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Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

Posted by VisualCSharp TX (My Page) on
Thu, Jun 28, 12 at 10:42

Hello, fellow GardenWebbers! My name is Nathan Alden, and I'd like to share my lawn leveling experience with everyone. Leveling is a popular topic here in the Lawn Care forum and hopefully my experiences will prove useful to others looking to undertake this challenge.

I'd like to begin by thanking my fellow posters here on GardenWeb for their advice leading up to me leveling my lawn. Your experience and advice proved most useful!

Next, information about my lawn and lawn care practices:

  • Region: Round Rock, TX
  • Grass: Bermudagrass Tifway 419
  • Turf origin: Sod laid September 2011 after new home construction
  • Soil: More clay than sand
  • Front lawn area: ~2000 sq ft
  • Mow height: 1"
  • Mower: Honda rotary model HRR216VKA
  • Clippings: Mulched
  • Mowing frequency: Every 3-4 days

Materials used for leveling:

  • 3 cu yd white masonry sand
  • One shop pushbroom
  • Garden hose with firehose nozzle
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Two people
  • Lots of effort

When I first moved into my new home, I knew next to nothing about lawn care. The extent of my experience came from mowing my parents' lawn when I was a teenager. This being my first home, I was determined to take care of the lawn and avoid the shabby to outright hideous look of most of my neighbors' lawns. The first thing I did was read the book Lawns: Your Guide to a Beautiful Yard. This book proved to be a great introduction into various lawn care practices. Using the information in the book, I was able to keep my lawn looking decent even after last year's drought. Here's a picture of a piece of my front yard from April:

Many folks might say my lawn looks pretty good, but I knew it could be better. Notice how the grass around the tree appears rutted and inconsistent. I mow at 1", and the mower would frequently bottom out, scalping several areas of the lawn and ruining the appearance. Determined, I decided that I would research how to level the lawn and hopefully create a much smoother, consistent, healthy appearance. I wanted to set a good example for the neighborhood!

I had been lurking on GardenWeb for some time, but in April 2012 I decided to create a thread asking for advice on leveling my lawn.

Notice the terribly uninformed title--I actually wanted help with leveling, not aerating and top-dressing; it goes to show how much I knew back then! Using the excellent wisdom provided by dchall in combination with other resources on the Web, I decided that I would level my front lawn in mid-May. Although dchall and others advised me to wait until June or July to level--when Bermuda is growing its best--I decided to level a bit earlier for a couple of reasons:
- I couldn't truly scalp my lawn; 1" was the lowest I was able to mow due to not owning a reel mower and the bumpy nature of the turf
- I knew it would be brutally hot in late June or early July; yesterday was June 27 and the temperature was 105! Neither the wife nor I wanted to be outside in that kind of heat pushing sand around.

After deciding on the timeframe, my next step was to acquire the leveling material. Although I have read information that says one should never add pure sand to a lawn, the reasons for using pure sand made more sense to me. I decided on masonry sand, as it consists of jagged edges that more easily lock together, meaning the sand stays in place better than other types of sand. After comparing prices for several area suppliers, I settled on Whittlesey Landscape Supplies' white masonry sand.

I ordered 3 cubic yards, enough to cover my 2000 sq ft lawn with 0.5" of sand, on average. Whittlesey delivered the sand in three giant white bags--one cubic yard each--on pallets. About these bags: They were /not/ water-proof. If you have sand delivered you'll want to cover any bags or piles with a water-proof tarp if you expect rainfall. I didn't do this and the effort required to shovel, wheelbarrow and push around the sand increased greatly as a result. Water evaporates from this amount of sand very slowly, even in Texas heat.

I started leveling on May 15, 2012. I was unable to find anyone interested in helping, so it was up to my wife and I to level the entire front lawn. We divided up the effort such that one of us would be filling up the wheelbarrow and trucking sand around while the other would be pushing it around with a pushbroom. She would shovel sand in lines perpendicular to the direction we were spreading, then I would push and pull the sand until there was a thick, consistent spreading. On our first pass of a portion of our lawn, we used too little sand, so you'll want to be liberal with the amount you spread. We eventually learned that the right amount of sand was enough to nearly cover the grass completely; we were barely able to see the grass after spreading. Remember that the sand will be watered into the grass, so don't worry about smothering your grass. By the time we finished we had only a few cubic feet of sand left, so it turns out our calculations were just about right.

