TheLorax
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Turf Busting

I’ve been slowly but surely eliminating some of my lawn over the years. In the past, I’ve used layers of newspaper but this time around I want to go for a decent sized chunk of my lawn to ready it for planting next spring. I don’t have enough tarps to cover the area I want to convert to a tall/mid grass prairie. It was suggested I cut the sod then flip it over with a shovel. Don’t know with everything else I have to do around here if I have the time for something that labor intensive. It was then suggested that I go with the below method-

https://www.watoxics.org/files/removing-lawn.pdf
excerpt-
Multiple-Till and Irrigation Method
In this method, the sod is covered with soil amendments and then rototilled. The area is watered to stimulate the growth of any weed seeds present, then tilled more shallowly to destroy the sprouted weeds. The process is repeated several times to deplete the seed reserve. Be warned that while this method is pretty effective at killing weeds, it may not completely kill invasive grasses, which get chopped up but can resprout from small pieces. So if you have lots of crabgrass or quackgrass, you may want to use one of the other methods instead. Another drawback for me is having to use machinery, but many guys see that as an advantage. If you are using a rented rototiller, you’ll have to rent it more than once.
Not interested in tilling anything if at all possible although it probably would work just fine. I do have quackgrass and crabgrass though and am going to have to cut off air and light to kill off those grasses. I’ve been saving corrugated cardboard. Thoughts were to butch the lawn low then follow up by slapping down and watering layers of newspaper then layering on leaves this fall which I can pick up easily enough in neighborhoods where they have curbside leaf pick up then slapping down a layer of cardboard and watering that then cover the cardboard with mulch. One problem. I’ve been checking into cardboard and am not exactly thrilled with what I am finding. Looks as if cardboard contains formaldehyde and some cardboard is flame resistant which has me really scratching my head as to what chemicals are used in the process of making it flame retardant. While formaldehyde may be great for pickling dead people, I don’t know that I’m all that thrilled about layering cardboard on my existing lawn to rid myself of the grass any longer.

I’d like to go for about 1/3rd of an acre of turf in the next month of so. Not interested in spraying any type of glyphosate formulation. I’m now thinking it might be prudent to consider a 6â€

cynthia_h
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Suggestion: use a sod-cutter.

https://garden.lovetoknow.com/wiki/How_to_Use_a_Sod_Cutter

They can be rented. Call your local equipment rental company/store and see what they recommend for removing 1/3 acre of lawn and making it into Edible/Wildlife-Friendly Garden.

So they won't just say, "Here, use this and then [you know what]."

Cynthia H.
USDA Zone 9, Sunset Zone 17

TheLorax
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A sod cutter = work in my mind???

Have you ever used one? I haven't but if you tell me I won't end up doing a face plant trying to flip 1/3rd of an acre I'd be game to try it.

When I called, they recommended a sod cutter just like you did. When I didn't sound that thrilled about the prospect of flipping the sod because it's summer and it would be hotter than the dickens out there flipping sod... they suggested a gas rototiller.

Was sort of hoping I might be able to sheet compost this area somehow. Much less energy sheet composting. Guess I'm back to flipping sod and that means I'll probably put this off another year.

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applestar
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I didn't know about formaldehyde used in cardboard but I do know that fire retardant cotton is treated with formaldehyde... ergo that must be what it's for in cardboard as well. They know just how to ruin a good thing don't they? :roll: :?

Wow that's a big area! I've never tried converting an area that big all at once.... Hm Hmm....

When you order from amazon.com, they use crumpled brown kraft paper for packaging (well, and some of those plastic "air pillows") I've been using a lot of those since I'm allergic to news ink. Maybe if you ask around? But we're still talking a LOT. Hmm. What about for now, going for minimal coverage as far as any kind of solid barrier, heap the area with [quote]I’m now thinking it might be prudent to consider a 6â€

TheLorax
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Yes, they certainly know how to ruin a good thing don't they. I was all set to go the cardboard route. I certainly have enough of it stockpiled. Then I started reading and looking for details and one thing led to another and there I was dealing with chemicals if I went the cardboard route.

I can go the cardboard route but I don't want to any more because of the chemicals. I don't know that I'd be able to collect enough packing material to cover that much area.

I don't know that a cover crop would be appropriate to consider for what I'm going to do. It would be appropriate for when I actually go to seed the area though.

I may have to consider cynthia_h's suggestion or else I'm going to have to seriously consider might dealing with an area that my tarps can cover which will mean I won't be able to buy seed in bulk to get the best pricing.

