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Amending topsoil while I can

649 Views 14 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  The Green One
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Greetings to all.
I've posted about issues with road work in front of my house but I have a quick-answer (I hope) question.
Concrete pipe went in, fill dirt covered it, & now the contractor has dumped & semi-spread topsoil. They'll be back with what amounts to a tiller on the front of a skid steer to finish prep for sod. The pictures are as it is right now.
I've picked up a lot of sticks, roots, & rocks that I don't want in my yard. The top soil is heavy with clay & doesn't look like it has much organic matter.
Should I try to spread some compost before the contractor returns to "tiil" it? If so, what's best to use?
I have an area where I've been dumping grass clippings & shredded leaves for years. When I've used some (as they say here) leaf mold, I've sifted it through 1/2" hardware cloth. Should that work?
I'm in central Alabama & the agreement was that the contractor will replace sod "in kind" which is St. Augustine.
Thanks for any advice,
Eddie
Plant Tree Land lot Grass Asphalt
Plant Sky Tree Branch Land lot
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Sounds like they are going to bring in a power rake, not a tiller. That should pick up rocks and smooth everything out.
Yes, compost / organic matter will absolutely help, especially if topsoil is clay heavy. Grass clippings and shredded leaves no matter how decomposed they are will work.
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I got a look at what I thought was a tiller. From a distance it had looked like it was churning it up like a tiller & leaving it flat. It has a knobby cylinder that rotates. It looks like it will pulverize clods & level the soil. It brought a lot gravel to the surface. It also seemed to pack the soil.
If I can get organic matter out should the device do any good? I have a tiller & could take advantage of them breaking clods, etc. Then I could spread stuff & till it in. Does the soil need to be packed to lay sod? My logic says not too packed, but I defer to you pros & your experience.
Should I rake off the gravel?
What's the ideal thing to add in? I think the years of compost I have is pretty good, but I know some plants don't like some kinds of compost-like azaleas don't like oak & sweetgum leaves but do like pine straw. Also, I might not have time to collect it. If I have to buy something I want to choose right.

Thanks for advice.
Eddie

Don't forget I'll be glad to share from my experience if you need to hang stuff on the wall.
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I got a look at what I thought was a tiller. From a distance it had looked like it was churning it up like a tiller & leaving it flat. It has a knobby cylinder that rotates. It looks like it will pulverize clods & level the soil. It brought a lot gravel to the surface. It also seemed to pack the soil.
If I can get organic matter out should the device do any good? I have a tiller & could take advantage of them breaking clods, etc. Then I could spread stuff & till it in. Does the soil need to be packed to lay sod? My logic says not too packed, but I defer to you pros & your experience.
Should I rake off the gravel?
What's the ideal thing to add in? I think the years of compost I have is pretty good, but I know some plants don't like some kinds of compost-like azaleas don't like oak & sweetgum leaves but do like pine straw. Also, I might not have time to collect it. If I have to buy something I want to choose right.

Thanks for advice.
Eddie

Don't forget I'll be glad to share from my experience if you need to hang stuff on the wall.
Any compost / organic matter you can add to the mix will benefit the new sod. Tilling top soil in is a good idea, especially if you've added in compost! Seems like contractor is tilling (absolutely good) & compacting (good to an extent) new top soil. Highly unlikely contractor is over compacting new top soil - you want it flat for the most part.

Ideal thing to add - I would not be picky. Leaves, grass clippings, fruit, vegetable peels - all are good. Use what you have composted yourself and you will be far better off than 90+% of USA.
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It has a knobby cylinder that rotates.
Power rake.

Just let them do their job. You won’t get what you want out of them no matter what. Just let them do it, then fix what you don’t like after they screw it up. Not worth fighting over it. “Imminent domain” sucks.
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Any compost / organic matter you can add to the mix will benefit the new sod. Tilling top soil in is a good idea, especially if you've added in compost! Seems like contractor is tilling (absolutely good) & compacting (good to an extent) new top soil. Highly unlikely contractor is over compacting new top soil - you want it flat for the most part.

