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View Full Version : Dead lawn steep hill? Rototilling?


deere615
03-04-2011, 10:29 PM
Guys I have this smaller front lawn that needs renovated this is not a recent picture but shows what needs done: the top and the sides of the hill need redone.

What is the best way to approach this, Not sure if my compact tractor/loader will make it up the hill plus it would be tight maneuvering. Would rototilling it all be the best option? Will a rototiller work on the hill and pretty tough soil?

What is the best and most efficient way to get this job done?

213910

RigglePLC
03-04-2011, 10:43 PM
Looks to me like you have zoysia grass. Ideal for this situation--a south facing steep slope, which is not irrigated. Sunny and hot location.
Installing irrigation or a battery operated sprinkler timer would do a lot of good.
Two terraces and two retaining walls (or three), plus sod, plus underground sprinkling might work. Unsafe to mow this type of slope. Try to make it safe to mow, perhaps adding a flat spot plus a terrace with low shubbery. Zoning laws may require a building permit and an engineer to design any wall over two feet.

deere615
03-04-2011, 10:54 PM
Looks to me like you have zoysia grass. Ideal for this situation--a south facing steep slope, which is not irrigated. Sunny and hot location.
Installing irrigation or a battery operated sprinkler timer would do a lot of good.
Two terraces and two retaining walls (or three), plus sod, plus underground sprinkling might work. Unsafe to mow this type of slope. Try to make it safe to mow, perhaps adding a flat spot plus a terrace with low shubbery. Zoning laws may require a building permit and an engineer to design any wall over two feet.

Yes it is south facing and sunny. Though there is no irrigation the homeowner usually keeps the hill water through the summer but we had such a drought last year that they didn't even bother.
I don't think they want a wall, they like the grass and if I do that mowing will be difficult trying to get a mower up there. Plus there is a good size back yard(shady back there and it doesn't need renovated. I never had too much trouble with mowing the hill I usually use my 36" at this account.

Smallaxe
03-05-2011, 12:33 PM
PA may be a little worse than the midwest, but only under extraordinary conditions...

IMO, thre is no possible advantage to bringing machinery on to a hillside terrace of this nature...

Some things can ONLY be done by hand and this looks like one of them... There is a simple solution with low-tech hand tools, whether Zoysia or KBG... But I would look into No-Mow which is a fescue, and if you do NOT water too much, or fertilize too much you can get a 'natural mature stand' of easily managed and clean, good looking turf...

The right plant for the Right place... :)

deere615
03-05-2011, 09:50 PM
PA may be a little worse than the midwest, but only under extraordinary conditions...

IMO, thre is no possible advantage to bringing machinery on to a hillside terrace of this nature...

Some things can ONLY be done by hand and this looks like one of them... There is a simple solution with low-tech hand tools, whether Zoysia or KBG... But I would look into No-Mow which is a fescue, and if you do NOT water too much, or fertilize too much you can get a 'natural mature stand' of easily managed and clean, good looking turf...

The right plant for the Right place... :)
Thanks for that tip, Yes I was thinking the same thing that there will be alot of handwork involved. I never heard of the no-mow stuff but it seems nice. can it be brought pretty much anywhere? I will have to check around for it. Can it still be mowed weekly or every other week for that nice manicured look? Also would I use it on the whole area or just the hill? Then use a sun mix seed for the rest

Smallaxe
03-06-2011, 10:06 AM
Thanks for that tip, Yes I was thinking the same thing that there will be alot of handwork involved. I never heard of the no-mow stuff but it seems nice. can it be brought pretty much anywhere? I will have to check around for it. Can it still be mowed weekly or every other week for that nice manicured look? Also would I use it on the whole area or just the hill? Then use a sun mix seed for the rest

No-mow is a fescue and even though its taller than people would like, it can be left alone more without looking long and shaggy... If you are going to mow every week anyways, perhaps its not worth it to you...

I would think your local seed dealer should be able to get some for you...