For the spreading I used a standard shop pushbroom. Originally, I wanted to use what is known as a flippable lute, but the only ones I could find were only sold out of the UK, so I settled on what I had on hand. The pushbroom actually served as part lute and part broom. I flipped the broom over and used the rounded wooden side to move large volumes of sand around and the bristles to brush the sand into the grass. Eventually, I realized that merely watering the sand would work it into the grass via gravity, so I ended up mostly using the broom as a lute. The sand did ruin the front bristles, though, so you'll want to avoid using any prized brooms for this job.

I have an irrigation system, but I found that using a hose with a firehose nozzle was a more effective way to water in the sand. It took less time and allowed me more control over where the sand flowed--and yes, it does actually flow when it gets saturated.

I knew that there were some pretty deep depressions and holes in certain spots, so I used extra sand for those spots. The spots smoothed out nicely after watering.

Here are some pictures of a portion of my front lawn with the sand watered in:








Over the next few days, my wife and I finished the remainder of the front lawn. Soon thereafter, I fertilized with a 29-0-0 urea-based fertilizer. I also kept the grass heavily watered so that it could re-establish its thick blade system. Once the sand dried out, I noticed some of it had clumped on top of the grass. I used the pushbroom several times to brush the clumps free.

Here's my lawn on June 28, one-and-a-half months and a few touchups to some depressions and holes later:



Not golf-course quality, but certainly much better-looking than before! The mower hardly ever scalps, either; there are just a couple spots with which I must be careful to slightly raise the deck while mowing.

Something to consider is that adding sand will effectively raise the elevation of your turf. Depending on how low you mow, this can be a problem along edges when mowing header strips. In my pictures you can see that I have a concrete driveway with concrete sidewalks. The turf is now effectively 0.5" higher than it used to be. When I mow header strips, one side of the mower is on the concrete with the other side on the turf. In certain spots, the mower will bottom out, although it doesn't scalp because the grass is so thick and healthy.

Next year, I plan on addressing the lack of organic material in my soil by top-dressing with a good quality compost. Also, although the pictures do a good job of hiding it, I have a slight problem with crabgrass that I will also address next year. The lawn should look even better than this!

Thank you for reading! If anyone has any questions, please feel free to ask.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

Great write-up. Wish I could see the pics here at work. I'll be doing the same thing this weekend. And it is also very hot here in Alabama.

On question though. You said...

"I knew that there were some pretty deep depressions and holes in certain spots, so I used extra sand for those spots. The spots smoothed out nicely after watering."

How deep were those depressions? 2"? 3"? Any problem with the grass not growing back in those areas?

Thanks,
Cory


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

Thanks for posting your experience. Its quite a dramatic difference!

I see you're on a slope. Did you have any issues with the sand wanting to wash down? I've been discussing tackling this next spring, but my yard is sloped too, so I'm worried about this.

Also, you say your yard is 2000 sq ft. Is that just for the front or front and back? The front (without side yard) looks like 1000, maybe 1500 sq ft. Just trying to get a ballpark idea of how much sand I'd need total for my front yard.


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

Actually, I see now at the top, you have some "specs" listed where you indicate that 2000 ft is the front. I guess the perspective on the photos throws off estimations.


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

Gotta love a low budget do-it-yourselfer!! That's how I did it. Not to nitpick, but you left your shovel out of the materials list.

The lawn is really looking good. Be very, very careful or you'll catch the disease. The next symptom is to start wishing you had a reel mower. If you give in and buy that mower, sorry, but you'll have to admit to being a lawnaholic.

Congrats! You have much to be proud of.


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

Any chance you could get that fire hydrant painted green? :) It would blend in better with your beautifully manicured lawn. Your neighbors are turning green with envy. Also, that's a very rustic look for the front door.


