Monday, February 7, 2011

Laying Down the Law(n)

I know I've said it before, but I'm done with mowing.  No more.  Finis.  With that in mind, I have been making a concerted effort over the past few weeks to kill the grass and weeds in my backyard.  I don't want to use chemicals, out of the question.  I don't want to dig and till and pull, too much effort.  Smothering is the name of the game, or at least it's what I'm attempting to do with wheat straw, cardboard, and mulch.

Layers of wheat straw, cardboard, more straw, and a few inches of mulch on top of grass and weeds.
It rained all day Saturday.  Rained hard.  Most sane people were inside staying warm and dry.  I'm not sane.  I moved 4 cubic yards of mulch from the city compost facility in 1 yard loads, then shoveled it into a wheelbarrow and carted it into my backyard.  I couldn't think of a better way to spend 7 hours on a Saturday.  Like I said, I'm not sane.  Sanity doesn't run in the family.  I remember watching my 75-year-old grandfather climb a tree with one arm while holding a chainsaw with his other arm.  I also remember my dad mowing the lawn at night after a long day at work.  I figured moving mulch in the rain wasn't out of the ordinary.

For a few weeks my strategy involved spreading wheat straw all over the portions of grass I wanted to smother.  I followed that up with layers of thick cardboard.  I made sure to  provide significant overlap from piece to piece to avoid gaps in the coverage.  Then I added another layer of straw and finally a thick 3-4" layer of fresh mulch.

My dog, the ever loyal sentinel, inquisitively patrolling his new turf.
I did not have enough cardboard or mulch to complete the whole process, but I finished approximately 70% of the yard.  I deliberately avoided putting down mulch in the areas between raised beds.  I intend to join those sections of beds to create a longer growing area.  Yes, I'll lose the convenience of being able to walk between the individual beds, but I'll gain the extra planting space and I'll just have to take a few more steps to reach the other side of the beds.  Essentially, I'll have 2 very long beds instead of smaller ones.  It's a small yard so every inch of growing space is at a premium.

Un-mulched area between two raised beds.  The top left bed contains kale and the lower right bed contains carrots.
I plan on using the same type of untreated 2x8's to enclose the un-mulched sections for planting.  I'll likely plant the new spaces with tomatoes since I planted the majority of beds with tomatoes last summer.  This will provide me with some additional rotation space and will prevent the buildup of pests and diseases in last year's locations.  

Overall shot of newly mulched area of yard.  Pomegranate tree branches in right foreground.
I'm gambling on the idea that layer upon layer of mulch will smother the grass and weeds. The concept is also quite similar to lasagna gardening.  I have no doubt that grass and other things will conspire against me and grow, but I'm hoping for the best.  In the photo above, I still need to mulch the area between the covered beds and white fence, the area in the back right adjacent to the shed, and the area behind and to the left of where I was standing when I took this photo.  I will post more about my plans for the area near the white fence at a later date this winter or early spring.  Think fig trees...


Mr. H. said...

Your crazy, I love it. Our lawn gets a bit smaller every year too.:)

What Pigs Don't Know said...


I've found a really good trick for getting tons of mulch delivered to my front door is to call tree companies. They have to pay to dump their loads and usually will jump at the chance to drop 6 cu/yards of fresh mulch for free.

I love what you're doing with the place!


Kim said...

I love that you can work outside! We still have about a foot of snow over everything. Working in the rain? I'm not brave enough to do much of anything in the rain so good for you! And sanity is over rated :)

What Pigs Don't Know said...

Very informative post. Looking forward to seeing if it really hinders all of the grass growth. And while I do think mulching your entire backyard is a bit on the crazy side, it doesn't even compare to our to-remain-unnamed relative who walked home two miles immediately following a colonoscopy for which he stayed awake entire time!!! -Carrie