Did you know that the drought is a good time to create good soil? A lot of people have asked me what they can do during the drought while they are watching their lawns die due to limited watering. Or they are thinking toward the future and realize maybe the time to have a big, lush lawn has come and gone.
I have a favorite Buddhist saying that I keep in my memory and it always comes in focus when I most need it. “My barn having burned down, I can now see the moon.” This favorite saying applies during this drought situation too.
If you are planning to let your grass die, you now have an opportunity to be creative with your yard and plan for the future for a beautiful restoration of low-growing and water wise ground cover plants. But first you have to create good soil for this lovely opportunity. And its easy.
Where to start?
1. While your lawn is a bit moist, rototill the entire grass area as much as possible, breaking up the soil as deep as you can. This is called green manure which is high in nitrogen, breaks down quickly and begins to create the microbial action you want. Nitrogen dissipates quickly, but increases the heat in the soil to break down the rest of the ingredients.
2. Add bagged composted manure, or if you have cows nearby, use their composted manure. Manure adds additional heat to the soil and contains lots of beneficial bacteria. A word of warning: do NOT use fresh manure or other manures besides cow. You’ll get lots of weed seeds if you do.
3. Add a good quality forest compost which increases water retention and further adds to the richness of your soil foundation. Rake everything smooth and let it sit for the rest of the season. You can water from time to time, especially during the winter if there is no moisture.
Soil bacteria and mycorrhiza will develop, break down the poor soil and create wonderful, fragrant, good quality soil. Worms will find their way in and break it down further.
Good soil is the foundation for your garden. When you have good soil, you won’t have weeds. The soil will hold lots of moisture and will be full of supporting bacteria that provides all the nutrition your garden needs. Living soil creates a living garden. You will have a healthier garden that requires much less water and little or no fertilizer. Think of good soil for the garden like you would think of good food for the body. It provides all the nutrition you need.
Next year, you’ll have a water-wise garden area that will better support new lawn, or allow you to be creative and re-plant with water-wise ground cover plants.