No Mow Fescue and Annual Rye Planted Just in Time

October 10, 2013 at 3:21 pm 2 comments

The making of Underhill House was also the destruction of all but the most rugged organisms living in the soil around it.  We moved here in January, and as soon as the snow melted, I was counting the days till I could start to heal the earth outside our walls.IMG_1598

IMG_2606But my plans were delayed.

Our excavator, Bruce Lease, pointed out that if we wanted to dig a root cellar into the hill, we should do it BEFORE any planting because heavy equipment needed for the project would tear our landscaping up again.

Yet more digging into our hill to create a root cellar.

Yet more digging into our hill to create a root cellar.  Obviously no point in planting yet.

We surely did want to dig in a root cellar —  we were just suffering from building fatigue and thought to put it off till fall or even next year.

But Bruce had a valid point.

We went ahead with the root cellar – more on that in a future post.IMG_1603

IMG_2570Like many building projects, the root cellar took longer than we hoped, and we found ourselves looking at the narrowest possible window to prep and plant our yard this fall.

We began to work up the rock-hard ground, and it was just about too much for our Troybuilt Pro-Line tiller r with a Honda GX160 engine. Not to mention a grueling task for Doug and me.IMG_2530

IMG_2533IMG_2583We started tilling in the middle of a parching dry spell, and learned the hard way to soak the ground to make real progress.Denise-raking-sept-6

After the ground was tilled several inches down, we raked it even and then sowed the grass seeds.IMG_2522

After seeding, we very precicely covered the ground with a very thin layer of straw designed to shade and protect tender seedlings without burying them.  All our painstaking straw placement was rudely redistributed by some big winds we got before it rained.  We tried to put them back the way they were, but that’s easier said than done.

Our terraced garden site, we cover cropped in annual rye, then tucked it in under a thin blanket of straw.

Our terraced garden site, we cover cropped in annual rye, then tucked it in under a thin blanket of straw.

The ground below the garden will be pollinator-friendly priaire plants.

The ground below the garden will be pollinator-friendly praire plants.

We planted a band about a truck lane’s width (also about a fire lane’s width-dry prairies have been known to catch fire and burn fast)  with the No Mow Fescue mix prepared by Prairie Nursery.   I have high hopes for this grass.  It is a blend of fescues that combine to form an interlocking, dense, durable sod that is low maintenance and drought tolerant.  It only requires mowing once or twice a year, if you want a groomed look.  Or you can let it just grow up to its short height and wave in the breeze.

On the east side, the annual rye (future prairie panting) has a head start on the fescue to the right.  We worked on small sections at a time, so the grasses are coming up in successive stages.

On the east side, the annual rye (future prairie panting) has a head start on the fescue to the right. We worked on small sections at a time, so the grasses are coming up in successive stages.

Beyond that fire lane band, we have planted annual rye as the first of several cover crops in preparation for seeding in the Xerces Pollinator Mix Prairie next fall.

Because we were getting a late start, and there was no rain forecast for over a week, we decided to water it in.  This was a major operation that involved moving our little sprinkler dozens of times to cover all the seeded area, but by the time the rain came, little shoots were peeking out, and they really took off since the rain.

On the north side (our last section) the tiller hit a rock, but when we tried to dig it out, we were never able to find the edge where the rock stopped.  At this point we knew we could not move it ourselves, so we just reburied it.

On the north side (our last section) the tiller hit a rock, but when we tried to dig it out, we were never able to find the edge where the rock stopped. By this point we realized that we could not move it ourselves, so we just reburied it.

Our buried boulder is just to the left behind the solar panels.  Rest in peace.

Our buried boulder is just to the left behind the solar panels. Rest in peace.

Now everywhere I look I see the warm golden green of the rye, or the slightly more mint green of the fescue.  It’s a wonderful feeling.

I didn’t even realize how oppressive all that bare dirt was until it was gone.

IMG_1877What is more revitalizing than watching new leaves grow?  It’s a tantalizing juxtaposition with all the plants that are starting to give up the ghost as the days grow shorter and the nights colder – kind of like the bracing sensual contrast that a sauna and snow can provide.IMG_2599

The list of projects waiting our attention is as long as ever, but for the moment the race to beat an uncompromising seasonal deadline has been won, and that feels very good!

Speaking of grass, the grassroots Solar Tour (see Solar Tour post) last Saturday was great.  Even though it was a cloudy day, spitting rain, 14 people showed up to see what they could learn from our sustainable building experience.  That feels good too.

Have you got your fall chores under control? 

What’s your biggest satisfaction this year?

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SEE UNDERHILL HOUSE ON THE 2013 SOLAR TOUR SPENDING THE DAY WITH STRAW-CLAY INFILL

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Joanna  |  October 11, 2013 at 12:34 am

    For me I have to harvest more beans. We have lots and lots of beans this year, but I’m hoping to supplement our chicks food with them to reduce feed costs. Finding places to let them dry though is proving a headache and a drying room will be in our plans for the future. All our squashes are in as we’ve already had the first frosts. We still haven’t dug all the potatoes yet either, not that they will come to harm in the ground, unless the voles get them that is or leave them too late and they get frozen into the ground.

    As for satisfaction, not much this year as it has been a busy year, with me adjusting to a timetable that is far more hectic than I would like, with far too much travelling. I want to get out in the garden to finish those jobs off, but it is just not happening. But just as any good gardener knows, there is always next year

    Reply
    • 2. denisedthornton  |  October 17, 2013 at 9:41 am

      Hi Joanna,
      Yes, after years of city living – and living under a canopy of oak that really limited what we could grow there – I’m starting to sense both the expansive opportunity and the enormous responsibility of serious gardening.

      Reply

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