then you do get weeds coming through and i do remember weeding is not one of your favorite things!! Good luck with what ever you decide and hope you can rope in those monkeys to help.

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