Sod Height Problem ... what to do?

absoluteblockMarch 29, 2011

I just posted another thread about aerating my sod. Look here:

Unfortunately, I have another problem to deal with.

Our sod is too high in several places. It's partially due to rains and watering. On the downhill side of slopes, soil has accumulated underneath the sod, causing the sod to raise up 1-2". The spray from the sprinklers is partially obstructed and during the summer months, I get dead spots in the lawn.

The other problem is attributable to the landscaper's incompetence when they first laid the sod (6 years ago). Here, on perfectly level ground, the sod is way too high.

Does this call for a sod cutter?

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Follow up question. I explained in the other thread that I needed to rent a core aerator or power rake. If I also need a sod cutter for this job, what sequence should each task be done?

Rake or aerate first, wait a week, then do the sod cutting?

    Bookmark   March 29, 2011 at 8:23PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Criminy! As I just said on another post, a year ago I was leading the anti-top dressing bandwagon. You've got the poster child lawn for that cause. Fortunately you have made the best of it. In your case it could be the landscapers purposely profiled your lawn like that. Could be there is rocks or construction rubble underneath.

The easy solution is to renovate. Bring in a landscaper with a tractor and box blade to take it down to where you want it. Is there any chance there is plumbing or roots between the level level (!) and the level it is at now? If so be sure to account for redoing that in your mind's eye. You could use a sod cutter and then scrape the underlying soil out. I'd just start over, though.

I call photo this Topdressing Gone Wild. They had to install a retaining wall to keep it from washing out onto the sidewalk. I have other photos from that neighborhood where they did not fall into the annual top dressing trap. Those lawns look pretty good.

Back to your sprinkler heads. Are they popups?

    Bookmark   March 30, 2011 at 12:03PM
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Money is tight, so I'd probably have to lower the "subgrade" by hand. The second picture is the worst case scenario; nowhere else is it nearly this bad.

When you say starting over, are you implying to re-grade the entire yard and install new sod, or reuse what I have now?

I suppose it's worth mentioning the yard was graded 6 years ago. The landscapers worked in some compost and didn't level it out before dropping the sod in place. At the time I figured it would correct itself as the compost broke down. That never happened.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2011 at 8:29PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

You can lift the sod away with a sod cutter, lower the soil, and replace the sod. That is done all the time when money is tight. I was talking easy, not inexpensive. If you can do all that in one weekend it is much better. The sod will not like not having soil under it for very long. Invite your friends and have pizza and beer (afterwards).

Compost will completely decompose. If yours did not, then it was mixed with sand or something else. Sand is a common choice to "cut" compost and increase profit.

Compost should be applied to the top of a lawn, not under it. I know all the books and magazine articles talk about tilling it in, but tilling is wrong, too. Over the years of reading this and other forums, the best compost results come from top dressing with it (not top dressing with soil).

    Bookmark   March 31, 2011 at 10:39AM
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One of the reasons they tilled compost into the soil is because during the summer, the ground opens up with 2" cracks if not watered sufficiently. I've run a garden hose on full blast down these cracks, but the water disappears forever.

The landscapers thought compost tilled into the soil would reduce the cracking problem. I questioned them on this given that compost breaks down. So they did 50/50 compost and another type of soil, mixed with the crap soil already here.

This is better than before but not great. The side lawn developed a crack through the sod a couple years back. I keep having to fill it up with soil.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2011 at 9:26PM
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