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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Posts
    212

    Question Leveling out yard

    My yard is very uneven (not hilly, just uneven). It's hard to even walk on it. I would like to remove all of the grass and start from scratch. I was considering hiring a landscaper but there is several acres and I would not be able to afford it. I don't mind doing the work as long as it is completed correctly. I do have a small lawn tractor which I could use if needed.

    What would be the best way to proceed? What is the best way to remove the grass? Once the grass is removed, what would be the best way to level the ground?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Houston Texas
    Posts
    2,969

    Default Re: Leveling out yard

    The easier way is to fill in the low spots.

    Unless you want to save the grass (labor intensive and time restricted) there is no need to remove all that wonderful organic material. Just spray it dead in the low spots (so you know where to fill it in) then once the grass is nice and brown (never bury green material) then fill in the low spot and seed as usual .

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Tennessee
    Posts
    1,788

    Default Re: Leveling out yard

    Removing the sod and trying to level the ground under it does not really work all that well. You loosen the soil and level it, but as it compacts again, it won't all compact exactly the same so the hills and valley reform.

    Now that the fall season is upon us, dead leaves will become abundant. See if your local community has a program where they collect and shred leaves. They are often happy to let you have these. Sometimes they also have shredded wood from tree trimmings as well. Get as much of this as you can and just fill in the low spots. The grass will grow up through the leaves and root in it holding it in place. The material will decompose and shrink so the valleys will reappear, but not as deep, so you will have to repeat it again, maybe for several years, but each year it gets better and your grass will get healthier.

    I have no problem to burying green material when it comes to grass. The grass will come back through the soil, especially if it is organic. I see no reason to kill it first, in fact if you kill it, then it wont come back through the material you are laying down and hold it in place.

    You can also order a truck load of sand and use the sand to fill the valleys. It won't compact like the shredded leaves and wood will, but it will cost you more. You could use sand and organic material together if you like.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Posts
    7,231

    Default Re: Leveling out yard

    If you want a golf course smooth lawn, then I'd just rototil what you have - no spraying, level it, compact it with a roller, and then seed or sod the area. If all you want to do is fill in the holes, then get yourself a couple yards of compost or a topsoil mix from a landscape supply and simply fill in the holes. You can layer in the fill and let the grass grow up through the fill before adding more fill, or you can fill the holes to capacity and seed over the top.

    I personally disagree that you have to kill the grass before filling the holes completely, the grass is going to do one of two things, die and compost or grow up through the fill, either way, no big deal. The only reason I'd kill the grass first, is if it is an unwanted variety, basically a weed, then I'd kill it, fill it and seed it.
    I suffer from CDO ... Its like OCD, but in alphabetical order, LIKE IT SHOULD BE!!!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Posts
    331

    Default Re: Leveling out yard

    I like Keith's idea.
    I used the leaves and tree limbs shredded by the power & ditch cleaning crew.
    They dumped 22 loads it took about one year and it composted to a very soft fill.
    You will get unwanted moring glory , small tree shoots and lots of weed.
    Looks good after two years and at no cost.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Posts
    201

    Default Re: Leveling out yard

    The only practical way I can think of to try & level "several acres" of uneven land is to consider renting a Bobcat Skid Loader for a day; it'll probably cost about $600-$700 for a day's rental, but you'll find it's well worth it for the amount of work you can get done---and the machine does all the work!

    I had a similar type job I had to do several years ago & I was hesitant to go this route since I had NEVER even thought about trying to use a skid loader, but they are amazingly easy to use, & the rental companies that rent out these units are increasingly reaching out to the DIYr & will take the time to train you in their parking lot on a Saturday afternoon for an hour or so, until you & they are convinced that you can handle these simple to run machines without any problems---if after the free training session (or several free sessions, until you feel comfortable using the machine) you do decide to rent the unit, they drop the unit off at your home on an arranged-for morning & pick the unit up the following day (or whenever)---for just about all those who rent a Bobcat it's a rewarding, enriching experience.

    Safety practices & procedures are what's taught above all else; don't have any kids, other people, cars, buildings, or other objects that can be damaged anywhere near the job site while you are working & the machine is running; alway glance behind you before you back up the unit---some rental companies charge for the amount of diesel fuel used during the rental.

    Google "You Tube Video: yard grading with a Bobcat" to get numerous videos that demonstrate how to use a bobcat as a grader.

    Also Google "yard grading with a skid loader" to get numerous articles that demonstrate various grading techniques.

    A common initial strategy is to use the bobcat to evacuate a shallow out-of-the way hole off to the side where you can bury any subsequent rocks, boulders, etc. that you turn up during your grading procedure & cover up the debris when the job is done.


    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_jSxZc5_jk
    Last edited by Dobbs; 10-01-2014 at 05:53 PM.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Northern Virginia
    Posts
    1,212

    Default Re: Leveling out yard

    Hi,
    The old way to level was to do it over several years, adding no more than 3/4" of soil to the low spots, which would allow the grass to grow up through it and re-root itself at the new level. Repeat every spring, right after rolling after the ground thaws with a big heavy roller to work down the frost heaves. Eventually you work up to a perfectly level sward. I'm pretty sure this method came over from the UK, where they know more about turf than anybody.
    Casey
    Remove not the ancient landmark, which your fathers have set.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Posts
    212

    Question Re: Leveling out yard

    Quote Originally Posted by A. Spruce View Post
    get yourself a couple yards of compost or a topsoil mix from a landscape supply
    Lots of great information. Thanks for everyones help with this project.

    What is the best way to estimate how much topsoil I need?

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Posts
    7,231

    Default Re: Leveling out yard

    Depends on how large an area you plan to do at a time and how deep the divots are. It is probably pretty safe to calculate 1" of material over the entire surface to be applied.

    I've used this method a few times as a means to both level and fertilize. We have chickens, and no longer use chemical herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers, so we periodically spread compost over our yard, scattered with a shovel and worked in with a leaf rake. It is a lot of work to do it this way, and I've got less than 1/4 acre to cover. You said you had a garden tractor, if so, then I would suggest rigging up some sort of drag to work the material into the low spots so you don't have to do it by hand. I'd also suggest clipping the grass shorter than normal to facilitate getting the material into the nooks and crannies more easily.
    I suffer from CDO ... Its like OCD, but in alphabetical order, LIKE IT SHOULD BE!!!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    Louisiana
    Posts
    29

    Default Re: Leveling out yard

    I will give my two cents on this, you said you have a tractor: how big? If it's a little lawn mower it's not going to be of much use, but if you have a loader attachment and a box blade (or at least a 3 point hitch where you could rent a box blade) that makes things much easier. Basically, as the above posters have said it's probably easier to fill in the low spots rather than level the entire property, just make sure you are not going to change the drainage patterns in a way that could make water run back towards your house or anotherís house/property, not very good for your home and not a good neighborly thing to do. I would use the compost material if it was available, it not it's going to take some loads of fill from somewhere. If the tractor has a box blade and/or loader use that to fill and smooth the ground. Be prepared there will be some settling, so always order a little more dirt than you need, you can also use the tractor to physically compact it a little so you don't face a lot of settling. Make sure that you leave a layer of non-compacted fill and/or topsoil so that you can seed grass or put down sod, vegitation will stabilize the soil from erosion and the moisture uptake will help prevent the area from becoming a mud pit later on.

    Short of all that, I would recommend hiring an experienced operator with a small size dozer (Cat D-4 size or so). If itís more than 2 acres it might be faster with a Cat D-6. A good operator should be through that in no time and make it look good. They should be able to knock down some high spots to fill in lower areas.

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