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

Couple more questions

How did you keep from covering your sprinkler heads with sand and having the grass grow over them?

About how much did you pay for the sand, if you don't mind me asking?


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

  • Posted by 1toms NE ATLANTA (My Page) on
    Thu, Jun 28, 12 at 20:57

Thanks for sharing , I admire your efforts, and thanks for the pics looks awesome !


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

Yep, the front yard is 2000 sq ft; there's a bunch of lawn you're not seeing on either side of the house.

Some of the depressions were a few inches deep, at most. Those spots grew in slower than the rest of the lawn that did not end up completely covered. However, bermudagrass is so aggressive that it quickly filled in even the deepest spots. I didn't have any really wide deep spots, though; mostly, it was just bumps in the sod.

The slope was a slight issue in that the water would seep through the sand down to the sidewalk, leaving that sand wetter than the sand at the top of the slope. Other than that, the sand didn't flow that much because we didn't water it enough for it to become a problem.

I doubt I can paint the fire hydrants as I am pretty sure the city wants them painted that way. I guess I've just gotten used to it. :-P

The sprinkler heads were not raised above the sand. At first the sand did cover the sprinkler heads, but as soon as I turned on the irrigation, it quickly washed away from the nozzles, leaving them completely uncovered. Every once in awhile I go outside to check them all and make sure they aren't jammed; this is a good idea, regardless. Infrequently, I use my Japanese sickle weeder to chop away any grass or weeds growing around the sprinkler heads. This helps to keep them unobstructed.

3 cu yd of sand was around $280 with delivery (sorry, I don't remember the exact amount). The delivery was actually quite expensive, but unfortunately I don't own a truck and trailer.


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

That is a very impressive amount of work! Doing the job is work enough but documenting it along the way is so nice to see. You definitely got away with not waiting until the lizards were dropping dead from the heat. The point of waiting is to make sure the grass is growing fast. With this summer's heat, you got it done early and have the rest of the summer to enjoy it. Great!

But then there's this...

- I couldn't truly scalp my lawn; 1" was the lowest I was able to mow due to not owning a reel mower and the bumpy nature of the turf

Scalping it down low as you can is pivotal to everything. It is so important because it regulates the amount of sand you'll need which regulates the control over your drainage. If you scalp it down to 1/8 inch, then applying the sand would be like patching a hole in the wall with putty. You only fill the holes. But when you leave the grass up tall, then you're patching a hole in the carpet with putty. It takes much more sand than you would have needed simply to fill the holes.

So how do you scalp it lower than your mower will mow? You rent a mower that will take it down to the ground. All the way to the ground. Rent a powered reel mower and have them set it to 1/8 inch. Then mow every which way, rake or blow the chaff off, and start sanding. I'm not sure the best way to emphasize the importance of scalping it down to the ground. I think I have mentioned it in all these threads, but maybe not.

I ordered 3 cubic yards, enough to cover my 2000 sq ft lawn with 0.5" of sand, on average.

This is the result of not scalping it down; however, you knew before hand that you were going to apply 1/2 inch. If you are trying to stop the scalping in bermuda, then all you need to do is fill the holes. Any sand above the tops of the holes becomes a change in your lawn's drainage. It might have taken only 1 yard or less to fill the holes. 1/2 inch of sand sounds like nothing, but it is bothering me. Your lawn may have taken it in stride, but I see a lot of lawns that are already 4 inches higher than the adjacent curb. The problem is drainage. Even a 1/2 inch change in elevation can affect your drainage. How serious that is depends on your situation. See that area back where the sand stops in the middle pictures...how does the water flow now from behind the sanded area? Does it now flow towards your house and puddle up or does it flow to the neighbor and out to the curb?

I also suggest using the push broom only for the initial pile flattening. If you want a level yard, you need a very long scraper. Dave Proud used a 20-foot 2x4. I suggest using a drag. But a broom or a rake is not wide enough to create a uniformly level surface over the entire yard. I have found a drag to work much easier than a long board. The bigger the drag the better, but also the bigger the drag the harder it is to pull around. A typical DIY drag is a piece of chain link fence with some weighting on it to hold it down. Drag that every which way and you'll lift up any grass blades, get the sand down into the turf, fill the holes, and level the surface.

