Matt Todd

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since Apr 25, 2019
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Always a backyard gardener, now expanding into permaculture!
Northwest Missouri
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Recent posts by Matt Todd

Many phone calls and parts diagram studies later I answered this- They make a basic engine and all the additional “spec numbers” behind it represent various options. The majority of them just indicate what mower company they built it for and are completely interchangeable.

BUT sometimes they mean a major difference like the size of the crank shaft, which could mean the difference between compatible or not at all. Don’t call the manufacturer (Kawasaki in this case.) They are impossible and know nothing. They direct you to call the small engine dealers who have greater technical knowledge, which I did. Three of them to make sure I was ordering the correct engine!

This is essentially my tractor, used for much more than mowing. Goats and geese need not apply to replace it.  
1 week ago
I carry an enzyme based supplement called GlutenEase in case I get surprised glutened. Seems to help the gastro symptoms!
2 weeks ago
Great build and documentation, as usual! So the threaded rod is dual purpose: holding the front/door on while also providing structure to the dry stacked fire brick?
3 weeks ago
I pushed my zero turn mower too hard. I learned what "too hard" is when the engine literally blew up, two big holes and all oil draining out. I have suspicions as to why this happened, but my focus now is replacing it!

No, I don't want to buy a new mower entirely. I have made too many upgrades and customizations, plus an engine swap would be far cheaper. It is a Hustler Fastrak 930107. The current dead motor is a Kawasaki FS651V-BS11. Guess what? you can't buy a new FS651V engine with the "BS11" specs. But there's dozens of variations of the FS651V motor, and as long as the crank shaft is the correct size/length then any other variations should be easy enough to overcome, right?

I did a side-by-side comparison of the BS11 and the AS07 variant part diagrams and can see little to no difference (looking especially hard at where the various connections are made from mower to engine.)  But with $1700 on the line, I figured I should check with the Permie hive mind to see if I'm overlooking anything. Motor heads, what do you think?
3 weeks ago

Trace Oswald wrote:Matt, what kind of mix did you plant?  A purchased one or just a mosh of plants you wanted, or ?

The patches in method 1 and 2 started as "Spring into Summer" blend from American Meadows, and I've added many random extra perennials. I'd say it's a decent blend, but I'm more native focused than I was back then.

The method 4 patch was a cheap blend from Amazon from a company called "Own Grown."

Now that I have saved seeds from the method 3 native patch, I'll be working with those and a native seed blend I bought from Pure Air Natives here in Missouri.
3 weeks ago
We have experimented with these 4 methods of converting lawn to wildflowers. Since there is lot of interest in this currently, I wanted to share what we have learned so far. Each pic will have a description of what went into making it. Hope this inspires you! The birds, bugs, bees, and yourself will be glad you did it.

Overall notes-
1. Winter seeding is best. Some seeds need the cold and damp of winter to trigger germination in spring. This is called stratification and is especially important for many native plants. A seed blend spread in summer did not produce the same plants as the exact same blend spread in summer.
2. Tilling may have the unintended effect of bringing more “bad” seeds to the soil surface where they’ll germinate and compete with your seed blend. A no-till option would be to just cut the grass low right before smothering.
3. Seed blends will evolve. Some annual flowers will go crazy the first year. They may or may not re-seed themselves into the future. Blends will likely have perennial flowers that will slowly build strength and take over in following years.
4. Tarps can be standard woven tarps or really anything impervious. Can be clear plastic, and that may even be better because it cooks the turf with the greenhouse effect (but clear plastic is weaker and harder to hold down.)
5. Maintenance will be required for establishing. Weeding and sometimes watering, depending on how rainy the season is. Download a good plant ID app to help. I use “Picture This” which is free at first, then $20 a year, but there are many other options.
6. All these seeded patches are blends which are not specifically natives, but contain some natives. This type of blend is much easier to establish than purely natives, which are slow and somewhat fussy.

Method 1- Tarp and Till. Pro: “set it and forget it” Con: Tarps on the lawn are kinda ugly.

Process- Tarps were spread on high grass in mid-summer 2020, tilled the dead grass into the ground in November 2020, and spread seed in January 2021. Seeded ground was trampled to get good seed-soil contact.

Reasoning- Mid summer heat is the best time to start killing lawn. Tilled in November before the ground froze. We let the tall grass become more organic matter in the soil by lightly tilling it in.

Results- Lots of beautiful poppies the first year that did not appear in the “method 2” bed at all because they did not get the overwinter stratification (see notes.) This has evolved into many native perennials like the coreopsis and coneflower here.

Method 2- Just till. Pro: Ready to seed quickly. Cons: Effort of weeding and watering.

