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-   -   Will a rototiller be able to till thick mulch into my soil? (

joeyboy 06-29-2007 04:47 PM

Will a rototiller be able to till thick mulch into my soil?
I have sand for a lawn. I need to get something into the top ~6" to help retain moisture, and the best I can come up with at this point is mulch.

If I get a ton of composted mulch, with good sized sticks in it (say, 5" long, some almost an inch thick) will a rototiller be able to get those into my soil?

(any alternative suggestions for soil amendments that will help my sand retain moisture are greatly appreciated - I was going to use peat moss, but then found out that it will compost rather quickly, so in not too long I'd be back to sand. I'm looking for more of a long term solution, and nobody in my area carries any soil amendments that'll hold moisture for an extended period of time. I'm thinking mulch may be a way to do this)

xquercus 06-29-2007 09:13 PM

Wow, that sounds like a project with a tiller. On untilled earth, even large rear tine machines are pretty slow going. It seems like it's possible to me but it will take days of tilling even with a modestly sized lawn. You'll want a hefty tiller for this. When tilling untilled earth you'll want to run the tines in reverse. You'll only dig into the soil a few inches of soil the first pass so you'll have to do multiple passes.

If you decide to take this approach, till your lawn first a couple of passes to really loosen things up. Then till in whatever organic matter you want to add. The occasional stick isn't going to pose much of a problem. The tiller will not break up the stick (unless it's extremely rotten) but it's unlikely to stop it either.

xquercus 06-29-2007 09:17 PM

Rereading your post I noticed the compost you plan on using has more than the occasional stick. I think the biggest issue with this will be that the sticks are likely to end up on *top* of the soil. Things like sticks don't usually till in well and the tiller has a habit of spitting them out lying right on top of the soil.

So, I guess it depends on how many sticks you are talking about and weather or not you want to go around picking them up after you are done.

joeyboy 06-29-2007 09:24 PM

don't mind picking up the extras, I just want them in my soil.

My lawn is like a beach, literally. We're in central FL, literally minutes from the beach (gulf of mexico). I just want to till in something that will be able to hold moisture and slowly release it. Mulch is the best idea I have so far. I've been reading about obscure, inorganic products (vermiculite, perlite, colloidal phosphate, etc) that will hold/release moisture well, but WON'T decompose into compost in a year or less. I don't want to have to redo the entire lawn every year, that's pointless.

I am doing heavy research into better approaches, and will def keep this thread updated with my findings. I can't believe that products like what I referred to aren't commonplace here. In our area, the soil is sand. It has no ability to store water / nutrients. I'm shocked, and can't understand why, places do not offer any soil amendments that will solve this problem for a reasonable amount of time. The best offering seems to be peat moss, but unfortunately I know that it'll only be a year or two max before I'll need to rip up my lawn, retill more peat moss in, and start over. That is pointless and wasteful. Peat moss is crazy expensive to use in teh recommended ranges, and I can't imagine the pita of having to re-do my lawn annually.

I've found several products that seem like they'll hold/release water like peat, but won't decompose into compost quickly like peat does. I promise I will report back with my full findings within a couple days (I'm kind of on a timeline with these renovations, so no time is wasted here lol)

xquercus 06-29-2007 11:21 PM

I read your other thread about using peat. Is it really a problem if it decomposes readily into compost? Ultimately, anything organic you put down will compost. Composted organic matter holds water nicely. When we do cold compost piles, the composted material holds so much water that it keeps out the oxygen and becomes anaerobic (you can tell by smell).

Right in my neighborhood we have heavy clay soil. This makes for an infiltration problem and we end up with standing water. The neighbor across the street solved this by putting down a foot or more of wood chips. Once they composted somewhat he just seeded grass right into the compost. I'm not sure how long it took for the chips to compost, but you can't possibly tell at this point his lawn is grown of freely available wood chips.

Like you mentioned, you are in a very different environment than we are. Just something to think about. In terms of organic soil amendments I think it makes most sense to use what is available in your local area at a reasonable cost. Wood chips are free for the taking here. If composted mulch is cheap in your area, I'd use that.

I wish we could swap some soil. I'd happily trade you some glacial clay based soil for some well draining sand! Last I checked sand was about 3 buck per 60 pound bag at Home Depot. :)

joeyboy 06-30-2007 09:14 AM

Ya I wish we could trade half our sands for half our clays, then we'd have some awesome lawns!!

I'm not worried the peat will turn into compost, I'm worried because compost will eventually just be eaten away by the grass / micro/macro organisms in my soil. So once that's done, all the peat moss, all the tilling, etc, was done for nothing. It would need to be done again, the soil will have gone back to its sandy state, is what I've been lead to understand. And if I need to spend hundreds on peat moss, adn it'll just do its thing for a year or two, it's not really worth the time.

Oh and the recycled mulch/compost stuff is free here!! Well, free of cash anyways, you gotta drive ~15 minutes each way, and my car can only hold like 1/20th of my yard's needs, so it's a ton of heavy back and forth hauling. We've actually been using a screen and screening the mulch out, leaving us with nice black dirt. Only yesterday did I consider maybe not even screening it, leaving the mulch chunks in, so that maybe they'd be able to hold moisture for a way greater time period than the peat moss (but not nearly as long as the inorganic stuff I'm trying to find: terrasorb, colloidal phosphate, vermiculite, etc)

sflamedic 06-30-2007 10:32 AM

Does anyone around have a nice lawn? If so have you talked to them to see what the used? How about local landscapers. Never hurts to get a professionals opinion.

joeyboy 06-30-2007 05:54 PM

I've talked with people, but they just do heavy watering to overcome the soil's lack of water retention. I was hoping to find a way to keep my grass wiht the water it needs, w/o being nearly as wasteful/expensive.

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