Can you overseed the hill w/out digging too much?

freddyc
03-06-2011, 12:13 PM
PA may be a little worse than the midwest, but only under extraordinary conditions...

IMO, thre is no possible advantage to bringing machinery on to a hillside terrace of this nature...

Some things can ONLY be done by hand and this looks like one of them... There is a simple solution with low-tech hand tools, whether Zoysia or KBG... But I would look into No-Mow which is a fescue, and if you do NOT water too much, or fertilize too much you can get a 'natural mature stand' of easily managed and clean, good looking turf...

The right plant for the Right place... :)




What are you talking about?

This is a short, simple job for a troybilt tiller. You'd be done and ready to seed in 1-2 hrs max, and you'd have a deeper, better seed bed then scratching it up with a rake or whatever. Rent a tiller and break it up relatively deep so the new grass has a decent chance of having deep roots un-obstructed by hardened soil. Do a quick core sample with a shovel to see how deep it is with regard to compaction and also to get a look at the soil itself. If it were me I'd tell the homeowner that you have to add a little compost in the tilling.

Regarding seed type, use what you want but only consider a deep rooted version. The sun will beat that surface to death every day and due to slope the water will run out of that hill faster than OJ Simpson running from the truth..

Exact Rototilling
03-06-2011, 12:29 PM
From a rototilling standpoint...not saying this is the best option but Tilling down hill with a old school designed Troy-Bilt horse is frankly dangerous.....especially if the operator presence kill engine switch is defeated or absent on early models. I've done it - hit a rock on slope like that tiller pitches forward rotating tines and body parts had a close call. Tiller tumbles and flips over not fun. :hammerhead:

If you do till - take the extra time and use a Mantis or a Honda FG110 mini tiller.

Smallaxe
03-06-2011, 01:23 PM
What are you talking about?

This is a short, simple job for a troybilt tiller. You'd be done and ready to seed in 1-2 hrs max, and you'd have a deeper, better seed bed then scratching it up with a rake or whatever. Rent a tiller and break it up relatively deep so the new grass has a decent chance of having deep roots un-obstructed by hardened soil. Do a quick core sample with a shovel to see how deep it is with regard to compaction and also to get a look at the soil itself. If it were me I'd tell the homeowner that you have to add a little compost in the tilling.

Regarding seed type, use what you want but only consider a deep rooted version. The sun will beat that surface to death every day and due to slope the water will run out of that hill faster than OJ Simpson running from the truth..

It is always best it you don't have to dig into the slopes, that steep and loosen a bunch of soil... A tractor or tiller is definately more risk than its worth and for me comes under the heading of abusing machinery. The mantis style is a good sggestion, but again; If you can get by with roughing up the surface and overseeding, so much the better... JMO

Snyder's Lawn Inc
03-06-2011, 01:32 PM
Build you a nice Landscape wall out some blocks and make it a flat lawn Then you don t have mow that slope

Turboguy
03-06-2011, 03:47 PM
When I first looked at the photos I had a feeling you were around here someplace since I see a lot of hills just like that and and of course many that are much, much worse.

I think it would be a real pain to try and rototill that hillside. I am sure you could do it but I think you would really know you had tackled a project. I also think if you till it you would end up with a lot of erosion as someone else mentioned.

If I were going to tackle that I think how I would do it is two applications of roundup about 10-14 days apart then do a lot of hand raking and then apply a heavy application of seed and straw.

I would try and start about April 15th which would have me seeding about May 1 +/- and that is a good time for growing grass around here.

Good luck.

RigglePLC
03-06-2011, 04:41 PM
Exact,
you are right about the danger of roto tilling on a hill. No deadman switch. My uncle had an accident with a rotary tiller. He hit some cement and it twisted sideways. He fell into it and one of the times caught him in the thigh. The cut was 6 inches long and two inches deep. He nearly bled to death as he drove himself to the emergency room. His car never smelled right after that.

Soil erosion on such a steep slope could ruin the project if you get a heavy rain. You need heavy raking and a covering of seed mats. Better plan to do it twice.

