Vacant Lot Help

Old 04-18-17, 08:50 AM
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Vacant Lot Help

I have exclusive access to a 4,000 sq ft vacant lot next to my apartment building in Brooklyn. I doubt I'll be living here more than 3ish years and don't own (or even technically rent) the lot so I need to keep expenses to a bare minimum. When I first gained access to the lot (last summer) it was FULL of 6'+ weeds, lots of trash, and an abundance of concrete chunks. I removed the trash and concrete, rented a brush mower and took down all the weeds, raked and bagged all the debris, and then spent countless hours on my hands and knees literally pulling up all the weed roots throughout the lot. When I was done I had a relatively flat bare lot but the soil is full of rocks.

Cut to this spring. Not only do I have very rocky soil but practically all the weeds have grown back and are already 5-8" tall! I can't believe all the tedious back breaking labor of pulling up the weed roots last year didn't handle this issue. My original dream was to have a nice 4,000sq ft lawn with some patio furniture and a grill picked up from Craigslist but if getting this lot ready for planting grass is going to have to cost me an arm and a leg I might have to admit defeat.

From what I've seen and read I'd have to purchase a number of rolls of black tarps to smother the weeds and then cover it with 2" of clean topsoil. At 4,000sq ft this is far too expensive. I've also read about sheet mulching with cardboard. It's going to take forever to get enough boxes to cover the area and I would still need top soil. I've considered renting a tiller but if pulling out all the weed roots last year didn't fix the weed issue I have my doubts about the effectiveness of the tiller for this and I'd still end up with a super rocky lot (unfortunately the rocks aren't just on the top either).

I guess this is just an opened ended question about what the most affordable and effective way of getting rid of these weeds for good and prepping this lot to be able to be seeded?
Old 04-18-17, 09:06 AM
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Spraying weed killer would be the best way to get rid of the unwanted growth ... but it might hamper seeding.
Old 04-18-17, 09:41 AM
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Once you finished with the brush hogging, it probably would have been best to commence mowing it. Weeds can't deal with constant cutting, while any random grass seeds would have thrived; and supplementing what grass was growing naturally with over-seeding would have allowed the grass to pre-dominate.

I've dealt with several areas that resisted being converted to lawn . . . . but if you begin treating an area like lawn, it will eventually behave like a lawn. You just have to outlast the weeds, who are opportunists, and will take advantage of any break in your persistence.

If the weeds are now only 5" to 8" tall, it may not be too late to redeem you work from last year.
Old 04-18-17, 10:03 AM
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Agree with the constant mowing but also cut at a tall height so that the grass begins to grow it will eventually shade out the weeds.

But to be honest that is going to take a number of years.

The back of my property was field, weeds were 4' tall when I started, cut every couple of weeks, have occasionally taken the sprayer out there but for the most part the grass is taking over but it's been like 6 years!
Old 04-18-17, 11:00 AM
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In the future you've got to stay on it. Mother Nature is working 24/7 to get something to grow on that lot. You can't just hit it once and walk away. If you got it cleared then you've got to keep it mowed. Quite often regular mowing is one of the easiest and best ways to control brush and woody growth as they can't tolerate being cut short but the grasses that can survive it will slowly take over.

If you want to go chemical there are several inexpensive herbicides that will help. In Brooklyn you don't have a local feed store but you can order online from Amazon or Do My Own Pest Control. You can get main brand names like Roundup at your local garden or home improvement store but expect to pay considerably more than if you purchased the concentrate syrup. Application for most is easiest done with a pump up garden sprayer.

If there is no grass worth saving you can use a herbicide containing glyphosate which is the main ingredient in Roundup, Honcho, Glyphos and many others. It's a pretty good, general plant killer that is absorbed through the green parts of a plant and will kill grasses and broad leaf plants, trees and brush. Spray the leaves of what you want to kill. Spraying the ground or woody trunks does nothing. Let it sit for at least several days after spraying so the poison can get fully absorbed and taken down to the roots to kill them.

If there is some grass you want to save I would use a herbicide containing 2,4-D. Crossbow is one of my favorite as it also contains Triclopyr for a bit more kick. This is also absorbed through the leaves and you should leave the plants intact until they show severe signs of dying so you know the roots are dead. This herbicide is more specific to only broad leaf plants and will leave most grasses unharmed if you follow the directions.
Old 04-18-17, 02:54 PM
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The weed roots are only half of the problem. Weed seeds can lie dormant for years and still come to life.

Over seed with grass seed and keep the area mowed. Eventually the grass will win.

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