Sunday, July 18, 2010

Construction -- as Opposed to Destruction

This stuff is truly dead, although given half a chance would probably come back.  I used the hand tool to scruff it up, get as much rotted stuff up as possible and stir up the soil to make it more amenable to seeding and amendments.

I've been fretting for weeks now over just how to handle the large area of black plastic in the back yard and have put off the decision as long as I could.  The question wasn't so much what to do with the soil underneath as it was how to handle the plastic.  I hate plastic.  I hate using it and even more, I hate putting it into landfill.  That part of me wanted to take all the plastic up in the large pieces so it could be re-used.  But, I really didn't need to build green manure in the whole thing, only the areas that will hold planting beds. The rest will be walkways.  To do this, I'd have to cut holes in the plastic.  I also knew that I didn't have enough seed to do the entire area, nor probably the energy to do it all at once.  This morning, I 'just did it', to borrow a phrase from Nike.  Measured and cut out the two 4x8 planting beds, scruffed out what dead grass I could get between a rake and the hand fork, then set about amending the soil and seeding the buckwheat. Also added two big buckets full of partially-decomposed organic matter to the compost bin, which is always good.

Obviously, I wasn't being very careful when I cut out the plastic to the rear!  I didn't notice how far off I was until it was too late, but that's OK.  Both areas are larger than the final will be, and I can make them nice and even when I build the beds.

After I raked out most of the dead vegetation, I seeded thickly with buckwheat (much higher than the recommended rate, on the theory that more is better and might as well use what I have), added cottonseed, blood and bone meals that I had leftover from spring, plus some Epsom Salts. Then, I topped it all off with about a half inch of topsoil.

Since all that loose soil would be too inviting for the neighborhood cats, and since the birds love that buckwheat seed, I covered both areas loosely with the plastic after I'd watered everything in nicely.  It takes 4 days for the buckwheat to sprout, and a few more to get it large enough to keep the cats away.  I'm not sure how conducive this plastic will be to germination, so will need to be careful.  Today is cloudy and very humid, so the sun isn't heating it up.  Hopefully, enough air can get underneath to keep it cool, and I can actually keep it uncovered during the day when I'm home, recover it at night and on the days I work.  I hope this works.

The plan for the walkway areas, as of the moment, anyway, is to use a different cover crop called Medic Mix, which I can plant as late as October for overwintering, and which supposedly will dissuade even the toughest grasses and broadleaf weeds from growing.  In the spring, I can just mow it down, then top it with cedar mulch.  In theory, anyway.

So -- that's been my day to this point.  Good exercise, good accomplishments.  I don't know what the rest of the day will bring and it's early now.

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