I certainly applaud you for doing the job, doing the research, taking the pictures, and posting a complete description. We are all trying to learn as much as we can from the few people like you who go to all this extra trouble. I know I sound like a cranky old coot, but not scalping the lawn lower is so important I wanted to emphasize it for anyone using this thread as a reference in the future.


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

As is shown in the pictures, my landscaping is already quite sloped; In my opinion, I did not significantly change the drainage profile of my property with respect to where water flows. My lot is small for the size of the house; the elevation slopes away from the house on all sides by at least several inches.

I knew up front that not scalping the lawn would likely mean it wouldn't be perfectly flat. However, I realized that my lawn is big enough and our summers hot enough to where I can't reasonably keep it maintained at 0.5"; in other words, there was no need for me to level it perfectly. You're right in that I could've just filled in the depressions, but the problem was the whole yard was filled with them.

The sand is still quite loose. I took my sickle weeder and jabbed it into the ground in several spots and the sand moved easily. Would it be advisable to scalp right now with the powered reel mower and then re-level? I can turn off my irrigation so that the sand dries out.


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

Oh, and thanks again for all the advice, dchall. I don't want it to seem like I'm ignoring it. I tried my best given the situation. I honestly wish I had felt the significance of scalping to the ground more than I did. If I could go back in time and rent the machine, I would.


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

I have never SEEN a reel mower for rent.

Never even actually heard of one.


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

I can't imagine being willing to rent one. I won't even loan mine out and I have two of them. If you want to borrow one of mine, I'll be glad to bring it to your house, I'll be willing to mow for you, and I'll let you try it out. The thing is, I'm going to look around first and make sure you don't have things in your lawn that I don't want my reels to cut.


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

Hi, David, and thank you very much for the kind offer. Before I take you up on it, I'd just like to get dchall's opinion on whether that's something I should undertake at this time, and if it is, what exactly to do once you/I mow. This is pretty new territory for me.


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

I'll be headed to Houston over the Labor Day weekend and it wouldn't be all that far out of the way. When you see Dchall, ask him if that will be too late.


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

One thing I have noticed as the summer has progressed is that there are brown patches developing in my front yard. You can see some of them faintly in the pictures above. The spot in the very last picture is worrisome. It's definitely growing, and the grass there appears completely dormant. I'm wondering if all the sand I put down has substantially negatively impacted the soil quality. Perhaps the sand is preventing the grass roots from acquiring any nutrients from the real soil below? I'm watering 1" per week so I don't think it's a lack of water, and bermudagrass supposedly loves the kind of heat we've been experiencing. I hope my using so much sand isn't going to kill my lawn over time.


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

Amending my previous post, here are some pictures of the spots that have developed. Before leveling I got a soil test and the results said my soil lacked organic material. I am thinking of running out to the garden center to buy some organic compost and spreading some over these problem areas to see what happens.







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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

How deep can you stick a screw driver into the ground in those spots?


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

This picture shows the big brown patch from the side, right next to my driveway. The brown grass underneath the green looks really bad.


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

Oh Lordy, Lordy. I just did the screwdriver test, as you asked, and--holy cow--in the brown spots, I couldn't even get it 1" down! I went over to a green, healthy area and the thing sank right in like butter!

Does this mean my soil is compacted? Could that have to do with the drought last year and my soil's lack of organic nutrients?

Holy cow, I wish I had done this ages ago. Thank you very much for asking me to try!


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

Have you always had issues in those areas?

I'm not sure how Austin is, but here in San Antonio, I have limestone bedrock a few inches beneath my topsoil.


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

You can see in the last picture I posted that there is, indeed, quite a layer of rock underneath at least that section. When I edged with my EdgeHog, it cut through solid rock in some places. From other anecdotal experience around my front lawn I can tell you there are other spots that are somewhat rocky beneath the soil. Now that I think about it, I did have an issue last year with the really brown-looking spot. I always thought it was because I was cutting it too low because of the shape of the landscape, but this year I am positive that's not the reason.