Or do the simple and sure plan--lay sod--peg it down with staples--accept the check and go. There is a good chance the homeowner will just let it burn out again in 6 months.

deere615
03-06-2011, 07:45 PM
What are you talking about?

This is a short, simple job for a troybilt tiller. You'd be done and ready to seed in 1-2 hrs max, and you'd have a deeper, better seed bed then scratching it up with a rake or whatever. Rent a tiller and break it up relatively deep so the new grass has a decent chance of having deep roots un-obstructed by hardened soil. Do a quick core sample with a shovel to see how deep it is with regard to compaction and also to get a look at the soil itself. If it were me I'd tell the homeowner that you have to add a little compost in the tilling.

Regarding seed type, use what you want but only consider a deep rooted version. The sun will beat that surface to death every day and due to slope the water will run out of that hill faster than OJ Simpson running from the truth..
Thanks, yes I plan on adding probably mushroom manure
From a rototilling standpoint...not saying this is the best option but Tilling down hill with a old school designed Troy-Bilt horse is frankly dangerous.....especially if the operator presence kill engine switch is defeated or absent on early models. I've done it - hit a rock on slope like that tiller pitches forward rotating tines and body parts had a close call. Tiller tumbles and flips over not fun. :hammerhead:

If you do till - take the extra time and use a Mantis or a Honda FG110 mini tiller.
yes I know not to till down and going up probably is not the best either but if I till side to side I need a self driven one correct? My firt though was the same a mantis or honda mini tiller but I thought I might have trouble especially getting it to the top of the hill
Build you a nice Landscape wall out some blocks and make it a flat lawn Then you don t have mow that slope
I am going to mention this but like I said that makes mowing the grass tougher.
When I first looked at the photos I had a feeling you were around here someplace since I see a lot of hills just like that and and of course many that are much, much worse.

I think it would be a real pain to try and rototill that hillside. I am sure you could do it but I think you would really know you had tackled a project. I also think if you till it you would end up with a lot of erosion as someone else mentioned.

If I were going to tackle that I think how I would do it is two applications of roundup about 10-14 days apart then do a lot of hand raking and then apply a heavy application of seed and straw.

I would try and start about April 15th which would have me seeding about May 1 +/- and that is a good time for growing grass around here.

Good luck.
Hey thanks nice to here from someone that knows the area. Yes lots of hills like this one and many are dead from last season. I definitely need to spray the hill as like I mentioned it is covered in weeds etc there is no saving the lawn I think. I would like to start end of march early April. I like all your ideas but my only worry is if I don't get the soil loosened up enough the seed wont last as the ground is pretty hard, but like others mentioned I have to worry about erosion also.
Exact,
you are right about the danger of roto tilling on a hill. No deadman switch. My uncle had an accident with a rotary tiller. He hit some cement and it twisted sideways. He fell into it and one of the times caught him in the thigh. The cut was 6 inches long and two inches deep. He nearly bled to death as he drove himself to the emergency room. His car never smelled right after that.

Soil erosion on such a steep slope could ruin the project if you get a heavy rain. You need heavy raking and a covering of seed mats. Better plan to do it twice.

Or do the simple and sure plan--lay sod--peg it down with staples--accept the check and go. There is a good chance the homeowner will just let it burn out again in 6 months.
Yes I planned on using seed mats here rather than straw.

So guys If I really have to get a tiller to this, will the mantis dig ground like this up to where I need it and will I be able to push the mantis around the hill and also get it to the top with no self propelled or anything?

freddyc
03-06-2011, 08:02 PM
From a rototilling standpoint...not saying this is the best option but Tilling down hill with a old school designed Troy-Bilt horse is frankly dangerous.....especially if the operator presence kill engine switch is defeated or absent on early models. I've done it - hit a rock on slope like that tiller pitches forward rotating tines and body parts had a close call. Tiller tumbles and flips over not fun. :hammerhead:

If you do till - take the extra time and use a Mantis or a Honda FG110 mini tiller.



