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PostPosted: Thu Aug 30, 2012 7:59 am 
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Location: Rowlett, TX
Ok, so my wife and I (and our new baby) just bought our first house back in May. Its been awesome and a nightmare at the same time because the house while being remodeled was also formerly a poorly maintained foreclosure. One thing that was never fixed up was the yard.
As you can see, its pretty barren, weed infested, and boring. Oh, and also the shed appears to be sinking (I'm going to be digging it out in the next few weeks, jacking it up, and lifting it up a big to give me a couple more years of use).

Questions I have and advice I seek!
1. The entirety of the backyard is all nasty clay. This summer you would have thought an earthquake happened because of the gigantic cracks. How do I treat an area this large for clay soil? Roto-tiller with some kind of filler? Do I spread something first then till? Till and spread and then till it again?

2. drainage and grading appears to be an issue by the gate to the right of the house. It is getting swamped every rain. I am afraid to dig a french drain to the sidewalk/street for the gate issue because there is a gas line there somewhere and I don't know how deep they bury those things.

3. The back fence line and behind the shed appear to be the natural low areas of the property and everyone elses' properties as well. My "plan" was to create a dry creekbed type thing or a french drain going along the back fence to move the water away and down hill like its supposed to go. Here is a link to the drainage issues I recorded on the camera: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q179e3H8YDI&feature=plcp

4. I am a bad bad person and I have used and keep using pesticides to keep the bug population down (Generic Cypermethrin). The house had been foreclosed so the bugs were outta control inside and outside so I had to do what I knew best. Once I get the yard undercontrol, less overgrown, I REALLY want to swtich to natural methods. What else can I do as I'm reshaping the yard to help cut down on bugs? RIght now we don't even let the dog out at night because there are so many bugs flying in the SECOND we open the door. Also, and I know they are eating the bugs, the geckos are outta control. Its like a 50/50 chance when we open the back door if a gecko will dart in at night.

5. One other thing, about the ground prep. I intend to have several vegetable garden areas (still tracking the sun for best location). I was going to use raised planters (like 1-2 foot high), but I suppose if I'm tearing up the soil anyways there are things I can do? With the Texas Clay Soil here would it just be better to use the raised planters so I can put some "nice" dirt in there for them?

Please somebody help me Doctor my Dirt back to health! I can't afford a company to come in and do this (every extra dollar has gone into the house purchase and repairs afterwards!).

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 30, 2012 10:09 am 
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This was quite an interesting read and you sent great documentation - I need to do the YouTube thing myself! I'm sure there will be several folks reading and responding with answers for all of the different parts of this question.

Most important to start with is the drainage. You can dig the French drain if you know where everything is. I checked, the number to call to have your utilities located is 811. This statewide service is called Lonestar 811, and they send out various utility representatives to mark (they use different colored spray paint and flags for each company) for free. Give them a few days to get out there, and then preserve the marks while you're working.

For mosquitoes, get a package of mosquito dunks over at Home Depot (least expensive place I've found to get them) and toss one in each puddle. If they dry out, no problem, but they get wet again they'll work again. And get a large container of granulated garlic (Sam's Club has it for about $20 and Costco is probably the same). The video no longer plays, but you can see the first photo in an interview on Channel 4 when Howard spoke about sprinkling garlic around the house and yard to repel mosquitoes. Take off the red lid but not the safely inside lid. Take a pencil and stab it into that safety liner 15-20 times and make a huge garlic shaker. You don't need a lot to do a good job, just shake garlic around near the doors and windows and around the yard. I have a jug of this and it lasts for several applications. I usually buy a new one every couple of years.

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As you do any digging and weeding establish a spot for a compost pile, away from the poor drainage because you don't want standing water to leech out your nutrients. I have a large yard so I have three piles going at a time, the one I'm using, the one I'm contributing to, and the one from last year that is still breaking down. If you don't have as much room turn it over every so often and make sure to water it and you'll have great compost in a few months. Compost is going to be your most important tool out there.

