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Dirt - To mix or not to mix

Discussion in 'Homeowner Assistance Forum' started by Jim Stockwell, Jan 28, 2006.

  1. Jim Stockwell

    Jim Stockwell LawnSite Member
    Posts: 12

    We're renovating (mostly just filling in low spots) a soccer field and have two batches of dirt to work with - one that's a typical midwestern clay, not bad but not great and another batch thats a lot better - browner and doesn't harden when dry or stay balled up when wet. We've used both by themselves already in our first go round, the new grass planted in the brown stuff seemed to do a lot better.

    Does it make sense to mix them so there's some of the good stuff twice as deep? I figured just a 50-50 mix and the only method would be to mix it in place. i.e. if we need 4 wheelbarrows to fill in an area, bring over two of each and use our trusty tiller.

    Or just use the clay as a base and use the good stuff on top?
  2. sheshovel

    sheshovel LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 5,112

    Mix them up as much as possible,you do not want a clay base that does not drain..with a lighter top soil on top of that for many reasons..one which is, that it won't be stable
  3. blaze347

    blaze347 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 101

    If you have plenty of the good "top soil" why mix? Chances are the "good stuff" you have has some clay in it anyway. Clay is bad for drainage like Sheshovel stated in the previous reply. Just use the good stuff, you already have a clay base, no need to add more clay.
  4. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,653

    To expand on this a bit, my guess would be cost being the reason for mixing, it has been my experience that unless the soil comes pre-mixed,
    it tends to be just as expensive in means of time and labor to mix it versus using the more expensive soil exclusively. Because to mix types of soil properly you need like a tumbling device such as a power-driven, rotating drum of some kind... So by the time it's all mixed at a cost savings of 5-10 dollars / cubic yard, I would've been already done spreading, had I only used the expensive kind I would've saved several hours of labor and time not being free, I thus find mixing soils a frustrating ordeal.
  5. Jim Stockwell

    Jim Stockwell LawnSite Member
    Posts: 12

    First, we have two piles of dirt to use or move. I don't want to just move dirt - that's a waste of my free 'labor'. Using just the good stuff would mean we'd have some areas not touched. I'm on board with the difficulty of mixing and I guess that's part of my question. We did amend a large batch of the clay, about 15-18 yards, last summer with 6 0r 7 yards of well decomposed wood chips by using a tiller - lots of work.

    Second, I agree that using the clay as a 'base' isn't ideal, but we're on flat surfaces here so stability isn't the factor it could be. I know we don't want any layering either - figuring that aeration and topdressing over the next few years will help break it up if we don't mix.

    So I guess I'm convinced we'll mix it as best we can - it's not ideal, but if we had the money to let a sports turf pro do everything - well then I wouldn't have anything to do on weekends! ;)
  6. muddstopper

    muddstopper LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,342

    Heres another option. Spread the topsoil evenly, filling in the low spots as you go. then rent an areovator to run over the area. The vibrating tines of the areovator will mix the poor soil with the clay. It wont be the same as rototilling in but might make a pretty good subsitute. Certainly better than core areation. The areovator will also help level out the high spots makeing the entire surface a lot smoother. In fact, if you make several passes with the machine it will turn the top few inches of the surface into a powder. Works better in dry soil than wet soil. I find it is a great tool for overseeding and applying soil amendments. Some rental stores have them for use behing a 3pt tractor as well as the tow behing units. Some also already have a seed box mounted for seed distribution. Seedovator, is one. I have the tow behind by First Products. It doesnt have the seed box but I simply just broadcast the seed before running over it with the areovator.

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