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doing the lawn wrong for the right reasons?

 
Posts: 34
Location: Middle Tennesee zone 7b
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Howdy ya'll. Long time lurker, first post here. I have a lot of questions most specifically about the lawn so I'm just going to throw them all out here along with my current situation and hopefully get some good solutions :).

So I have an acre and a quarter on a decently steep hill (just slightly too much to feel comfortable on a regular riding mower) a quarter of it is my untouched forest area, which has some things I would like to correct about it, (heavy privet underbrush and lots of honeysuckle) and the rest is mostly large trees and "lawn" probably about 80% canopy cover (oak, maple, boxelder and hackberry, mostly hackberry) the soil is heavy clay and there are some erosion issues. I have been slowly working on better land management over the past couple of years. My eventual goal is a good forest type situation with a Japanese garden type feel in the area that is "lawn".  The house is located very near the highest elevation of the property but there is more hill above that, the water coming from the neighbors and the road would go down my driveway and flood it and was ruining my foundation, we got that repaired last year, and after that I installed 2 Swale/hugelculture beds slightly off contour on the uphill side (which also has the best sun) they aren't sepp grade, about probably 2 feet tall and have installed a few more slightly down hill. This has pretty effectively solved my driveway problem. I have been mulching them with wood chips from chipdrop which I innoculated with king stropheria and yellow morel (tons of kings but no morels yet, but who knows? Had to try) I ran out of wood chips and have not been able to get more delivered.

So i would like to put in ponds and several more contour beds and have a few log piles already started that I'm unable to cover without bringing in more chips/compost. I don't have a truck to go get my own, and I feel like I would like to generate my own material to start soil building eventually but perhaps now is the time. Also my beds are shrinking so I need to generate more biomass to add to them in general. So I have been bagging the lawn clippings and mulching with them, mowing at about 4 inches. I have even been mowing the neighbors yard to get his clippings too. I have also been overseeing with white clover and encouraging more biodiversity. In years previous I had just been mulching back into the lawn, and that has been fine. So mowing an acre of steep hill with a gas push mower sucks just mulching, but getting all that dust blowing back when bagging is even worse. it's not even enough, and too big for a reel push mower, and I'd like to get away from gas. So I ordered a scythe. I used to be pretty good with one in my younger years, and had been missing using one, it seems like a good solution. So here is the dilema, with a properly tuned scythe is is a lot more work to mow tall, and requires a lot more skill on top of that to keep it even. If you just do the least amount of effort, it cuts very low and evenly. I'm wanting to also get more biomass out if the lawn so I'm thinking the front yard (which I could probably scythe in half an hour or so) is what needs to be more presentable and will require the most attention will probably get mowed to an inch or so after it gets to about 7-8 inches and I would like to treat the back yard area as more of a hay field for mulch generation (untill it becomes more covered in garden/food forest type stuff) and mow much taller. Without any irritating, is this worst case practice going to be disasters in the summer? When is the optimal time to mow the grass in the back? Does allowing the grass to grow longer help establish a deeper root system that will allow it to recover from less frequent mowing but mowing much shorter? Also another avenue I have been contemplating is clearing out all the privet I have and chipping it for mulch, but I would have to get a chipper and want to go with electric, don't want to spend for the upper end and don't want to get a cheap one that will break immediately, so maybe some thoughts there as well? Anyways thanks for reading :)
 
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Hi David, I'm not experienced enough to give any advice for your situation. But I wanted to say great first post and welcome to posting on permies. :)
 
David F Paul
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Location: Middle Tennesee zone 7b
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Thanks sonja! I'm very grateful for the warm welcome, and to be a part of the wealth of information that is so kindly presented here
 
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Hi David, I agree with Sonja; great first post.  

Mowing shorter but less frequently would allow the grass to establish a much larger root system, and that system will enable it to recover much quicker.  As a bonus, you'll get some root die-off after every cutting and that'll add organic matter to the soil.  As you repeat the cycle, your soil will improve and your grasses will be less vulnerable to drought.  I think it would work out quite well.

I wanted to add that I'd really like to get a scythe myself.  That way, when Death comes for me, I won't be at a disadvantage.
 
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