Don't quite know what I'm going to do which means I generally table the idea until something jumps out at me as being the right direction to go. I really don't want to get into the labor of flipping sod because I am the hired help around here and it's my back that will pay. Little chunks of sod probably won't do me in but day after day of flipping sod over that much area sucks.

cynthia_h
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I found these. No flipping of flippin' sod (:wink:)!

A video of the Ryan Sod Cutter, as demonstrated by "The Tool-Belt Diva" (less than 1 minute long):

www.youtube.com/watch?v=YHrvRY-QQxY

Rental information on the Bluebird Sod Cutter, as rented by Home Despot:

https://homedepotrents.com/proTools/sod_cutter.asp

Three methods of sod removal (photos of tools and gardener Paul James), two manual and one powered. Looking at the power sod-cutter, it seems to be a much earlier/more primitive and heavy model of the one The Tool Belt Diva uses in her video:

https://www.hgtv.com/home-improvement/sod-busting/index.html

Kim Moyers, (woman) owner of a landscaping company in New Jersey, is quoted in this article. Her paragraphs are about halfway down the page:

https://www.grounds-mag.com/mag/grounds_maintenance_sod_cutters_name/

I have never lived in a place big enough to have a lawn worthy of the name.

The usual college apartments, and then…

Our house in Berkeley had a front area which I denuded of Bermuda grass by digging and screening, but it was only 12' or so by about 20'. Total lot size was 40' x 60', a small lot even in the SF Bay Area. I used a square shovel for that work and a 1/2-inch (1 cm) screen over a wheelbarrow. I was NOT concerned about flatness of the remaining ground.

Our house now has three little parcels next to the street. The largest is about 8' x 12'. No grass in any of 'em. Total lot size is 50' x 100', standard size in the SF Bay Area, but we have to share it with a full-grown Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), whose roots ARE the backyard, and our driveway goes all the way to the back of the lot. The carport sits on top of a bunch of redwood roots. (So does the house, I imagine, but I try not to obsess about that *too much.*)

The two parcels next to and directly in front of the house are full of juniper and jade plant. Maybe next year I'll get rid of one of 'em. But this is the first year since 1996 that I've been physically able to garden, so I've rescued other pieces of dirt and planted veggies, rescued the roses, etc.

But there's no lawn here.

Maybe some of these sites will help you to an Aha! moment.

Cynthia H.
USDA Zone 9, Sunset Zone 17

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Jess
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I have used old natural fibre carpet to knock back a large area TheLorax.
Not sure if that would work for you, just thought it might be worth mentioning if you are trying to avoid digging. Some of the more persistent weeds still manage to come through but it does not seem like such a daunting task when just faced with a few.
Knowing without doing is like plowing without sowing."

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NEWisc
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I don't have that large scale non-chemical solution that you are looking for, but I will offer a couple of thoughts.

From a very frustrating experience - Make sure that for whichever method that you choose, the grass gets killed. Every bit of it. My soil preparation looked great, and so did the prairie area the first and second year. A little grass coming up here and there, but nothing to worry about, the prairie plants will overtake it; NOT!! My biggest mistake was assuming that turning over sod and burying it would kill it. It's difficult to put into words how frustrating it is in the later years when you realize that there is no way to remove that invasive grass from the established prairie plants and native grasses without seriously damaging the prairie area. All the time, effort and money wasted just makes me cringe.

There is another good example of this just down the road from my place. A 14 acre prairie planting is slowly but steadily being taken over by invasive grasses. It was an old field that was prepared for the prairie seeding with the conventional tilling methods (plowing, disking, etc.) used by farmers. It also looked like it was doing well the first couple of years.

I noticed that you said that you had a good source for horse manure and stable waste. You might want to make sure that the supplier is not using Milestone or ForeFront herbicide on their grazing area, and that their feeding and bedding supplier is not using it.
https://www.dowagro.com/range/products/forefrontrp.htm
One ingredient in those products (aminopyralid) can apparently survive both the digestive tract and composting. If you do a Google "aminopyralid + compost" search you will find lots of info about the problems it is causing gardeners.

.
Edited to replace the long link with a shorter one.
Last edited by NEWisc on Fri Jul 11, 2008 7:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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TheLorax
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@$^&%*$@#!!!!!!