Is there anything I can do about this? It appears as though the screwdriver is just penetrating the sand I added and not any deeper than that. I've heard about aerating or using shampoo to make the soil more able to absorb water. Should I dig down with a trowel to see if there is rock underneath that section?


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

I went back outside and poked and prodded a bunch of different areas. I am shocked at how many spots are hard as rock! It seems to me that as the hot weather progresses, I may be in danger of most of my front lawn going dormant.

Help!


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

Well, there you go. I know a thing or two about Bermuda. I had a spot that looked like that once and I had a gigantic rock about an inch below the surface. It was about the size of a human body. For me, it was a matter of digging a little and renting a jack hammer.

Look around for the shampoo threads. Or, Google "BL Soil Conditioner" for a little more sophisticated version of the same thing.


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

Thank you. I am definitely going to proceed on at least one of these ideas. :)


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

If it's not rock, then I use one of those 2 prong manual aerators that punch 4 inch cores. I then spread compost and use a soaker hose for about 24 hrs. It has really helped. Again, as long as its not bricks or rock.


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

That's pretty much what I've always done, Rager. Organic material in the soil solves compaction problems. By the time I heard of the shampoo treatment, my problems were already solved. It's just that the shampoo is a lot less work and expense and, now that I know about it, I'd at least try it first.


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

No need to re level it.

The grass is extremely stressed but it will recover. Is it possible your sprinkler is not hitting those spots as much as elsewhere? Put tuna cans out there and see what they catch.

Soil conditioner as mentioned or shampoo are the fastest way to soften hard soil. Compaction is not the problem, hard soil is different from compaction. Apply at 3 ounces per 1,000 square feet every other week with a lot of water. You'll notice a difference after the second app. The longer you apply the deeper the soften effect (as measured by a really long poker).

The loose sand just doesn't have grass knitting it together yet. Give it a few months to get surface roots, stolons, and rhizomes as well as organic matter.

Sand is excellent base for bermuda. 10,000 golf courses can't be wrong. It will get better and better. If you want to improve the organic matter in the soil, the roots will do that for you but you can speed that up with organic fertilizers like alfalfa pellets, corn meal, corn gluten meal, or soybean meal. Visit your local feed store and see what's on sale (it will be alfalfa pellets or rabbit food). Apply at 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet. The more you apply the faster the grass will respond. The app rate is 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet. You can apply once or once a month or once a week. The improvement begins immediately, but you won't be able to see the improvement for 3 weeks. These are a lot more cost effective than compost. The cost of alfalfa is about $4.00 per 1,000 square feet. The cost of compost ranges from $35 to $75.00 per 1,000 square feet. And I contend that the value of organic fertilizer is 10x better than compost. Why? Because compost is made from the components of fertilizer. If you piled up 50 bags of alfalfa you would eventually have a small pile of compost with very little fertilizer value.

My yard in San Antonio is built up of white limestone rubble that ranges from minus 1 inch deep (protruding rock) to 18 inches deep where they needed the most fill. If you have a sublayer of rock near the surface then this could always be a problem. My worst soil is where I brought in topsoil. The best is where I brought in sand. Should add that I've been using nothing but organics since 2002.


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

Not to hijack the thread, but David, where in SA do you get your alfalfa at? $4/1000 sq ft is pretty inexpensive.


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

Last time was Ful-O-Pep Feeds on Rigsby at WW White on the SE side of town.


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

I paid $13/ea for two 50 lb bags at Gaddy's in Pflugerville. Unfortunately, after searching Google I couldn't find many feed stores so I decided to save a bit of time and hit up the closest one. I applied 20 lb/1000 sq ft yesterday so we'll see what happens.

I think I will apply the alfalfa every two weeks. Hopefully the soil's absorbency begins to improve. Around the neighborhood I am seeing a lot of lawns going dormant.


