Swampy muddy mess!

Nickd503March 15, 2014

Ive finally hit that point in life where im able to afford owning my own home but now im also dealing with happy homeowner issues!

My tiny little backyard has turned into a NASTY muddy mess. With this winter being our first in the area we have realized just how nasty it can get.

I have noticed that our yard will not drain whatsoever. The soil/mud under the grass didn't even really dry out last summer.
What im left with is an ugly, patchy moss covered yard. Im willing to do anything at this point to get it steered in the right direction but need some advice.

From the pictures i linked below, is it even worth salvaging? Im not afraid of a little hard work so let me know what you think!! I wouldn't bat an eye at laying down sod if thats whats needed. I would love to hear every ones opinions!


Here is a link that might be useful: My messy lawn

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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

I'm assuming you're on the rainy side of the mountain. If not, then you have other issues.

After a rain, so you get standing water in the lawn area? Are you in a low spot where neighbor's runoff collects in your lawn? If your soil did not dry out all summer, it could be you are a collection pit. You can solve that by bringing in topsoil to raise the level and create a crown in the yard. The crown in the middle will drain the water out to the edges where it should drain to the front or back (but not the neighbors).

Before I get into what to do with the new soil, please respond to the questions and assumption. The solution will depend on what you are dealing with.

Also did you water last summer? What was your watering schedule (frequency and timing)?

    Bookmark   March 15, 2014 at 8:49PM
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Yes, it's rather rainy here in Fairview Oregon..

We don't really get standing water on the actual lawn itself but on the low in the bark dust we do. The way our yard is set up we don't get any rain runoff from our neighbors, our yards are not even connected. I was told by a neighbor that when our housing development was built that all the top soil was sold and we were all left with a sort of clay that hasn't been lawn friendly.
So to answer your question i dont believe that were fighting a neighbors run off, it seems its my own lawn just being stubborn.

We did water last summer and would give it about 20 before we took off for work in the mornings. If it wasn't watered in the morning we would get it in the evening...

thanks for the reply, if i can show you more pictures or answer any other questions just let me know!!

    Bookmark   March 15, 2014 at 10:17PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Ideally you should let the soil surface dry completely before you water it again. If Mother Nature keeps it wet, then don't water. Watch the grass and let it tell you when to water. It will wilt or change to a darkish green. Then water immediately. When you do water, water a full inch all at one time. Measure an inch using empty cat food or tuna cans placed around the yard. You can time how long it takes to get an inch and just run the sprinklers for that length of time. Every system is different. Mine takes 8 hours while my neighbor's takes 20 minutes. You have to measure your own. If the rain comes judiciously, you might not water for months.

Everyone gets that same story about topsoil. I used to work for a grading company. They keep what they can. If you were on hills, they push the soil around to flatten it and decide whether to bring more in or remove some. But you are correct in assuming it is probably not the top most soil that was ever there. Still you can work with it. If you want to really tune up your soil, get a soil test from Logan Labs in Ohio. If you are not going to spend $20 for that, then don't bother. Any soil test will tell you you need to fertilize. I believe the best thing you can do for your soil is to fertilize organically. The organic fertilizer I like best for the past couple of years is alfalfa pellets (rabbit chow). The reason I like it best is the cost of corn went sky high a couple years ago. Before that I used corn meal. The application rate for grain based fertilizers is 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet. You can use them as often as you like and can afford to improve your soil as quickly as you can. Weekly is fine if you choose to do that. Monthly works better for me. Or you might do it weekly for a few weeks to jump start it and then go to monthly for the rest of the season.

Can you describe what is wrong with your soil? You might do a jar test to see if you really have clay. There are certain salts in soils that can make them act like clay, but if you try to use the typical clay loosening solutions, you'd be doing the exact wrong thing. Put a cup of clay into a mayo jar and measure the height along the side with a ruler. Then fill it with water and 1 drop of liquid soap, and shake it up. Immediately measure how much material settles to the bottom of the jar. Write that number down. Check again in 2 minutes, 2 hours, and 2 days. If, at the end of 2 days, you can see through the water on top of the soil in the jar, then you don't have clay. The first stuff to fall out is rocks, gravel, and sand. Next is silt. Clay never comes out of suspension and clouds up the water until the water dries. Stuff floating on top is organic matter like twigs. The important organic matter is microscopic, so you'll never see it.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 8:12PM
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I think that the first thing I would do is determine the high and low spots in the yard. For small areas this is a simple task with a 12' 1X4 and a level. After you have determined the high, low and where things should drain you need to make the water go where it should. It may mean to make sand drains through an area of heavy clay (a shallow trench filled with sand) or just using a shovel skimming the high areas and placing the dirt into the low area. It is easiest to do when you have the problem or in the rain (Don't let your mother see you playing in the rain ;-). It there are large variation you may want to consider a landscaper or rent a larger piece of appropriate equpment.

Once you have the yard draining properly you can then think about what grasses you need for the soil and sun light in your yard.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 10:28PM
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I dont really seem to have much a pooling problem, it just seems that every square inch of top soil is just compacted mud. From what my eye can see the yard is pretty much flat.

I was thinking about trying to aerate the lawn, killing the moss and then fertilizing and planting new seed..Im not really sure if thats the direction i need to go but it sounds about right. Any idea as to how or when i should deal with the neon green moss?

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 9:59AM
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The problem is not necessarily the surface appearance it is the under surface topography. You may have clay dams under the surface that cause a pool that fills with water and will not drain. It may be rocks dams under the soil that cause the problems.

They only way to get things to drain properly is to locate those rock or clay dams and explorer ways to get those pools to drain.

We owned a house, that I had a pooling problem near the foundation. I finally figured out that when the house was constructed the foundation trences were cut through the clay, and the trench backfilled with sand and lighter soil.

I solved the problem by digging a trench through the clay and then filling with sand and covering with top soil. This allowed the pool in the foundation trench to drain though the sand trench.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 10:35AM
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