I'm calling an environmental engineering firm. Sounds as if this is a pay now or pay later deal but I'm going to end up paying so might as well get multi-disciplinary professional help out the gate even if it is a couple hundred bucks an hour. They can come back and take a look at what I've got going this time and together we can plan the best route. I've hired them before and they were extremely conscientious about my desire to avoid the use of chemicals. I've got WAY too many herps here to screw around with this and there is no way I want to get stuck in the situation described by NEWisc. I AM the hired labor around here and there's only one of me and to aggravate the situation; I am extremely weak in grass, sedge, and rush identification. It would be a nightmare if something blew in that I didn't properly identify that was fire resistant. I've still got that European Phragmites looming over my head and that's a war zone that's costing thousands and thousands and is going to be like herpes... the gift that goes on giving for the next 10 years. Sounds to me as if this is going to be an all or nothing deal. No messing around with 1/3rd of an acre. I think I'm going to have to go for it all at once. Figures.

Charlie MV
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OK, I'm gonna take a stab. I read here that vinegar was a good substitute for roundup. We had 10 gallons left over from the boat. Yes, it was a very clean boat and yes I can be obsessive. Anyway, last night I sprayed 2 gallons in an area of ST Augustine grass that I'm going to put a storage building and some mulch on. I was really skeptical because so many organic solutions I've read about are just expensive and not very effective. When I went out this morning, ALL the grass was brown just like the old Mamas and Papas song... well, leaves but you get the idea. I mean it toasted the grass, unwanted leaves, vines and weeds. It even rained last night about 6 hours after I applied it. Any reason you couldn't use vinegar to kill your grass?

TheLorax
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Vinegar I suppose can work on some annual grasses if you keep depleting their reserves by catching them first when they're young and keep at them but I suspect you only fried off the above ground vegetation of that St. Augustine grass and the roots are going to come back to haunt you in several weeks. Then you'll be posting something to the effect of "@$^&%*$@#!!!!!!" like me. Mark the area and see what happens in just three weeks. I think you will be very disappointed and profanities will be spewing forth from your mouth. I've got several different types of grasses here that need to go. Both annual and perennial.

I called the "Big Dogs" last night. I'm scheduled for a site visit this November when they start slowing down for the year. Grasses can be a real pain in the tush to deal with.

MaineDesigner
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I posting only to second NEWisc's excellent comments. Cutting sod and flipping or triple tilling will only reduce the amount of unwanted turf grass, neither method will eliminate it. This is the voice of painful experience.

Chemicals will work but even then multiple pre-planting applications are required. We did one project in Minnesota I haven't been able to follow up on where we put down a newspaper barrier and kept the site covered for a full year prior to planting. We also cut an edge so that no nutrients were entering the area via rhizomes. It appeared to be a success but I only followed it for a year and the real test is a few years down the line when you find out what you missed.

If you can do a controlled burn of the site early in the spring of the third or fourth season for your new prairie that may also help as few of the exotics are fire tolerant.

TheLorax
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This is the voice of painful experience.
I got to thinking about what he typed and realized I'd missed the obvious so decided to come to a screeching halt. There are other issues here. No sense me getting nailed by the mack truck when both you and him have had painful experiences... experiences I'm trying my darnedest to avoid based on failures you've dealt with as well as what I've seen around here. My experiences with prairie restoration are limited to being grunt volunteer labor bending over planting plugs and a little bit of prescribed burning. That's it.

These are some of the grasses I've been dealing with-
Schedonorus phoenix syn. Festuca arundinacea (Tall Fescue) torches nicely
Microstegium vimineum (Japanese Stilt Grass) hand pulls nicely
Phalaris arundincaea (Reed Canary Grass) 3-year burn cycle MIGHT get it
Sorghum halepense (Johnson Grass) Big time problem child-
https://tncweeds.ucdavis.edu/esadocs/documnts/sorghal.pdf
Elymus repens (Quackgrass) almost have to use a chemical on this
Digitaria sanguinalis (Crabgrass) smothers nicely
Digitaria ischaemum (Crabgrass) smothers nicely
Poa pratensis (Kentucky Bluegrass) smothers nicley

