How Do I Level a Large Lawn

jimkw(5 - Mid Ohio)June 28, 2011

I read the entire thread on leveling a lawn with sand, but there is no way I can level two acres that way. I basically bought a farm field, built a house on it and started mowing the field. I planted decent fescue grass and to be honest it looks very good just to look at it from a distance. But when you walk on it you might twist your ankle.

Cutting it with my tractor is a real chore becasue it is so rough that you are bounced around for the two+ hours it takes to mow it. I did a good job of smoothing and leveling around the patio in the back and out about 30' which is the area we use the most.

I brought in a big dump truck of topsoil about 4 or 5 years ago and spread it around the back. Helped a little in the short term, but it's rougher than ever now because I had to mow it when it was wet this year several times.

It's a very hard clay soil. I bought an old Troy Built Horse tiller last year but have never even used it yet. My plan was to use it to work about 1/4 of an acre at a time.

Here is what I am thinking of doing. Tilling the soil the best I can, and to be honest I have no idea how good that will be. Then taking some sand or something and putting down and mixing that with the clay soil and then smoothing it out and planting grass.

I know I would take a lot more pride in doing it myself, but is this more than a 62 year old guy can handle? Should I just bite the bullet and hire somebody? Probably cost a couple thousand dollars or more and I can think of much better ways to spend that much money.

Oh yeah I have also planted about 75 trees on the property, a combination of Maple trees and Norway Spruces. I buy cheap Norway Spruces each year for less than $20 each and plant them. Some are about 15' tall now. Some are not doing so good, but most of them look great.

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Attach a box blade to your tractor and grade the area.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2011 at 9:50PM
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I have a similar issue, 3 acres of bumpy "pasture grass" made worse by a Geothermal install 3 years ago. Makes for a bumpy ride on my garden tractor/mower. I'm having five yards of topsoil taligated over the very low geo-trenches (6 trenches, 30 yards long). Smaller areas I fill by hand with topsoil. My box blade helps to level it out. I'm not expecting a golf course, just saving my kidneys!

We have a lot of Amish in the area. They use push style, reel mowers (no motor). Every spring they hire contractors to roll their lawns while the clay soil is still "pliable". I have not tried it yet, but am thinking about it after I fill most of the really low spots (4-5") in my lunar landscape.

NE Ohio

    Bookmark   June 29, 2011 at 10:19AM
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jimkw(5 - Mid Ohio)

I have tried rolling it and that does next to nothing. It's way too rough for that. I'm going to look into getting a box blade, but have no idea where to find one to rent or possibly buy if the price is right.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2011 at 10:49AM
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Mowing a bumpy yard is no picnic. Our yard is amazing - I can really cruise over the part of the yard that was graded after the house was built. Here's what we did.

We had a uni-loader (bobcat S185) when the house was built and when the time came to plant grass, we graded it the entire yard meticulously (about 3/4 of an acre that he was working). I must say that the loader operator that we had was very good and I really think most of the levelness was due to that. We then rented a soil conditioner attachment for the Bobcat and went over the lawn with that, stirring the soil a couple of inches. Before that, though, we had several dump truck loads of good dirt put on the front yard because we only had terrible, rock-hard clay. The loader spread all the good dirt out evenly.

We then went through with garden rakes for a couple hours getting as much gravel out as possible and fine tuning anything that we could. Then we planted - put seed down, dragged a section of chain-link fence over it, rolled it with a small lawn roller (probably 60 gal. or so), but starter fertilizer down, and covered it with straw. And then watered it. :) No easy chore...

It turned out amazing. Like I said the yard literally doesn't have any bumps to speak of. If you are planning on renovating completely the homework must be done correctly with the loader - that's the key.

As for doing it with an established yard, I've heard that you can get compost and rake it in, but have never tried, and that sounds daunting to me.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2011 at 10:55AM
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jimkw(5 - Mid Ohio)

The part where the septic tank was put in is pretty smooth except over the drain field what is has settled. So it's smooth around the house where we had to resurface and grade to build the house. But that's only about 1/4 of the two acres. The problem is it looks good, but when you walk on it or mow it you know how rough it actually is.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2011 at 11:31AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Using a bobcat or skidsteer is a dicey proposition. The problem with those machines is the short wheelbase, small wheels, and high center of gravity. They literally bob around when the wheels fall into a hole. Anyone who can drive one of those well enough to level large areas is to be commended.

The tractor with box blade is the way to go. You might want to have it professionally done because those guys are experts at eyeballing the amount of soil the needs to be brought in or removed.

You will need to crown the area in the center so that you don't have drainage problems. And you will need to guide the drainage away from buildings and from your neighbor's property. Leveling a large area is not a trivial task.

You might look for your nearest 4H horse arena for guidance. On the days when they have events, there is a guy driving a tractor with a drag behind it to dress the surface before the events. He could be a wealth of information and certainly has a wealth of experience.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2011 at 8:29PM
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Whatever you do don't add sand too it if its already a heavy clay soil, you'll make things far worse in the long run as the sand actually helps to compact the clay even more, your basically making a rudimentary concrete!! Add some pea shingle and top soil, rotovate the entire lot too work the shingle and soil in which will improve the quality of drainage and soil. Then level out with the blade of a digger or something along those lines, make sure you allow time for the soil to settle or compact it yourself before you decide to lay any turf or scatter any seed :-)

    Bookmark   June 2, 2013 at 7:46PM
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Using good advice from this site, I had someone come in with a tractor and box blade to grade it. It was $250 for about 2 hours. Then I seeded it.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2013 at 8:28PM
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How has it held up so far?

When the box blade came in what did you do with the existing grass?

Did you roll it after it got graded?

    Bookmark   November 17, 2013 at 1:09PM
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