To Till Or Not To Till

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 beneath?
Thanks for any advice!
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Thu, 10 Apr 2008 23:47:17 -0500, "Ryan P."

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.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

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.
Steve
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
SteveB wrote:

. . Would I need an exit point for the drain, or does the pea gravel trench cause excess water to drain down into the "loose" soil underneath?
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Ryan P. said:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_drain
--

Eggs

-Every snowflake in an avalanche pleads not guilty.
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com wrote:

Those frenchtards are forever jumping in a hole or throwing down their rifles. :P
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

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.
--
Dave



Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Consider:
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 problem. --
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

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 periods.
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.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
JimR wrote:

. . 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.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Ryan P. said:

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. =)
--

Eggs

Not only is life a bitch, it has puppies.
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Eggs Zachtly wrote:

. . 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!
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

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 of weather.
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 insects.
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.
--
Dave

How about a tax to support any military conflict/police action over 3 months
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Dioclese wrote:

. . 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?
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Depends what is in those holes. If agreeable with the grass, should be fine. Mist it to keep the soil moist. Try not to disturb the soil till the grass seed sprouts well.
--
Dave



Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Related Threads

    HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.