Now toss in some of the other classic turf weeds and what's growing along the perimeters and mucho problemo. I wanted to go the route of a prescribed burn then buy many many many tarps and just hang here for a year solarizing a portion of this mess leaving other areas for other years. Lift off the tarps then burn again then put the tarps back down for another year and take it from there. Let's see what would survive that but I'd end up with un-treated areas infecting cleared areas (duh, what was I thinking when I only wanted to go for 1/3 of an acre) and then there's the issue that I don't think a burn is in the cards because of the monoculture of Phragmites australis on several acres. If one spark hits that, the whole place is up in smoke. The biomass is so incredible that it destroyed the hydrology over the 20 years it has been here. If the winds shift during a prescribed burn and sparks hit that Phragmites, it could conceivably keep burning for a few years. We've got a few Phragmites infested areas around here struck by lightening that have been burning for well over 2 years. Fire departments don't like lightening strikes to Phragmites monocultures. They have to watch them or people lose homes. I may be able to burn the area for the prairie but that type of a burn is out of my league for one person with that Phragmites so close. It would take a team of at least 5 on a day when conditions were PERFECT and a fire ring would have to be created first and then I'd have to find professionals willing to take on the job. So far no takers to burn off the Phragmites because of liability of the other homes in the area but might be able to entice someone to burn off the area I want to revert to prairie. Need to run this by them one more time because of the presence of the Phragmites australis, Typha latifolia, and a few Lythrum salicaria. One thing I've got a lot of is time. If it doesn't get done next year, there's always the next...or the next. I suspect they are going to tell me to deal with the Phragmites australis (fire hazard) first which I have begun to do just this year. Plan is to substantially reduce it over three years. If I can substantially reduce it, I reduce the risk of burning down the town with a prescribed burn to the prairie area and I might have a chance of being able to apply for a permit to burn. I can honestly say that if I had known what I know about Phragmites back when we bought this property fully loaded, I would have never bought it and built a home here.

When you start slowing down at the end of the season, would you please do some poking around for me on how that project up in MN is fairing? I'm most curious about this statement, "We also cut an edge so that no nutrients were entering the area via rhizomes." An edge would be very doable here I believe. Labor intensive but doable.

Say, thanks you two for sharing comments. Sometimes you want something gone so bad you miss the obvious and I do realize I'm backed into a corner and am going to have to use some chemicals. Accord is about all I'll allow though.

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NEWisc
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That Phragmites has been a bur under your saddle for some time. Adding in the excess rain this year makes it seem like a lemon type year. But there may be an opportunity here to make some lemonade.

One of the big challenges with Phragmites is dealing with the high volume of organic matter after you kill it. In some cases it can be removed, hauled to a different site, and then composted. If I remember correctly, that was not a good option for your situation; ergo the burning solution. But you might consider a third option. Done properly, the organic matter can be broken down in place. The usual problem with this is that the depletion of oxygen and buildup of ammonia and nitrite compounds is not good for the aquatic life.

I used to raise fish in ponds as a commercial venture (long story), and those two issues are constant challenges. The solution to the problem is oxygenation; and the addition of beneficial bacteria if necessary. If you've got standing water (from all that rain) at the Phragmites site, you may be able to take advantage of this type of solution. With standing water, it's easy to oxygenate. The basic scenario would be kill the phragmites, oxygenate the "pond" and add beneficial bacteria if necessary.

It's relatively low cost, and something you could do yourself or with minimal assistance. The oxygenation can be accomplished with a relatively small air compressor, plastic water tubing (to be used for air tubing) and some air stones.

The best company I know of for the equipment and knowledge you would need for this kind of operation is Aquatic Eco-Systems:
https://www.aquaticeco.com/pages/15/Catalogs
They are a major supplier to the aquaculture industry and have aquatic biologists on staff. I haven't been in contact with them for several years, but they used to be very helpful and easy to work with.
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TheLorax
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The problem was there were so many issues here I had to make a decision as to whether to address the uplands or the lowlands first. It was a crap shot. They surveyed and we ultimately determined both were equally degraded. Given the quality of any wetlands is dependent upon the uplands and vice versa, we ended up addressing the terrestrial areas first only because they were more accessible and contained allelopathic invasive species. Other than that, starting there would clear paths to the wetlands. That's gone very well over the past 5 years. Many set backs but the understory is transforming remarkably well all factors considered.

What ended up happening is that I was finally able to begin focusing on the wetlands with the uplands some semblance of under control and couldn't burn because of the public safety issues. The hydrology was long ago obliterated due to the sheer biomass created by the Phragmites and Typha even with me collapsing drain tiles in an attempt to stave off the inevitable. I tried to capitalize on the lemons/lemonade deal to get a permit to flood since we all know Phragmites will drown however the cost of tanking water to flood that many acres even with the excessive rain was prohibitive and then there would have been man power issue dollars based on trying to cut it all down in one fell swoop within a time frame of 10 days prior to flooding. Best calculation was it would have taken about 20 people 10 days cutting at warp speed with others hired to haul it out to be able to flood... if I could have gotten the permit in time and that process takes about a year. They're on my side, if that helps. They bend over backwards for me right now.

