View Full Version : Mass renovation

09-16-2005, 06:28 PM
I live in Southeast PA, moved into a new home in Late July and the landscaper rockhounded the yard and seeded using straw for mulch. I put down scotts starter fertilizer and I watered the yard every morning and afternoon trying to keep it moist. It started to grow, got nice and green, grew to about 4 inches, I mowed it back to 3.5 and it got hot, started to turn brown no matter how much water I gave it. I gave up and sent a soil sample to penn state and watched some weeds grow. Deficient in Phosphorous and pH is 6. I'll adjust with lime and superphosphate when I reseed and also add starter fertilizer.

I have lots of rocks that are in the 1-2 inche range and some 10+ inchers that are under the surface. So I plan to completely redo the yard now and avoid the headaches later. I plan to dig it up and reseed next weekend. I know it is getting late in the game for a KBG, red fescue, per rye blend but it has been so dry, I have been trying to wait and would rather chance it to frost in November.

Anyway, what I need to know is, is this a good plan? Or would I be better off just aerating and reseeding. If you all agree with the rip up plan, can anyone recommend what to use, a Harley rake or rockhound on a skid steer? I know the rockhound supposedly doesn't do so hot with the bigger stuff but I am not too familiar with the workings of a Harley rak. I will be renting the equipment ($400) but I do have someone that knows how to operate the machinery.

09-16-2005, 10:49 PM
if your yard is decently graded dont worry about the rock . get some good topsoil an work about 2 inches over exsisting soil. seed with a good fescue at about 12 pounds a thousand for a new lawn an cross seed. so your gonna spread at 6 pounds a thousand cross ways to get the total of 12 pounds a thousand square foot.once that is down , spread your starter at 3.5 pounds a thousand, moderately. After that is completed straw very well an then roll with a roller over the straw to pack the straw an seed into the soil . after that , water twice a day for 14 days an enjoy! i hope ya got your mower ready . any more questions let me know thanks george

09-16-2005, 11:32 PM
The grading wasn't all that great to begin with. When they raked it originally they drove the straw blower truck around the yard and rutted it up, then everything settled a little more here, not so much there and it is a crusted over rock at this point. I have an acre lot so to bring in topsoil and overdress is going to be a bit too expensive right now for my budget. How much would a job like this cost normally, just the topsoil and loader, just so I can get an idea? I am not in the business right now but I would like to start picking up some work. My exmark 48" metro walk behind is waiting and ready for some thick turf.

09-18-2005, 09:35 PM
i wouldnt consider anything like that for under 3500 dollars lots of work but with the right equipment its a days job an about 2500 profit . good luck an have fun

09-19-2005, 05:11 AM
Thanks for the input on price. I know it is going to be a boat load of work for myself and some friends. Ashame that the builder was not interested in doing it right in the first place. I am still looking into the loader etc. Who knows, maybe I can land some renovation work in my neighborhood, everyones yard needs the same work mine does.

09-19-2005, 01:21 PM
besides the deficiencies in the soil, it was also not prepped the way it should have been.
a rockhound or harley rake only preps so deep. yes they make a beutiful looking seed bed but underneath that nice topcoat is rock-hard compacted soil.
a tiller, pulverizor, disc, boxscraper, soil-ripper or at least something should be used prior to the rockhound or harley rake to loosen the soil as deep as possible (i usually shoot for 4 in.)
a lot of landscapers dont practice this and some places do not require this.
but for the most part, the installs that i do are in new housing developements and have clay smeard around by a dozer during the final grade. poor soil packed by heavy equip. requires speacial care. :waving:

09-19-2005, 02:06 PM
It would be a good idea to incorporate the phosphorus into the soil 3 to 4 inches deep. Too much superphosphate on the soil surface could possibly burn. I've seen ONE pellet of superphosphate kill a small tomato plant.

09-19-2005, 02:21 PM
I agree with fcIO1,there are probably more rocks below the
reach of the equipment your thinking of useing and that will impede your drainage.Also the builder scraped off the topsoil and the Landscaper did not do anything to improve the soil that was left and that was subsoil usually not good for sustaining life.I would till in as much organic matter as possible when you do your renovation and go deep.
I don't understand why the use of straw is so prevaient when covering a seeded lawn.Straw is FULL of weed seeds and straw seeds so you are sowing straw with the grass.
I would cover the seed lightly with a little top soil or Topper and roll it.I know your buget is limited so this might not be an option but I never use straw to cover a seeded area.You might do well to cover the large part of the area with straw and cover the area around the house with a topper.But regardless go deep and remove all the rocks you can.