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

Uh, note what grass you're looking at in the Austin area. St Augustine does not go dormant. It goes directly to dead. Zoysia goes dormant, but it won't come back until April. Bermuda goes dormant.

Here's the math on cost per 1,000 square feet.

Cost per 1,000 = Cost per bag * usage (pounds per 1,000) / bag size
Plugging in the numbers...
Cost per 1,000 = $13 * 20 / 50
Cost per 1,000 = $5.20

Obviously the cost per 1,000 for you depends on your cost to buy the bag. Back when corn meal was $3 per bag it was really inexpensive.


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

Visual, I use a lot of cotton seed meal. $14 per 50lb bag around here (Wichita Falls). It's the same 50 lbs of OM as in alfalfa but higher protein content. Higher protein equals higher Nitrogen when it breaks down.

I've been using organic fertilizers for 8 yrs or so in my back yard. The soil is notably softer than my front yard. I'm watering once per week and the screw driver test is like butter.


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

Wow, folks! After only two weeks, my liberal application of alfalfa pellets has completely greened up the dormant spots on my lawn! I just got done with the second application and I can't wait to see how much greener my lawn gets!

From what I've seen, the stuff really does work. Sprinkle some by hand, if necessary, on any trouble spots and don't be surprised when the trouble spot turns into the lushest, greenest spot on your lawn!


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

After ten years of telling people about the use of grains and alfalfa, it is still fun to see people discovering that it really works.


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

I've used a lot of alfalfa too...then the rabbits invade!


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

I love it when a plan comes together!!!

Visual, I was one of dchall's earliest converts. No one, and I mean no one, was more skeptical than I when I first heard about this. I've been using organic fertilizers on my Bermuda lawn for about 8 years now. I can tell you that your lawn will only get better and better the longer you do this. I still use chemicals on my front lawn and there is a striking difference between my front and back lawns. The organic lawn is softer and much slower to dry out. I think you spend more for organic fertilizers but you make that up on the back end with less water.

Do yourself a favor and get some cotton seed meal (CSM). You'll get more of a nitrogen kick out of it than you get with alfalfa. The cost around here is $14 for 50 lbs. I tend to rotate between CSM, CGM, alfalfa about once per year, and soy bean meal (SBM)on occasion. I would use more SBM but it's a seasonal thing around here and hard to find at times. In past years, I've used Milorganite about once per season but I'm experimenting with using it more often.

The good thing about organics is that it's hard to go wrong. You can't overuse it unless you smother the grass.

Keep up with it a while and see what you think. Many will tell you that organics and Bermuda are like oil and water. I've decided otherwise but can't find any like minded Bermuda guys.


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

I still don't get it. OM is measured in volumn. What is the volumn of 20 lbs of alfalfa, CGM or CSM? 2 cubic feet maybe? How can 2 cft be the OM equivalent of 27 cft (1 sq yd) of compost?


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

Volume of OM has nothing to do with fertilizing the lawn. If you had pure sawdust you would have 100% OM but still not be able to grow anything, because sawdust has no fertilizer effect.

Compost is a depleted material like peat moss. It has only minor fertilizer value, because all the original feedstuffs (those that contained protein, carbohydrates, and vitamins), have been decomposed. What is left is essentially undigestible by any of the normal soil microbes. If there was something in the pile which was freely digestible, then it would be considered unfinished compost. The microbes that do the decomposing in compost are themselves decomposed by other microbes. Near the end of the composting process, there are three categories of materials left: end of cycle microbes (dormant), the compost equivalent of straw, and organic by-products which have no (or very slow) decomposition cycles. Some of the remains are very likely to be convertible into plant food by microbes in the soil.

Lets say you applied 27 cubic feet per 1,000 square feet of compost to the lawn. All that is sitting on top of the soil. When you take a soil test you are digging the soil down about 6 inches. If any of the compost is still on top of the soil, then that counts, but typically you are not going to have all the compost translate into OM.

The OM in the soil comes from the roots of the grass. Grass is one of a few types of plants that replaces its root system every 3 years or so. That means the old roots are sloughed off by about 1/3 every year. These roots are what become the macro OM in the soil. Microbes are still the micro OM. If you want to improve the measurable OM in the soil, then growing grass with more or longer roots is the logical answer.