Thanks, but I'm not suggesting tilling down the slope---upwards and diagonally would be the way to do it. Going purely straight up or down is dangerous. If you or the machine slip too much you have a BIG problem. On a diagonal, if the machine gets away from you a little it is very unlikely you'd be skipping underneath. I am also saying that the assumption is that an experienced person do this---if you've never tilled and want to rent one for this job, forget it. This isn't a junior project.

And it's true the tiller can and will catch objects underneath, but I find this to be minimized if there isn't a lot of large root growth there. You can't tell where someone buried a cement block but I think tilling it 2" deep or so at a time would be fine-- Ive done a lot worse. I do agree that the mantis type tiller might be a safer choice--- I also think it would take substantially longer.


Sorry about your uncle riggle. That sounds like a nasty accident. Hope he's OK.

smallaxe----my guess is that loosening up that soil is exactly what he needs to do. I could be wrong but its probably compacted over the years and giving the roots the best chance to go deeper and get oxygen down there is likely a good idea. Can't argue about not taking a chance on machinery if you don't have to, but I guess I'm just not seeing the critical issue you guys are.....and I've tilled a lot of weird places. I have a troybuilt horse and I'm guessing that would be no problem for it. It would be better to see it in real life though. I think you'd get a better job overall by tilling it-based on the compaction that's probably there--never mind not knowing what kind of soil it is to start with.


With regard to erosion, truthfully, I assumed once you till it you'd use a roller or something--not just till it and seed.
It appears to me from the picture. that the top of the soil is probably compacted. I'd take my chances with tilling it up, and trying to get germination beforte a monsoon showed up. Once a good grass is there thats the best you're going to do. No idea how much or how hard it rains there, but if its that biga problem then forget the grass and put in groundcover---which the customer doesn't seem to want.

deere615
03-06-2011, 08:26 PM
Thanks, but I'm not suggesting tilling down the slope---upwards and diagonally would be the way to do it. Going purely straight up or down is dangerous. If you or the machine slip too much you have a BIG problem. On a diagonal, if the machine gets away from you a little it is very unlikely you'd be skipping underneath. I am also saying that the assumption is that an experienced person do this---if you've never tilled and want to rent one for this job, forget it. This isn't a junior project.

And it's true the tiller can and will catch objects underneath, but I find this to be minimized if there isn't a lot of large root growth there. You can't tell where someone buried a cement block but I think tilling it 2" deep or so at a time would be fine-- Ive done a lot worse. I do agree that the mantis type tiller might be a safer choice--- I also think it would take substantially longer.


Sorry about your uncle riggle. That sounds like a nasty accident. Hope he's OK.

smallaxe----my guess is that loosening up that soil is exactly what he needs to do. I could be wrong but its probably compacted over the years and giving the roots the best chance to go deeper and get oxygen down there is likely a good idea. Can't argue about not taking a chance on machinery if you don't have to, but I guess I'm just not seeing the critical issue you guys are.....and I've tilled a lot of weird places. I have a troybuilt horse and I'm guessing that would be no problem for it. It would be better to see it in real life though. I think you'd get a better job overall by tilling it-based on the compaction that's probably there--never mind not knowing what kind of soil it is to start with.


With regard to erosion, truthfully, I assumed once you till it you'd use a roller or something--not just till it and seed.
It appears to me from the picture. that the top of the soil is probably compacted. I'd take my chances with tilling it up, and trying to get germination beforte a monsoon showed up. Once a good grass is there thats the best you're going to do. No idea how much or how hard it rains there, but if its that biga problem then forget the grass and put in groundcover---which the customer doesn't seem to want.

I have tilled before just one of the tools I do not own besides an attachment one for a split boom, but its just a cheaper one for gardens. I guess thats really what I am trying to decided here is the best way or what tiller to use to get all the ground loosened up.
No I will probably not roll it rolling that would be tough. I plan to loosen up some of the soil rake out the clumps/debris, mix in some mushroom manure, seed/starter fert then stake seed mat all over it hopefully that will hold it together and we don't have any major washouts at the time

RigglePLC
03-07-2011, 04:23 PM
Thanks, guys. Yeah my Uncle recovered fine, but died of other causes about 5 or 6 years later. Deadman switch is a good idea. Do NOT fall into your rototiller. Steep or uneven terrain or pieces of cement are not good.

