Some background first - We purchased an existing house located on what used to be a small farm in North Texas. The house is sits on 1.5 acres while the balance of the 20 acre farm has been developed for other houses.
My problem is that the house never had an established lawn as it was to some degree married up to part of the pasture (front and back). The yard that exists is Bermuda with every weed imaginable in at least one part of the yard. You name it - Broadleaf, Dallas, Crabgress and a even a thick weed/grass that I can't name that looks a little like St. Augustine but is not pretty & does not go dormant in the winter.
There are over a dozen beautiful mature Oaks with established landscaping around the house, but the yard is uneven. I plan on leveling about 40% of the yard with as much as 60-100 yards of topsoil. Much of this soil will be used to level a part of the lot with a steep grade while the balance will be used on different parts of the yard including on the sides of a new driveway that was laid on top of the yard and not flush with the ground. The yard has great potential but I am overwhelmed mainly due to my lack of knowledge. I would be greatly disappointed if I hurt or damaged one of the tress.
What type of prep work should I do on ground to rid the weeds prior to leveling the yard? Can you recommend a soil mix for the project? When is the best time to do this project. I plan to seed with Bermuda once the yard is level. I would appreciate any ideas or comments you might have. I am long on desire, but short on experience.
I enjoyed reading your post. My yard would look like a postage stamp compared to what you have. I am not an expert on lawns. But due to many mistakes I have made in the last few years, I have learned a bit.
I am going to 'throw out' some general suggestions and maybe a little encouragement!
You have some time before we hit the growing season. You can use that time to do your research. Maybe make a list of projects you need to do to reach your end goal. Your soil is maybe THE most important part of your project. Having a soil analysis will tell you what additives are needed, if any. You might just need to make your soil softer. Drainage is important to consider when you do your grading. Choosing your grass turf is a big decision. Check out your area and see what grasses are doing well. Keep in mind your shaded areas, like around your trees. You might want to consider 'ground cover' in those areas if it is so shaded you do not get atleast 3 to 5 hours of sun.
It sounds like you will be doing the work yourself. That is great! But don't be afraid to use local 'experts' for advise.
Joined: Tue Mar 18, 2003 3:45 pm Posts: 2884 Location: San Antonio,TEXAS
Hi Tucker, welcome to the Organic Lawns forum. Happy to have you.
Thank you for writing in before you launched off and made some costly mistakes. You could easily wipe out your oak grove if you were not careful in doing some of what you are planning.
There are a couple of issues that come to mind immediately. First is drainage. If your house is the only house in the area not being developed, I am very concerned about drainage. Are you on high ground or low ground relative to the surrounding new homes? If you are on low ground I can almost guarantee you a lifetime of problems with the lawn and also with the trees. I'll let you reply to that before making more suggestions.
Is the root flare on your oaks exposed so you can see it? I suspect it is visible on every single tree or else you would be asking about how to correct the appearance of your trees. Keep in mind that anything you do with new soil MUST keep that root flare exposed. Otherwise the tree trunk will rot at the base and kill the tree.
Before you bring in any soil, ask several local landscapers for their opinion. They are experts at estimating soil quantities and will do a much better job than any of us here and probably you there. Ask them for an estimate to do the entire job you want done. They are also experts in proper drainage (at least they are supposed to be experts). They will start by leveling your current yard. That means they will bring in a tractor with a box blade (also called a landscaper's blade) on the back. They will drag that over the yard to level and remove all the grass and weeds. About the same time they will deliver any soil you need. They will spread it and compact it so it doesn't wash away at the first rain. They must keep in mind the root flare on your oaks when they are doing all this. When they leave the soil surface will be perfectly prepared for seeding or sodding.
There are some bermuda varieties that grow from seed but the really nice varieties grow from sod. Have your landscaper give you an estimate for both and go with what you can afford. Bermuda seed will not sprout until the soil temperature is in the 70s. That gives you until late May at the earliest to get this done. Prior to then the seed will not sprout and you'll be disappointed. June is a better time to seed bermuda.
You don't say where you are (a pet peeve of mine) but if you are in the south, I would suggest you think of St Augustine turf instead of bermuda. Bermuda will not grow under your trees but St Augustine will. As long as you can keep the St Augustine watered once every 2 weeks in the summer, you can keep it alive and thriving. St Augustine only comes in sod and can be sodded any day of the year.
No matter whether you use bermuda seed or any kind of sod, the landscaper (or you) should roll it down with a water fillable roller to ensure good contact with the underlying soil.
_________________ David Hall Moderator Dirt Doctor Lawns Forum
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