Process- Low mowed and deep tilled a small area in June 2020. Some compost was added to boost soil fertility. Seed spread and trampled immediately after. Patch had to be weeded regularly, especially from grass, until the seeds started taking off. Watering requiring since we missed the spring moisture.

Reasoning- This was the original test patch. We got a late start so tilling was necessary since we had not smothered the previous year.

Results- Tons of Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia) the first year, a real hummingbird magnet… that wasn’t even supposed to be in seed blend! Too much Evening Primrose the second year, so we removed a lot of it to make room for other stuff. Lots of amaranth that grows comically long, purple cascading flowers. This has become the catch-all bed where I plant any extra perennials.

Method 3- Organics, cardboard, and mulch. Pro: Builds soil. Con: Higher effort.

Process- Turf was covered with leaves and grass clippings, then cardboard and mulch in May 2020. This was left as-is until May 2021. We then planted purchased native plants through the cardboard.

Reasoning- We left this for a year for the leaves and grass clippings to decompose and make better soil. This method is specifically for planting plants or “plugs” since you cannot seed on mulch. Plants that grow by spreading were selected, rather than seed spreaders. We wanted to showcase native plants, and have them organized for maximum bloom time and height (low to high, front to back.)

Results- Natives are slow to establish, but buying plants meant they were older than seedlings and many bloomed the first year. We were able to collect seed and use them in future plantings. The species of insects that these natives draw in is amazing to see. This bed will require weeding and re-mulching for a few years until the plants spread and fill in the spaces more. Doesn’t look like much now, but will soon when those 6 foot tall Blazing Stars pop off.

Method 4- Spray and seed. Pro: low effort. Con: herbicide.

Process- This area of lawn was ALL dandelion (which we have plenty of elsewhere) and those were sprayed in late summer 2021. The bare earth was raked smooth, then seeded with a cheap wildflower blend in May 2022. This was watered regularly between rains until it took off.

Reasoning- Because I had bare ground and wanted to see how low-effort I could go with a wildflower patch!

Results- Decent growth so far in a very young bed. It will need weeded the first couple years but will hopefully fill in with perennial plants over time. Not bad for $12 of seed and an hour of work.
3 weeks ago

Jay Angler wrote:I'm wondering if you haven't gotten to the root of the problem here!  You're not dealing with damaged soil, you're maybe dealing with subsoil and that might actually benefit from some sort of soil building chop and drop routine before getting your Native plants established. There may be little natural biology in the soil. Is the slope to  great for sheet mulching with an emphasis on jump-starting the soil biology (worms will do that, and some sorts of mushrooms would help also, but they both need something to feed on.)

I believe I might also be up against road salt too. It is alongside a state highway and gets blasted accordingly several times each winter. But my only dead baptisia is there, and they're supposed to be very salt tolerant. Sounds like a soil analysis is in order! With intention to build soil as well.  
1 month ago

Oliver Smith wrote: Each year that wildflower mix evolved until low and behold after 3-4 years it was almost all the natives that were in that mix.

Same experience here! We did a couple small patches of seed blend. The blends were not native specific (just some natives in there amongst a ton of non-native annuals.)
The first 2 years we only saw the annuals, but this year it's mostly just the natives left. It makes me think a hybrid approach might be more practical for native seeding projects: throw a bunch of annuals in which might re-seed themselves for a couple years, but will peter out as the natives grow stronger. It seems the eager annuals beat out the weed competition in the first two years, so less fighting tough weeds while waiting for the natives.  
1 month ago

Anne Miller wrote:Hi Matt, I was wondering how the 18 Purple Poppy Mallow planting turned out?

Weird, I haven't been getting notifications for this thread activity! Anyway, I was out inspecting again yesterday. And it's not great.

The Poppy Mallow towards the top of the slope are doing fine. But all the ones I planted even a few feet downhill from them are dead and gone. Also had some other extra native starts, like Royal Catchfly, Blue Lobelia, and Blue False Indigo which are all doing very poorly. I planted the same Blue False Indigo in several other spots around the property and they're fine, but the ones I put on this slope are brown, crispy, and dead.

I weeded around the surviving Poppy Mallow, but I cannot pull weeds. The soil is too crumbly and I dare not disturb it so badly. So I just chopped and dropped around them. For the rest of it, I'll just keep it scythed down to prevent the weeds from setting seed and hope for the best.

I believe this is "loess" soil. Dry, silty, and low nutrition which might be a large part of the problem. So it makes sense that the Poppy Mallow on top are doing ok, because they're closer to actual top soil, rather than this loess deposit that was exposed when they built the road.  
1 month ago
With all the qualifications you laid out, mulching is about the only thing left! And even that only works long-term if you put cardboard under it.
1 month ago