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Posted: Jun/23/2009 7:03 AM PST
I have a real mess in my back yard (zone 7). Poor soil, large old grown trees that surround the property, and a beautiful garden surrounding an area that should be grass but is instead a combination of sick looking grass, weeds and mud.
I'm seriously considering covering the whole area in gravel, which would be an extension of what I already have done in some areas of the garden. Plus the advantages of not having grass are obvious.
In researching various gravel options, I came across an article from JoyCreek Nursery about using a combination of one inch clean crushed gravel about .25 inch in size, one inch of compost worked into that, and new grass seed. The gravel promotes drainage (I desperately need this), the compost promotes growth, and gravel settles into the old soil which makes for a wonderful lawn, that does not take as much water (another plus). After the lawn gets established, it takes foot traffic well (I don’t have that much), and provides a very nice grassy area.
I called the place out of extreme curiosity, and was told that the key to the whole process is the clean crushed gravel which promotes drainage (pea won't work it compacts). The method should work in my desperate situation given their testing and research. Another key is planting seed that would work in my zone.
I'd like to find someone who has had experience with this. I'm wondering if anyone out there has tried this method. This is going to be TONS of work for me, since I will probably have to do it myself. I will need to haul bags of stuff from the front to the back and down a slight hill (no problem). Using a cart or wagon for a larger delivery is impossible due to distance and difficulty getting it there.
Then there is the cost which I am willing to deal with if the system works.
I'm thinking of trying a few smaller areas just to see what happens this season. I've read very positive things, but of course, one never knows what will happen in certain situations.
Posted: Jun/23/2009 10:30 AM PST
If you try this and it works lots of people would be glad to hear it.
I have such sandy, dry, dead dirt in my front yard, I have mulched over most of it. and if the next 1/3 doesn't do better next year I may turn it all into a veggie garden with good soil.
Or a huge truck load of sand, some cactus and boulders might do the trick. I am in zone 8. good luck.
Posted: Jun/24/2009 4:50 AM PST
I did more research on this method. I also called my county extension service that has very helpful people on hand to answer gardening and lawn questions.
No one I talked to knew about it, but they were intrigued, especially because so many people have the same problem I do. Water conversation, drainage and the durability of the grass after it gets established is also a big plus.
The main issue for me is getting the raw materials where I need them. I can vision myself toting tons (literally) of crushed stone and bags of compost from the front of my house, down a hill to the back. Then, of course, all of the stuff needs to be spread and planted.
County extension suggested I try a few smaller type areas in the yard just to see what happens. Since I'm having work done on the house and there will be a mess anyway, I'm going to opt for this method. They also suggested a few grasses that should work. Zoysia grass was at the top of the list because of it's root structure, but I may try one or two others.
Posted: Jun/24/2009 8:45 AM PST
I have subscribed to this thread so I can keep up with this experiment.
Posted: Jul/12/2009 5:42 AM PST
Well yesterday I did the first area of my decrepit looking lawn.
I decided to go for broke, and test the Joycreek theory in the worst possible area (it's on a slight incline, there is some direct sun, but not much, soil is awful). If it works, I'll do the rest, if not, the area will be covered with stone next year.
For me getting the stone where I need it is the most work, so pacing oneself is a must.
I bought 6 bags of crushed stone and four bags of compost (used only three compost) to describe a ratio. I bought Vigoro grass seed blended for shade.
Since I don't like using poison, and I did have numerous weeds established, I cut them as low as possible and put just one layer of overlapping newspaper down under the stone. Hopefully this will keep weeds from popping up.
When I talked to Joycreek, they were very specific that the stone had to be crushed, about .25 inch in diameter. It also needs to be cleaned of small particles. I did take the extra time to wash the stone (I put it in a plastic flower pot and ran the hose over it). The project took about an hour after materials were already there and ready to go.
I will keep everyone posted on the results and post a photo when I can figure out how to do it.