Smallaxe
03-08-2011, 12:33 PM
A mantis is a little 9" tiller with high speed tines... you don't push it, you pull it... If the soil is a sandy loam I wouldn't imagine it is compacted enough to warrant a deep tilling. Have you pulled a plug or opened the ground with a shovel to see what kind of a profile you're dealing with?
If you do a deep till you might want to go with sod... Could be cheaper in the long run...

deere615
03-08-2011, 07:11 PM
A mantis is a little 9" tiller with high speed tines... you don't push it, you pull it... If the soil is a sandy loam I wouldn't imagine it is compacted enough to warrant a deep tilling. Have you pulled a plug or opened the ground with a shovel to see what kind of a profile you're dealing with?
If you do a deep till you might want to go with sod... Could be cheaper in the long run...

I stopped by the other day and stuck a shovel in a bunch of spots its not actually as bad as i thought it would be but its not like sand either. Quick question for those who used a mantis I have a tiller split boom attachment its only a cheaper one but will a mantis do a better job than it?

Smallaxe
03-08-2011, 07:35 PM
I stopped by the other day and stuck a shovel in a bunch of spots its not actually as bad as i thought it would be but its not like sand either. Quick question for those who used a mantis I have a tiller split boom attachment its only a cheaper one but will a mantis do a better job than it?

Not sure what a split boom would be... :)

deere615
03-08-2011, 07:52 PM
Not sure what a split boom would be... :)

split boom trimmer where you can add attachments pole saw long reach headge trimmer, edger, tiller etc

Smallaxe
03-08-2011, 08:51 PM
split boom trimmer where you can add attachments pole saw long reach headge trimmer, edger, tiller etc

I suppose if its strong enough...

1993lx172
03-08-2011, 10:01 PM
A split boom attachment would work, it would take a while but it can be done. Looking at the picks you put up I would go with that option, it's going to take time but it sure beats a spading fork. Someone mentioned a Mantis tiller and that would work better than the tiller attachment in unbroken ground. They can be tough to control on a slope that steep but if you had one handy I'd try that first.

deere615
03-08-2011, 10:15 PM
A split boom attachment would work, it would take a while but it can be done. Looking at the picks you put up I would go with that option, it's going to take time but it sure beats a spading fork. Someone mentioned a Mantis tiller and that would work better than the tiller attachment in unbroken ground. They can be tough to control on a slope that steep but if you had one handy I'd try that first.
Ok, No I don't have a mantis just a split boom so I might try that and go from there

Smallaxe
03-09-2011, 11:07 AM
If you've looked at the soil and there is really no reason to rip it up I would go with the overseed idea. Scratch the surface, add the seed and cover generously with compost...

l&slawncare1990
03-30-2011, 02:31 PM
Does anyone know how to estimate cost to rototil, sift soil and seed a lawn. I have a client that wants me to completely rototill, sift seed and apply starter fertilizer. A 30 by 60 area. Thanks

1993lx172
03-30-2011, 03:17 PM
Does anyone know how to estimate cost to rototil, sift soil and seed a lawn. I have a client that wants me to completely rototill, sift seed and apply starter fertilizer. A 30 by 60 area. Thanks

I did a two jobs like that the first week of March and how I did it was to get the prices for materials, the cost of the rental machine (Toro Dingo in my case) for X number of days, then estimate how long it was going to take (labor costs), plus compensation for picking up the materials and machine. Remember it will usually take longer than you think so take that into account. Good luck with it.

l&slawncare1990
03-30-2011, 03:39 PM
I have all my own machinery materials will cost for seed and fertilizer with in 100.00. So how would I figure the rest like i said its about a 30' by 60' area. Thanks again. Should take about 1-2 hrs to till. 2-3 hrs to rake and sift soil and an hour to seed and fertilize etc.

