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Inherited a weedy lawn


Joined: May 09, 2011
Posts: 2

I rent.  The tenants who took care of the lawn until last year did a pretty poor job of it, letting the back yard grow very high before mowing it low.  My front yard is predominantly grass, but the back yard is perhaps 80% weeds.  Here's a sample.  If you could identify any of these weeds, and give me tips on how to get grass to replace them, I'm all ears.

Last year, I applied tips from, which really took care of the clover in the front yard, but didn't do enough for the back yard.  I keep my mower blade sharp and 3" high.  I added nitrogen fertilizer last year, which really made a dent in the clover.  I haven't really done anything else, though.

I should also mention that my lawn is about 2000ft², it's in Buffalo, NY, and my soil is clay-like.

Thanks for any assistance,
Leila Rich

Joined: May 24, 2010
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
Matt, you're not going to like this, but I think your "weeds" look lovely!
Unless I'm being blind, you've even got grape hyacinths in there.
By the way, I got rid of my lawn, I love clover and dandelions and wanting a monoculture is pretty alien to me.
So, I wouldn't usually comment on lawn stuff, but the hyacinths...
David Biland

Joined: Jan 04, 2011
Posts: 45
Location: Southeastern USA - Zone 8
Leila wrote:
Matt, you're not going to like this, but I think your "weeds" look lovely!

That sure is nice.  I want to lay down in that.  Keep it!
John Polk

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6884
Location: Currently in Seattle. Probably moving 1 hour north by end of the year.
Beautiful weeds.  Where did you get the seed mix?

Joined: Apr 19, 2011
Posts: 114
Location: South Carolina Zone 8
Okay while I would love what you have as my lawn (in fact I mow around flowers and clover patches) I can suggest something that perhaps not many will. Mow as low as you can one time the raise your blade incrementally. What this will do is remove the "growing" part of the weeds and hopefully allow the grass which is not as harmed by mowing low to outcompete the weeds. Your whole goal should be harming the weeds without harming the grass as much. Also every flower you see is a potential bundle of seeds later. Also while it might be too late this season keep in mind flowers become seed heads and mowing to cut the flowers off might prevent the weeds from ever seeding. 

Joined: May 09, 2011
Posts: 2
I dug a hole in the yard to get to know it better.  I have clay soil, full of small roots to a depth of at least nine inches.  There were worms at the bottom of the hole, too.  It's encouraging to know that my soil is deep and alive.

I then teased apart a handful of the soil and separated these organisms:

The only one I can name is the third one in:  grass.  The landlord pointed out that a few applications of herbicide would create a near-monocrop of it.  I'm not sure why society decided it was good and the others are bad, but who am I to question the collective wisdom?  Maybe it's pronking, but I want to enter a herbicide-free rat into the race and at least be competitive.

I learned something else today:  I've been battling a grape hyacinth infestation in my vegetable garden since the beginning.  My lawn, and therefore garden, are full of little bulbs that give the hyacinth the energy to sprout up little chive-like leaves again and again and again, no matter how many times I pull them out from between my vegetables.

So maybe it's silly, but the stated objective is to turn grass from a minority into the dominant organism.  I could try mowing low.  I've also thought about covering the whole thing with a tarp for a few weeks and seeing if I can't get the grass to come back stronger than the weeds.
Willy Kerlang

Joined: Apr 29, 2011
Posts: 106
Mdgates:  I could be wrong--it's been known to happen--but I think your topmost plant is a wild strawberry.  If you let these grow, they will produce beautiful, tiny white flowers, and then beautiful, tiny red strawberries.  Your lawn is trying to feed you, dude! 
Jeanine Gurley

Joined: May 23, 2011
Posts: 1393
Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
I'm not sure that a permaculture forum is the best place to try to learn how to convert a lawn into grass - most of us are trying to go in the opposite direction. 

I refer to my place as a 'farmlet'; it is 1 and 1/4 acre.  Quite a lot of it was centipede grass, the popular grass for lawns here.  The grass lawn does nothing to help out pollinators and predatory insects and I have learned that my chickens wont touch the stuff.

I don't know how to go about changing someone's view of what is beautiful; I too was once one of those people who thought that a beautiful yard was something that looked like a golf course.  I think it was when I learned the health benefits of purslane and dandelion that I started to change my view.  Now I coddle those plants instead of trying to eradicate them.

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