For me, doing small sections and making them look nice is the way to go. I use this theory when ever I tackle big jobs. I am the type of person who needs to see an end to a project, even though parts of it don't look very good, I know eventually it will, I just keep toiling away until the project gets done. I would like to get the mess out of the way all at once, but it is just not practical.
While doing all of the work, I kept thinking about how much money and effort I've put into the area over the past 5 years to get pitiful results. While I don't especially like the cost this is going to incur, I can live with it if the problem is going to be fixed once and for all.
Location: Lancaster, SC
Posted: Jul/16/2009 1:12 AM PST
Somehow I missed this entire thread. I read your explanation of the technique. I've never heard of this before. I was going to pop in and say that zoysia wouldn't be the best grass, but I'm was glad to see that you opted for another. Do keep us informed on how this works!
Posted: Jul/24/2009 12:20 PM PST
Well, here I am again.
13 days ago, I planted my first area of grass in my mess of a yard. It seems to be doing really, really well! This despite it is the worst possible area of the yard (a slight incline, very little sun). In previous postings I forgot to mention that the process was originally designed to establish or reestablish walk ways. It was then suggested that lawns could also be done given it's success with walks.
I am noticing that the individual grass blades seem thicker and more healthy looking than I have noticed before. Of course, previous attempts were done in pitiful soil with pitiful drainage. I will be giving it a first cut this weekend.
I've decided to do two more areas that are not as difficult for growing grass. Given the success so far, it should be work. I'm looking at the project as if it were a big puzzle, doing one piece at a time.
I will try and post a photo or two soon.
As anticipated, the project so far is very labor intense, and very expensive. Spreading what will be 18 bags of gravel to about an inch deep, putting 9 bags of compost one inch deep over that, has cost very close to $100.00. This does not include the seed that was $22.00 which I have used less than ½ of.
On the other hand, I have wasted mega bucks and time trying to make grass work with no results, so compared to that this is a minuscule amount.
Posted: Aug/20/2009 7:56 AM PST
My effort to establish a new grass area in what is my pitiful looking mess has run into a bit of a snag. Since I started the project, I've been micro managing the process and educating myself about grass and how to make it successfully grow, especially in my situation.
First of all, I've planted Tall Fescue, which is a good choice for my situation. Numerous "professional" folks have reiterated that this is what I need to use, including one who has extensive experience dealing with golf course projects.
Tall Fescue is a grass better sowed in late fall or early spring (in my zone, 7). It does best establishing roots during the cooler months, it does not have to compete with weeds as much and should lead to a nice grass in warmer months.
I planted the stuff at the end of July, a very hot time of year for my zone. All experimental areas initially grew very well. The first (and worst because of shade) area grew very fast, and we got torrential rain which beat it down, making it impossible to cut. It developed yellowing and I lost about 75% of the grass, which I have since re-planted.
The second area has not met the same fate with cutting or rain, but it is now starting to show strain, and a bit of yellowing.
The third area, which gets the most sun is doing the best, although it also is starting to show strain like the other two areas probably because: #1 It's roots are not well established & #2 The heat.
After again consulting with my golf course expert yesterday, he again reiterated that the grass should grow in my area, and he agreed that the method I'm using should work.
I'm now left with a decision to make. I can re-sow the grass in the fall and see what happens during the course of winter and early spring. If it's successful, I do have the option of sowing the rest of the area in early spring. I much prefer this option, but it is not without risk. I can see myself hauling the tons of material from my driveway in front to the yard in back. There is a possibility that it could be all for naught and I would be back to a big mess. I guess the ratio would be about 75-25 that there would be success because I'm correcting drainage and giving the grass the ultimate soil conditions to get established in.
I once heard a fellow gardener comment that if you can’t grow any thing else, grow good soil. I keep coming back to this hoping that this project will work.
Posted: Aug/21/2009 6:07 PM PST
I am watching your thread as well and look forward to keeping up with your progress.