If you have not tried organic fertilizer, please try this: Many stores sell the generic dog or cat food in bins where you measure the amount and pay by the pound. Buy a heaping double handful and dump it on one spot on your lawn. If it is heaped up so high to cover the grass blades, then spread it out a little. Water it enough to make it a mush that will sink down to the soil surface. Check it in 3 weeks. Finally compare your reaction to VisualCSharp's comments posted Thu, Jul 12, 12 at 20:39.


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

Ok, dchall. So you are saying it is the use of alfalfa pellets as a fertilizer which in turn increases root growth and that when those roots eventually die off they will improve soil OM. You are not saying that the OM content of alfalfa pellets is a better cost unit source of OM content than compost.


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

Half of these issues would go away if you mowed higher than 1".


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

Hmmm...
"Half of these issues would go away if you mowed higher than 1"."
Now why do you say this? Are you familiar with carring for hybrid Bermuda? 1" or less is the standard for cutting this type turf.


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

Half of these issues would go away if you mowed higher than 1".

Oh please tell us more.


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

"Half of these issues would go away if you mowed higher than 1".

Great idea! I'll implement that program starting tomorrow. I'm sure our 3,000 golfing members will just love me for that.


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

Bermuda greens? Might make putting a challenge, but image how well the greens will hold aproach shots.


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

Any picture updates?


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

Bermuda greens? Might make putting a challenge, but image how well the greens will hold aproach shots.

How would you tell the green from the Rough or Fairway?


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

Bermuda greens are common in the south, not sure what you are talking about Grass1950.


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

One. Meant to write 1" Bermuda Greens. At least that's what I think I meant. That was fricking 2 months ago. I only stand behind what I say for short term memory periods of 24 hours or less. Long term is 25-26 hours. Either respond to a comment within a reasonable period of time or put a cork in it.
Two. I have no idea what they do in other countries. I keep to the United States proper, which is boardered by the Great Lakes, Penn., Ind., and the Ohio River. What the rest of the insignificant world does is of no interest to me.


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

dchall_san_antonio:

You say to scalp low, but if you scalp during the summer before leveling (say from 1.5" to 0.5") won't that severly stun the Bermuda and make it slow to recover from the sand?

Thanks.


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

Cansari,

I've been wondering the same thing. I recently read a post by texasweed where he told someone not to scalp before leveling with sand but rather leave it a little shaggy. I don't remember if it was on this forum or somewhere else.


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

i remember texasweed saying something like that but i think the reason why he recommended to leave it a little shaggy was to not stress the bermuda in extreme heat.
I think if you scalp to .5 and level you should be fine unless its 100+ out there...Even then bermuda would recover

Texasweed correct me if im wrong


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

I know TW said that, and I'm not an expert like he, but I think it depends on your process. The service that did mine (late July) first cut it with a Walker and then a reel right down to the dirt. But then they aerated and spread fast release fertilizer. Of coarse, then they dumped the sand mix and dragged it. The picture was after the first watering. It came back completely within 4 weeks or so.


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

Hi all, great info in this post! Would this same method be OK to use with St. Augustine? Not the scalping, but the application of coarse sand to fill out low spots. I'm in extreme SE Virginia.


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RE: Lawn Leveling with Sand: My Experience with Pictures!

VisualCSharp,

In looking at the photos and the way you describe the brown patches being very hard to put a screwdriver through is very similar to the way my yard is. The builder of my home and others seem to do the same practice of dumping a huge load of gravel to use as a temporary pad for the dumpster, concrete trucks, etc. when they are done they level the yard along with all of the rocks. It makes me sick to see it but nothing I can do as I wasn't here when they did mine.

That said I have top dressed with a mix of sand and topsoil. I'm afraid to go straight sand as I felt due to the poor nutrient retention of sand I would start to kill the grass. I have areas you can feel the rocks as you push the screwdriver in. I imagine your builder like mine didnt care much about leaving mountains of rocks in you lawn.


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