Where to begin when I am starting with this?

cabtab503(8b)May 26, 2014

This is my second post. The first was regarding June bugs, which I thought must be my only problem in trying to get a green, organic back yard. Now, after reading more of the forums, I am not so certain. I may be working with more than one issue. Nothing's easy, despite the button. ;-)

So, attached are pictures of what I am starting with, and tired of looking at when I exit my back door.

Information:
- live in Central Texas (Comal County).
- Area I am attempting to improve is approx. 14,400 sq. ft. of a 2 acre parcel
- Clay soil that quickly dries on top and develops large cracks, hotter it is, more cracks develop.
- Live in an area where they mine limestone, so pretty sure my soil is alkaline.
- Lots of rocks! Even after we pick them up, more work their way to the surface. I think I need to get some organic matter on the area but not sure what, exactly.
- Use a lawn tractor set at highest level to mow.
- Have dogs, alpacas and chickens
- Two of the alpaca graze in the area (until we fence in a paddock for them) but they do not pull out the roots, no upper teeth.
- Chicken coop is mobile. We move it and the run every 7-10 days.
- We try to let the hens run the yard every evening for 3-5 hours. It is good for them, helps with bug control and they are fun to watch!
- seeded with Bermuda seed last fall, some looks like it is trying to come up.
- Threw out some more Bermuda grass seed we got on clearance, end of last summer. (about 3-4 weeks ago)
- Just built a large compost bin and piled/layered it with the chicken bedding, alpaca manure and fall leaves so it is not ready.
- I can get free mulch from the county.
- Mow with the blade set at the highest setting.
- Sprayed horticultural molasses on half of my lawn last week, hoping it would help with June bugs, etc. Nothing of note yet, not sure how long it takes...
- Two large live oak trees provide a huge canopy over part of what I would like to be green
- Septic system is buried below the area
- NO sprinkler system. Water hoses and sprinklers and drip hoses are what I have to work with.

We want it green and growing, doesn't have to be the perfect lawn. I just do not want a dry, cracked, crispy dust bowl come summer, if I can help it. I seem to be losing top soil and the rocks keep rising. I can live with some clover, a few weeds, and do consistent watering. But, in the heat of summer we are usually under some kind of water restriction, so less is best. We know it is a long term effort and since we have more time than money, I expect it to take some time to set up a system.

I need some experienced advice because the "hit and miss" stuff I have done for two years is a bust. Are my expectations realistic? Where do I start? What can I do this month? Next month?

Thanks, in advance, for the help/suggestions/insight.

Here is a link that might be useful: cabtab503 yard photos

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Kluttery

My, God! That's an awful lot of yard to maintain. Are you sure you want to cut that much grass?

Were I you, I would consider dividing that area into different "rooms." Perhaps you could sow wildflower seeds over most of the area. They're inexpensive, easy to germinate, grow and maintain. They not only give you green but also a wide range of color, height and shape.

Use other areas for plant beds, which would still leave plenty of space for a lawn.

Hopefully others will chime in on the exact mechanics you should undertake.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2014 at 7:14PM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

Organic matter, vegetative waste, is what that soil needs.
Rather than attempting to get all 14,000 square feet to the 6 to 8 percent in one year you might consider planting cover, green manure, crops over parts which can help a lot.
What vegetative waste do you have fairly readily available, preferably for free?

    Bookmark   May 30, 2014 at 7:44AM
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cabtab503(8b)

I apologize for responding so late. Life took priority for a bit.

Vegetative waste: I have access to the FREE mulch from the Comal county recycle center. I was thinking of purchasing a chipper shredder and running the free mulch through (to speed decomposing and availability) and just cover the area with the resulting product.
I have not set up a watering system of any sort and the ground already has huge cracks in it that will only get worse as we go into the dog days of summer....

What do you think of my plan?

Keep in mind free is for me. I have not yet looked for manure availability (other than my four alpaca's manure and chicken droppings/bedding)

    Bookmark   July 8, 2014 at 6:38PM
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