1993lx172
03-30-2011, 05:02 PM
I have all my own machinery materials will cost for seed and fertilizer with in 100.00. So how would I figure the rest like i said its about a 30' by 60' area. Thanks again. Should take about 1-2 hrs to till. 2-3 hrs to rake and sift soil and an hour to seed and fertilize etc.

I read your other thread and I doubt that you are going to have to rake the grass out after tilling. If you have access to a tow behind tine rake dethatcher I'd use that to rake your seed in after you spread it, it will save you a ton of time. Another bit of advice for you, after you rake your seed in go over it with a lawn roller filled about half way with water to pack down that very top layer. This helps to keep moisture in before you put down straw and also helps to keep the seed in place if you are expecting rain anytime soon.

If I hadn't forgotten my camera in my dorm over spring break I'd post pics of the jobs I did.

l&slawncare1990
03-30-2011, 05:08 PM
Thanks. Since it is a smaller area raking int he seed shouldn't be to bad. Plus I dont want to only be on the job an hour or 2 they would think they are over paying but. I will rake it in and I will also get the roller and slightly compress the soil. Also is straw/ hay necessary or can you get away with out that. Also you put the starter fertilizer on top or mix into the soil as well.

1993lx172
03-30-2011, 07:00 PM
Thanks. Since it is a smaller area raking int he seed shouldn't be to bad. Plus I dont want to only be on the job an hour or 2 they would think they are over paying but. I will rake it in and I will also get the roller and slightly compress the soil. Also is straw/ hay necessary or can you get away with out that. Also you put the starter fertilizer on top or mix into the soil as well.

I would highly recommend putting down straw, it holds moisture in better, keeps birds from eating your seed, and if it rains it helps hold everything in place. When that storm hit it dumped about 3/4" of rain and when I went and checked it out the next day some straw had blown around a little but everything was good. When I was home last weekend I drove by and both are almost to the point where you can rake up the straw.

As for starter fert. you definitely want to mix it in before you put your seed down.

l&slawncare1990
03-30-2011, 07:06 PM
Ok sounds like a plan. I have used straw before but I over killed it completly covering the lawn. But I will put it done and the best way is to put the seed and starter fertilizer at the same time and then mix in with the soil. I told my client it would be $700 to till, seed, fertilze and level out the soil. Also i told him Only 75$ to come back 4-5 wkd later to fertilize again but I think I have been bidding pretty good on these jobs but it always helps to get some pointers from other landscapers. I appreciate all the help and I will see if I get the account. I will use good seed and fertilizer and mix them in at the same time and then put the straw/ hay over everyhthing.

betmr
04-01-2011, 11:36 AM
Ok sounds like a plan. I have used straw before but I over killed it completly covering the lawn. But I will put it done and the best way is to put the seed and starter fertilizer at the same time and then mix in with the soil. I told my client it would be $700 to till, seed, fertilze and level out the soil. Also i told him Only 75$ to come back 4-5 wkd later to fertilize again but I think I have been bidding pretty good on these jobs but it always helps to get some pointers from other landscapers. I appreciate all the help and I will see if I get the account. I will use good seed and fertilizer and mix them in at the same time and then put the straw/ hay over everyhthing.

I don't know what you mean by mixing the seed in, but it should just be spread on the surface and lightly raked in. Sow it too deep, and you get nothing. My opinion. I would stay away from tilling that. I would suggest killing it off w/2 apps. of Glyphosate, Then if it's not too steep, I would run over it with a Vertical Mower, rake out the debris, sow my seed, starter fert, rake it in, roll, mulch, and make sure customer knows to water to keep moist, not wet. That is how I would do it. I think you are asking for a big mess, if you start tearing up that berm.

l&slawncare1990
04-01-2011, 12:13 PM
In this case there is no lawn left the soil got hard on surface to to lack of watering last year so it needs to be tilled, seeded and re-done completley.