Your best bet for a good overview of techniques is to visit the organic guides and watch those videos. Bed preparation talks about those raised beds you want, but amendments broadcast to the yard will help with the soil. Lavasand, green sand, compost, and probably zeolite to help lock up some of the chemicals that have been used out there in the past. Look up each of these words and any others you come across in the Natural Organic Library.

To sum up the organic part of this answer, I think the start I would use is to broadcast a mix of amendments and a robust application of dry molasses. And look into zeolite. If you can tolerate the geckos, they'll do good work for you on bug control. Using the library link above you can also find information about bug control in the house.

Welcome to the group!

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Last edited by northwesterner on Thu Aug 30, 2012 6:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 30, 2012 6:21 pm 
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I hooked the phone camera up to the computer to upload this photo of my current shaker of granulated garlic. I've been using this for a while, probably since last fall. You don't need a lot of garlic for it to work, and though you may not smell it after a few days, it can last several weeks. (Pardon the clutter on the counter, I didn't stage this photo! I snapped this one to send to my daughter in Denton - one of her college roommates has come down with West Nile and I was sending her shopping for things to protect the rest of the household from any more mosquitoes.)

Attachment:
File comment: This is my garlic shaker for sprinkling granulated dry garlic around the yard to repel insects, particularly good for mosquitoes.
Big-Granulated-Garlic-Shaker-1a.jpg
Big-Granulated-Garlic-Shaker-1a.jpg [ 310.51 KiB | Viewed 407 times ]

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 30, 2012 6:34 pm 
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Location: Rowlett, TX
That helps a bunch. I'll be doing a Costco run this weekend and be sure to pick some up.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2012 8:54 pm 
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It looks like you may have room behind the shed for a compost bin.
I would not add French drains as it looks like you have no place to run the water. Make sure it can drain under the fence. Water will go where the low spot is anyway. If water is coming under the fence from your neighbor, I would raise the back with beds.
I do not use any steel edging or wood. When I am sure where the beds are going, I always install permanent concrete borders. See attached picture. It is actually cheaper to lay a 4" concrete border than to use steel edging if you put it in yourself. Then you never have bermuda grass infestation issues!
Attachment:
Concrete Border (640x480) (480x360).jpg
Concrete Border (640x480) (480x360).jpg [ 206.18 KiB | Viewed 397 times ]

Get your backyard grass in good shape with organic fertilizer (I use chicken feed), water and keep it mowed on a regiular basis and mulch the clippings. I only pick up grass in my first mowing of the spring for my compost and mulch the rest of the year.
Your yard has no trees so the vegetables will grow anywhere. I would put the veg garden in the back right corner and plant a prettier garden between it and what appears to be your LR window. The Vegetable garden can get rough looking in late summer. Roses in front would be a good option.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 8:08 am 
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Location: Rowlett, TX
Ok, well I got some work started. Mostly on the sinking shed issue. After I finish raising the shed I'll be putting in a french drain to keep the water moving away from the shed so it won't sink so much in the future.

What should I do about the lawn? there is about 1/3-1/2 of the lawn is crab grass. I think its spreading too. When I first moved in I used some crab grass killer and that worked but now its coming back strong and I'm wondering what my other options are for killing it and getting the regular grass to take over.

Also, here's my shed after getting it lifted up a bit, you can see how rotted the wood at the bottom was from it being left on the ground. I have no idea what the previous owners were thinking!

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You can even see the whole project before and after here too: https://picasaweb.google.com/1071771255 ... directlink


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 11:32 am 
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There is a product called Crabgrass Killer that you put down after wetting the area. Howard says it is pretty effective - the active ingredients are cinnamon and turmeric. Another way is to moisten the area and then sprinkle baking soda on the crab grass (I've read about that in the forums but haven't tried it.) You can get a lot of baking soda for a few dollars so that might be a good test to try. Use a sifter or something to lightly spread it over the moistened grass.

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