Back in March, we sheet mulched our front lawn and were quite happy with ourselves. The grass was neatly covered up with a layer of cardboard and mulch, and all we had to do was wait a couple months and the grass would conveniently transform into rich soil for our new garden.
Life was good.
Until May, when this happened:
Now to be fair, most of the yard is still looking pretty good.
Overall, the mulch is holding. And under the cardboard the grass is clearly hurting.
It's just that, for whatever reason, the side yard looks like hell. Why did this happen? I really don't know, but I have a few theories.
The side yard receives more shade over the course of a day compared to the rest of the lawn. So maybe with less sun, it stays more moist, and the grass is more likely to grow back? Or maybe the cardboard is more wet so it decomposes faster so the grass can break through? Or maybe we didn't put a thick enough layer of mulch on top? Or maybe the mulch itself had grass seeds in it?? I'm not sure. Please leave a comment if you have better ideas.
As you may have noticed in the photos above, there's a whole lot of tall grass growing along the perimeter, and I know exactly why that happened. Back in March when we were prepping the lawn for sheet mulching, we dug out the perimeter of the yard... except we skipped the parts next to walls. Because, well, we were tired of shoveling. And we rationalized that the cardboard would lean up against the walls and smother the grass. So we called it a day.
BAD IDEA. Now look what happened:
Thanks to us trying to cut corners, the grass is now 2 feet tall along the walls. Brilliant. The moral of the story is to not be lazy about digging out the perimeter. Dig it ALL out in the beginning. #worthit
Besides the forest growing along the edges, there is a smattering of grass popping out all over the mulch. It used to be just a couple here and there where the cardboard pieces had gaps, but about a week ago I started seeing this happening, and it was freaky.
Holy crap. The cardboard is disintegrating and somehow the grass below is still alive! I knew if we didn't do something soon, it would all be over.
It's time for battle. Your ass is grass, grass.
This afternoon, I went out front and started pulling out the grass by hand. One bunch at a time.
It took a long time, but it was also kind of relaxing and therapeutic. The grass comes out very easily, roots and all. There's something very satisfying about weeding.
I spent the whole afternoon yanking out grass and filled my bucket 3 times. Victory is mine!
I found 2 kinds of grass. If you recognize them in the photos below, please let me know in the comments because I'd love to know what species they are.
The first kind has roots that shoot out horizontally and grow new individuals, and those spread to make even MORE individuals, and I suspect that's how this grass takes over the world. [UPDATE: My helpful friends have let me know that this is likely purple nutsedge... not technically a grass!] Here are 2 individuals that I pulled out that are still connected:
The other kind I call "dragon grass" because it's LONG and green and looks like it's got legs (think a Chinese dragon). You pull on one tuft and realize it's connected to another part, and another, and another, and next thing you know you just pulled out 5 feet of one crazy long grass. I mean look at this thing. [UPDATE: My helpful friends have let me know that this is likely kikuyu grass. Thanks friends!]
The biologist in me is fascinated by how well adapted these grass species are for survival. They are totally bad-ass and have my respect. But the gardener in me hates them. I wish they would be bad-ass somewhere else.
After today's marathon weeding session, the comeback grass is gone and the yard is looking peaceful and mulchy again. I'm hoping that's the last of it, but only time will tell. If the grass keeps coming back, we may need to cover the side yard with more cardboard (ugh). At the very least, I think getting more mulch and thickening the mulch layer may be a good idea.
And oh! We are making plans to build raised beds. We may actually grow some veggies in the front yard this season. Very exciting.