Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Growing grass and improving soil without chemicals.

Long ago I started an experiment that I called "composting in place."  I have poor soil in my back yard and lots of shade.  That along with chickens leads to great difficulty growing grass.

I picked the spot in the picture below for this experiment.  It's low, well shaded, has hard packed soil, and sparse grass. 
March 30, 2013
I started by piling leaves there.  Lots of leaves.  The leaves were more than a foot deep, probably closer to 18 inches.  Then every so often I would throw in some oats.  The chickens would go in to eat the oats and turn over the leaves.  (Chickens love oats.) 
December 21, 2013
Occasionally during the summer months I would bag my grass clippings and dump them in there too.  Then I'd add oats and the chickens would turn in the grass clippings while looking for the oats.  My back yard is sloped.  Heavy rains would cause the partially composted material to go pile up at the edge.  I'd periodically have to get the rake out and move it back. 

July 26, 2014
I tried throwing some seeds down last fall, but they didn't do well.  I'm guess that there wasn't enough sun or that maybe it was still too hot.
September 25, 2014
By December (a year later) the entire area was covered with really great compost.  There were worms all through it.  I put a fence around the area to keep the chickens out.  They had done their job. 
December 31, 2014
In March, after the frost, I put down grass seed and some clover.  I watered the area twice a day.
April 3, 2015
March was a good time to start grass since it was still cool and the leaves weren't in on the trees yet.  This area actually got sunlight.  By April this area had more green than I had ever seen there.
April 18, 2015
By the middle of May everything had really taken off.  By this time the leaves were on the trees causing the yard to be shaded most of the day.  I managed to get this picture during a window when there was sun there.
May 14, 2015
The grass got so tall that I had to mow it!  I'm really happy with how it has turned out.  It's the best looking grass in the yard.
May 23, 2015
I still haven't taken down the fence.  I'm not sure when I'll do that.  I know as soon as I do the chickens will be in there tearing it up.  I might wait until there is snow on the ground. 

I call this composting in place idea successful, but it takes a long time.  Based on the pictures it took 17 months.  I probably starting piling leaves in that spot prior to the December 21 photo.  I wasn't in a hurry though, so I'm not going to complain.  I'm quite happy with the results.

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