New Construction Lawn

WatkinsjSeptember 17, 2013

Hello all,

I have been struggling with my yard since we purchased in April of 2013. This home is a new construction home with just dirt as a lawn. The heat in the area at the time was incredibly hot so I have been waiting to plant grass. Over the summer we had about a month of straight rain. This rain has caused erosion of the land and caused long trenches in the yard. Also the dirt around my foundation has dropped a full two feet in some areas. This was to be expected being a new construction but is has become so hard to keep up with. I have received one truck load of dirt from the builders to fill in the low spots. I have been wheel barreling loads of dirt to low areas over the last month and feel I have gotten nowhere! This dirt is in clumps that are impossible to break up with force. But I digress, the yard became a weed lawn in mid summer with crab grass everywhere. I have sprayed weed killer and killed all the weeds so now it is a brown wasteland.

My question to the forum is what is the best method to remove the dead weeds in the yard? Also would a tiller help me level out the yard and help fill in the eroded areas?

I don't have a lot of money to spend on this project and I have contacted multiple people to use a skid steer to level the yard and help grade it. Too costly in my book so I will continue the wheel barrel method to move the dirt. But I have considered renting a tiller to remove the dead weeds and to help make the soil easier to spread and level with a rake and shovel.

Any advise will be a great help and appreciate any and all feedback! I will see about getting better pictures for those interested.

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forsheems(Lexington, NC)

I just finished a complete renovation this weekend. I had two sinkholes where the builder burried stumps when the house was built in the mid 80's. One was about 2 1/2 feet deep.

I had 7 tandem loads of dirt hauled in and couldn't imagine what I was going to do with all of it. Using a Bobcat I roughly spread the the dirt filling in the sinkholes and various other low spots in the lawn. I managed to get everything leveled but could have used another 2 loads. Although the piles of dirt look huge they don't go nearly as far as you think. From there I used a small tractor with a box scrape to finish up the leveling job and then a section of chain link with a couple logs on it for weight to drag over the lawn to get it really smooth. This took well over 12 hours with my son running the box scrape while I ran the Bobcat. Attempting this with a shovel and wheel barrow would have most likely resulting in me commiting suicide.

That being said, there's a good chance you won't have enough dirt to level the yard completely. Tilling is not recommended as the loosened dirt will eventually settle and end up being rough and bumpy. IMO your best option would be a small tractor with a front end loader to move the dirt around as needed and a boxscrape to level it out. A skid steer is excellent for moving large amounts of dirt but not very good for getting it level.

As for the dead weeds, the boxscrape would also take care of those. In the end, I have about $1,500.00 invested in my lawn which is roughly 20,000 square feet. The seed alone was $500 but should be well worth it come next spring. I definitely understand money being tight. In the long run you may end up spending way more by having to do it over and over until it's right when spending a little more now would get you where you need to be.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2013 at 10:20AM
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Thank you ForsheeMS for your feedback!

    Bookmark   September 17, 2013 at 11:08AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

The boxscrape is otherwise known as a box blade. It is used by landscapers and finish graders to put proper drainage into a project and to properly prepare the soil for seed or sod. When this tool is on a tractor, an experienced operator can tune up a yard like yours in less than an hour; however, put it on a bobcat or skid steer and they will take a week to do the same job. Here is a picture of it in action.

From the vantage point of your picture it looks like the whole neighborhood has no drainage. Looks like one yard drains onto the next yard instead of out to the street. That might not be the case, but you have to watch for that in the neighborhoods which are essentially level.

If you check around and find you cannot afford a landscaper with a box blade, then this becomes a DIY job. Search this forum for topics about leveling a yard with sand. Basically you bring in more than enough sand in bags (you can return unused bags), spread the sand, level it, water it to settle, spread more sand where it sunk, water, level, spread, water, level, spread until you are happy.

The important thing for you is to get grass growing and stop the erosion. Where has the soil gone that you brought in? And are you serious that you have 2 feet against the house? Can you post a picture of your current worst spot? I used to be work for a finish grading business and might be able to help you fix it without over fixing it.

NOW IS THE TIME FOR THIS PROJECT. If you wait any longer you will not get your grass seed in before winter. In fact it might be too late, but I would go for it. Spray the weeds with RoundUp, level quickly, scatter seed, water 3x per day for 3 full weeks or until you get 80% germination of the new grass. Don't worry about weeds yet - just get the seed down asap.

Get a full sun seed mix from the local hardware store. I say that knowing that it is not the world's best seed, but it is what you can get NOW without researching the fine details of the best seed for your area. Read the Guaranteed Analysis on the grass bags. Look for one that has no rye grass in it. Fescue is okay (not great), but definitely no rye. That is unless you had your heart set on a full rye lawn. The main grass should be varieties of Kentucky Bluegrass, possibly with some tall fescue in it. Spread at the rate recommended on the bag. Don't worry about spots that do not come in as dense as you expected, because KBG will spread to fill those in next year.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2013 at 2:45PM
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