09-19-2005, 02:51 PM
Let me tell you, everyone here rocks!!!!!

Please move to PA and knock on my door. Anyway, thanks for all of the input. I am looking into getting some compost delivered to incorporate. My budget is going up and up and up because I want it right and spending the money now will prevent years of headaches. Anyway, I will look into a tiller and rockhound to do the job. The machine is the expensive part, a tiller will only run another $100 bucks or so extra.

09-20-2005, 09:56 PM
So here is the plan. I plan on spreading out 30 cu. yds of mushroom soil(about 1/4 of the lot is septic drain field that I cannot touch). Till that into the soil to 4-6" with a bobcat and tiller. Then rockhound, starter fertilize, seed, drag with fencing and roll with with an almost empty roller. Does this sound acceptable for a 1 acre lot. I was planning on just aerating the heck out of it and topdressing, then slit seeding but I think from what I have read from all of you, the big problem is 2-6" down so I should alleviate the compression, not to mention it is now late september so the seed has a better chance than July.

One more question?? I am busting the budget here so mulching is going to be tough. Do I need to add mulch??? I don't want to use straw again as that caused problems to begin with and PennMulch is $$$. I am up at 5 watering the entire lawn and then again at about 3-5 in the afternoon. Am I chancing it?????

09-21-2005, 12:00 AM
ive done quite a few without straw. mostly on 2-3 acre lots for people without much money. it helps, but it is not absolutely necessary.

09-21-2005, 12:37 PM
I agree about the straw. If you DO use it, just go light. That is a very common mistake people make - is going too heavy with it, then it blocks out to MUCH light.

09-21-2005, 01:46 PM
I also live and work in southeast Pa. so I know what an uphill battle your contractor went through in July trying to seed at that time. Just to let everyone else know what dry is. In the last 30 days we have had .07 inches of rain or virtually no rain. Since late July we have had many stretches of 95+ degree days and in the last 40 days, not one day had a high temp below 80 degrees.

I am not defending the builder / contracter who prepped and seeded this job.
Unless you were to invest in many cubic tons of good topsoil / compost, you aren't going to get good results under these weather conditions. Especially with the heavy clay subsoil present with newer construction in our area. You say you were watering but you cannot be very effective on a large area by manually watering. It would've literally taken hours each day. Nothing takes the place of a good rain, and we have simply not gotten enough for your job.

If the grade is smooth and not rutted and you don't have the bucks to invest in a few triaxles of topsoil / compost, I would just work with what you have by aerating and seeding followed by a good application program. If the grade is rutty, then do as you have planned to with the harley rake etc..

In addition, good harley rakes can get down as deep as 4-6 inches and work great as a tiller. Good straw is not infested with weeds, and will provide you with better germination in the end. You just have to rake in up lightly as the seedlings mature, which is a major time consumer on a big property. Only other thing you could do to avoid cleanup is hydro seed or penn mulch as mentioned.

Lastly, I would use only tall fescue grass with a bit of perennial rye in the mix.

Good luck.


09-21-2005, 02:12 PM
I appreciate the info and I am not trying to badmouth the landscaper, it has been dry for sure. I know it was an uphill battle for the landscaper, myself, and anyone else in our area. I would rather the builder pushed off the seeding until now, but out of my control. I was outside watering the grass everymorning and afternoon for about 3-4 hours per shot, moving sprinklers here and there. I got the seed to germinate but then I couldn't keep up and it got really dry. The day they seeded we had a heavy rain and 10 days later another good soaking, then nothing, that's when it started downhill.

Anyway, I have lots of ruts/high and low spots and some high spots were the excavator transitioned into virgin soils and it settled. I have rented a New Holland skid steer and a harley M-6 rake this weekend and I am going to rip into everything (hopefully I can get down to around 4 inches or so) and reseed. I don't think I could dent the soil with an aerator at this point. I am bypassing the mushroom soil, budget constraints but I have added the recommended lime and superphosphate so hopefully that helps in itself, I was deficient in phosphorous to begin with. I am going to put down a starter fertilizer and water like crazy. Rain is finally in the forcast and it is supposed to cool down into the low 70's next week so hopefully fall is here. I will get some pics of the before and after, hopefully the after is the money shot I am looking for, or at least a good healthy start.