Want to level my dirt (lawn) before laying sod

amg1978November 8, 2010

A few months ago I used a sod cutter and removed my lawn. I then tilled in ammend. I then today replaced the whole sprinkler system by digging large trenches, etc.

My concern is that a few weeks ago I noticed when it rained that my dirt felt like walking on a water bed. It was so full of air. I don't want to sod and then have the ground settle a huge amount.

I was wondering if it would make sense that once it is raked out to where I have the grade as I want it and it looks correct, to rent a lawn roller from Home Depot, fill it full of water, then try to compact down the soil a bit so that it will not sink down a lot after sodding? I am fine with doing this now, then (if need be) letting it sit for a few weeks or even a month or two, then doing this again (if that is the approach). Then proceed with all the processes for sodding as described by the place I purchase from.

Help , any advice appreciated.

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Posted by amg1978 CA (My Page) on
Mon, Nov 8, 10 at 1:36

I am fine with doing this now, then (if need be) letting it sit for a few weeks or even a month or two, then doing this again (if that is the approach).

That's basically what I did this past summer. I know most everyone on this board is against tilling though. I had it tilled with a tractor. Then let it set for a month. Then drag-raked it with a ride-on mower. No lumps. Looks perfect.
But, I'm in central Florida. Sandy soil. I don't know how tilling would work in clay. Don't know what your soil is like.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2010 at 9:00AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

...my dirt felt like walking on a water bed

That is hilarious...and so true!! I know exactly what you're talking about and we're showing our age. They haven't made water beds for the past 30 years.

I'm the one who started the anti-tilling movement here. Several others have joined the movement, but we're still only about a handful. The problem with tilling is settling. When you fluff up the soil with a hand held rototiller, you cannot control how deep the tines dig in. If you could remove all the fluffy soil after you tilled it, what you would find is a rolling surface. That surface is caused by the tiller digging in where the soil happened to be softer and skipping over harder (dry??) spots. I've used a tiller before. It's fun to let it dig in and churn the soil to fluffy dust. You can really see it working - and ruining the soil. After you have it rototilled, you will level the surface in preparation for the new sod or seed. When you level the surface on top of an uneven subsurface, the soil surface will eventually settle to match the profile of the uneven subsurface. For me "eventually" took 3 full years. Now I have to level it again.

Sand does settle. It settles much faster than 3 years, but it does settle. It might be easier to keep it level in sand. Also tilling with a tractor is better because it holds the tool at one depth.

You can try the roller to settle the soil. You should use it again after you apply the sod. Why? To ensure the bottom of the sod is in good contract with the top of the underlying soil. Roots cannot grow through air to reach the soil.

What should you have done? If you wanted to change the grading for drainage or to add interest to the area, you should have used a tractor with a box blade on the back. That is the equipment used by professional landscapers to prepare land for planting. And if you are not already a professional finish grader, don't think you can rent the equipment and become one in a weekend. That skill can take years of daily practice to master.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2010 at 11:29AM
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Yes indeedy, roll your ground to settle it where it can from that action. But don't think to use a full roller tank...you wouldn't be able to push it. Water weighs 8 1/3 lbs per gallon....and the tank can take as much as ....well, too much for you to think to push.
Fill the tank no more than 1/3 full and go over the ground where you feel its necessary...try going in a north/south, then east/west manner and test results afterwards.
At this time do take a look at how the ground will drain...away from the building.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2010 at 11:48AM
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