I have a city lot in Milwaukee.
I purchased the house last July, and posted here about what to do with
the unkempt lawn... Thanks to the suggestions I got here, I got rid of
most of the weeds without killing the grass.
Now I'm on a new mission. With all the rain we've been having lately,
the poor topography of my lawn is making itself apparent. Basically, my
entire lawn is sitting in 1-3" of water, with the deepest parts in the
center of the lawn. Once the depression is filled, all the excess water
flows into the driveway and down to the street properly. But I am left
with standing water in the lawn for a day or two after the rain stops.
My thought was to get 15-18 yards of dirt (its roughly a 35' x 56'
back yard), drop it on top of the existing lawn, landscape the
depressions out and grade the entire lawn towards the driveway, reseed,
and have a properly drained yard.
If I drop 3" of loose soil on top of the existing lawn, would I have
to bother with tilling the base soil first, or will 3" be enough for a
strong root system to establish itself and deal with the tighter soil
Thanks for any advice!
I had an issue once similar to this one and brought in the equivalent
to 3"-6" of soil. It worked great.
I'm sure that technically I should have tilled or at least broken up
the subsoil, but I din't and my lawn doesn't suffer any of the
symptoms of a shallow root system; it doesn't stress during drought
any more than the other turf in the area.
What I'd do:
Dig a trench. It only has to be about a foot to eighteen inches deep from
where you want to drain to a lower spot. Put some weed cloth in the bottom.
An inch of pea gravel. Add a piece of perforated drain pipe, available in
100' lengths. Add pea gravel until about three inches from the surface.
Put another layer of weed cloth. Put your grass plugs you've saved on top
of that to bring it flush. Works beautifully for draining. Called a French
Drain. The quickest simplest easiest cheapest way to go unless you just
want to landscape all that anyway, which you can do later, and the drain
will still function.
I disagree with the link provided by Eggs. In my neck of the woods, its
(french drain) an ample hole filled with rocks in the ground to hold water
and what not until the surrounding soil is willing to absorb same. Not
observable from the surface. Yes, the surrounding foliage may benefit as
the link stated.
An example: have a filtration system for my well water that goes to my home.
One of the filters, an aerator, removes hydrogen sulfide gas from the water.
The contents of the aeration go to the bottom of the aerator bottle. Every
24 hours, the aerator bottle purges those contents and 35 gallons of water.
This is piped to a french drain I described. Its 10'X10'X5' deep in
dimension. The live oaks in the immediate vicinity seem to thrive on it.
You don't say how old the house is, but if it was constructed in the past
~10 years the yard would have been contoured for proper runoff in order to
obtain a CO. So you may want to determine why you now have a pond instead
of a mound. It's possible that an unscrupulous builder buried building
debris in your yard, then covered it over with dirt for appearance. If so,
the debris is rotting away and causing the depression -- which will continue
even after your proposed work. Before you spend a lot of money contouring
your yard, you may want to dig a test hole to make sure you don't have this
I'd say the first question is how good the existing topsoil is. If
you have several inchs of good topsoil, then I would not till it. If
it's poor or basicly non-existent, then I would kill off the entire
lawn with Roundup, mow very short, and till in soil ammendments like
good humus, then spread good screened topsoil on top.
If the existing soil is OK, then I'd kill it off with Roundup, mow
very short, then use a core aerator to open it up. Make plenty of
passes to cut lots of holes. Then top it with the new topsoil.
Make sure to check the PH and adjust as necessary, then re-seed with a
high quality grass of the appropriate type, apply starter fertilizer
and keep constantly moist for a couple weeks until it is all
germinated. Then slowly back off the watering to less freq but longer
I would do this operation in Sept, not now, as that is the optimum
time for re-seeding. You can do it in Spring, but conditions are much
less favorable for success and be sure you have the ability to deliver
irrigation easily and have plenty of water available.
The house was built in 1954. The prior occupant was a single old
lady, who didn't do anything but have the lawn mowed. I knew the lawn
was uneven the first time I took the mower to it... it was like going
down a set of railroad tracks, and that's not much of an exaggeration.
I was planning on just filling in enough dirt to even out the lawn, but
now that its clearly lower than it should be, I think something more
involved is required.
The existing lawn (many bare spots do to killing and subsequent
hand-pulling of weeds) seems a bit compacted.
You may want to recheck the math, on the amount of soil you'll need to
cover that area, three inches deep. A yard of topsoil will cover an area,
roughly 10'x10', two inches deep. That means that to cover your area (1960
sq. ft.) only two inches deep, you'll need almost 20 yards. Half that
again, if you want it three inches deep. Just wanted to point that out, so
you don't freak when the 15 yards doesn't give the expected results. =)
Be a helluva fun day on a Bobcat, that's for sure. =)
I actually came up with 18.x yards of dirt because of the odd shape of
the yard. Whoever poured the two-car driveway poured it on an angle,
creating a 5-sided back yard. That extra three yards of concrete
apparently wasn't in the budget. :)
heh heh That's probably why I thuoght straight for the BIG fix rather
than the more time-consuming 3-year plan. lol Boys will be boys!
3" of soil over the current lawn will not result in any appreciable
eruptions of grass beneath it. 1" per year is considered maximum to allow
the current grass to continue.
3" of soil is adequate for most grasses. But doesn't allow for dry periods
Tilling should be done when the first frost hits and left loose as is. Rake
the grass and weeds out with a bow rake after its dried a couple of days.
Watch the weather forecast.
Many people can eyeball the lawn surface to establish the highs and lows
when adding soil. Soil line should be high around the home to promote
drainage. But, you must allow at least 1" below the lowest level of siding
or whatever. Any soil above that line is a recipe for termites and other
One can put soil over rock, caliche, or hard clay. If the soil is deep
enough, grass is likely to grow there.
If you have the patience, just add 1" of soil per year in the low areas.
Yes, some will wash in heavy weather.
How about a tax to support any military conflict/police action over 3 months
I had a lot of creeping weeds that I pulled out by hand last year, so
there are multiple "holes" in the lawn inside the already low spots.
If I do it this way and drop 1" of soil over low areas, will I be able
to seed on top of it to thicken the multiple bare areas? Or will I have
to be careful to keep seed away from the already grassy areas?
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