I actually considered buying a used hydrosaw to go in and get this in the dead of winter with everything frozen so the equipment wouldn't sink but then how the heck do I unload that type of equipment once I'm done using it? Even the old ones with moderate hours on them are going to be over 20k and the same people are advertising the same equipment for sale for several years. Husband told me to go for it. I didn't as there isn't exactly a market out there for this type of used equipment and no way was I getting stuck with something like that parked here indefinitely. What do I do with it- hang Christmas tree lights on it annually along with a for sale sign? Oh there were lots of places that were interested in a used one... providing we donated it to them.

Back to that organic matter- "In some cases it can be removed, hauled to a different site, and then composted". Unfortunately, not in Illinois. It's illegal to remove the biomass from the property from this class of wetland degraded or not. But, I got to thinking about that and realized I could haul out semis of soil from the front lawn area (not a wetlands) leaving a "pit" so to speak capable of accommodating the biomass. And that's exactly what I did. The crater, and I do mean crater in the front lawn, has been my staging area for Phragmites biomass. I've been killing and removing then burning it. What's nice about this is that I can always call in the combos to create another "pit" out front if I need to so the area I have set aside to create berms to accommodate dredged biomass is left available. Prevailing winds are northwesterly. That works to my benefit as the house acts as a shield for sparks. That was one problem solved. I can burn it, bury it, and haul back in appropriate soil to cover it and ultimately turn that area into prairie. See why I only wanted to covert a 1/3 of an acre into prairie right now? Needed to leave the front free and clear.

They pretty much all but said they'd give me the dredge permits and-one-on-one help from the Corps applying for them to make sure there would be no hold ups when I got to that phase a few years down the road. I think the helping hands are being extended because they can see my property from aerial satellite images any time they want and they know I don't cheat or even attempt to cut corners. It had been my intent to hire somebody who was fully licensed who had a good track record because of the oxygen depletion issues you mentioned and well... I am dealing with a wetlands. Dredging seemed to be the only way around the biomass in three areas hence I created set aside areas to be able to create berms. You are a good person to know because I had discounted the possibility of breaking down the organic matter in place. Didn't think it was possible. I have no experience with this and I didn't know anyone who has ever attempted it and nobody mentioned it as a viable option. One of the areas is about an acre (need to go to some depths of 12' in that area), another is about a third of an acre (need to go to some depths of 8' in that area), and the third area is about a tenth of an acre plus a spattering of formally low lying areas entirely filled in at present. I'm game. What am I out if it fails, the cost of tubing and beneficial bacteria? I've already got an air compressor and have access to an industrial air compressor. You know something, even if I still have to dredge some of the more compacted areas, this could be a significant savings if able to be applied to shallower lower lying areas.

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applestar
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WOW AND !!! WOW !!!

I had no idea you were talking about a project of this scale! :oops:
If I was a cartoonist, I would picture a mountain and you standing on a giant earth mover, directing the corps on the other side, and me standing there in :shock: offering a few sheets of fluttering newspapers. Put a cute little mole in the corner peeking out of his cute little hill and a groundHOG with his not-so-cute hole a little farther away :wink:

:D :D :D ! GOOD LUCK ! :D :D :D

TheLorax
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Oh how I wish you were able to visit me. You will when you come to visit your friend up this way next year won't you?

If you were a cartoonist; you would be drawing a picture of a filthy middle aged woman covered from head to toe in dirt with scratched up arms/neck/face, a weed wrench in one hand, and the tool du jour in the other hand, wearing a tattered visor and gloves. My jeans can usually stand up on their own by the end of the day and there are clumps of dirt to and from the computer from me going in and out all day long. Your friend can take photos of me to share with you so you can have a really good laugh at my expense. I'm beyond pathetic looking most of the time.

I get by, little bit by little bit... when it's not raining ;) I make progress every year. The increase in critters here is unbelievable and the difference is most noticeable as of about 2 years ago. You can't walk anywhere around here without some woodland critter hopping, flying, slithering, or scurrying by somewhere close.

How do you do that big letter thing?

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applestar
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:lol: Ahahaha :lol:

If you look above the text editing area, you'll see a pull-down menu called Font size which is set to Normal. If you pick "large" you get an open/close size thingie. Type your text between them.
Did you know you can also change color? (Watch out fellow forum members, Lorax is going psychedelic! 8) )

It all sounds lovely -- I really hope to be able to visit some time soon! :wink:



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