Ideal thing to add - I would not be picky. Leaves, grass clippings, fruit, vegetable peels - all are good. Use what you have composted yourself and you will be far better off than 90+% of USA.
Yes adding organic material is great
Can also be on top it will perk down into the soil
Trees compost naturally from the top down when they drop leaves
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Who ordered that dirt? It looks like fill dirt. Not a good base to be starting off with.
That's the way top soil looks here in Ohio, Like when a home is built on a lot, A good 4 inches is scraped & put into a pile, To use after construction, To get the final grade, Once the lot gets leveled out, and a rockhound on it, It will look much better, if you have some compost to get rid of, get it out there before it is graded level, The tooth bucket will till it in, as it gets leveled,

You will be amazed how some ruff soil produces a nice lawn,
Usually the last house built in a allotment gets all the scraps,
Thanks for all responses. When I finished this reply I looked back & saw a lot of ranting. I decided to leave it because sometimes it's amusing to see how ludicrous a situation becomes. Apologies if you're offended.
I've tried to be patient & friendly through this whole project, even passing out water a couple of times. This contractor has schooled me along the lines of what J. Baker said.
Their overall work has been so haphazard they have had to break up & redo over 100 feet of new concrete curb because it was in the wrong place...ending at my new driveway (that they replaced)...which they also broke up & redid. I have a whole new perspective on the saying "set in concrete."
I think this +/- 1 mile project has been going 2 years now. Around May 1, the city announced that final milling & paving would be blocking various parts of the road 8 PM to 4 AM May 5-18. Looks to me like they're about 1/3 to that goal (as of May 17).
This alleged topsoil is what the contractor brought in to top off the work in the whole area. I thought I was doing us both a favor when I gathered sticks & rocks in a wheel barrow. They wouldn't load it while collecting the few rocks they had pulled out. They "graciously" allowed me to empty the wheel barrow into the front-end loader after I mentioned I could just dump it on the curb so they'd have to pick it up. As this soil dried out it got almost as hard as the fill they put down first. I want to verify that it is the final layer before I spend too much time amending fill. Direct interactions about another issue make me hesitant to do anything that they can say interferred with their work.
If I can get to it, I'll put out some compost before they power rake. If I can't get that done, I may have to top dress it like hort101 said. If I sift the clippings & such I've been dumping for years, I get material about the size of course sand, but all organic.
That might be the best plan anyway. In everything I do to my yard, I'm thinking "minimize maintenance." I don't mind hard work, but, having hit 70, I'm finding that hard work is getting harder.
Thanks again, Eddie
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I think you understand what you've got, but I'll go with everyone else and just say you can't put out too much compost on top before they lay the Ag. If you know someone with a horse farm, they probably have a manure pile they'll sell ( or maybe give you). If its composted, its good, throw it out.
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Thanks for all responses. When I finished this reply I looked back & saw a lot of ranting. I decided to leave it because sometimes it's amusing to see how ludicrous a situation becomes. Apologies if you're offended.
I've tried to be patient & friendly through this whole project, even passing out water a couple of times. This contractor has schooled me along the lines of what J. Baker said.
Their overall work has been so haphazard they have had to break up & redo over 100 feet of new concrete curb because it was in the wrong place...ending at my new driveway (that they replaced)...which they also broke up & redid. I have a whole new perspective on the saying "set in concrete."
I think this +/- 1 mile project has been going 2 years now. Around May 1, the city announced that final milling & paving would be blocking various parts of the road 8 PM to 4 AM May 5-18. Looks to me like they're about 1/3 to that goal (as of May 17).
This alleged topsoil is what the contractor brought in to top off the work in the whole area. I thought I was doing us both a favor when I gathered sticks & rocks in a wheel barrow. They wouldn't load it while collecting the few rocks they had pulled out. They "graciously" allowed me to empty the wheel barrow into the front-end loader after I mentioned I could just dump it on the curb so they'd have to pick it up. As this soil dried out it got almost as hard as the fill they put down first. I want to verify that it is the final layer before I spend too much time amending fill. Direct interactions about another issue make me hesitant to do anything that they can say interferred with their work.
If I can get to it, I'll put out some compost before they power rake. If I can't get that done, I may have to top dress it like hort101 said. If I sift the clippings & such I've been dumping for years, I get material about the size of course sand, but all organic.
That might be the best plan anyway. In everything I do to my yard, I'm thinking "minimize maintenance." I don't mind hard work, but, having hit 70, I'm finding that hard work is getting harder.
Thanks again, Eddie
Sorry for your aggravation but that's a great story thanks for sharing this roadworks project it's probably how it goes more often than not

Roots feed in top layer of soil
Compost and amendments can help texture
You can add it after if you need to for nutrients reasons

Tilling is good to break up soil initially or if machines compact into hard pack imo
Not that I doubted any of the great advice, but the message has gotten loud enough I can't ignore it.
Heavy rain today. Contractor not working. Keeping grandkids tomorrow, but I'll try to gather material.
I don't want to spread material that will be wasted, buried too deep. I'll look for supervisor Monday to find the plan. Even if they power rake, I think there will be time after that to till in something. I'll do all I can to get compost of something out before they sod. I'm in a metro area, so a horse farm is a long long shot. Maybe some bags of composted manure. We saved some of what we got for selling ROW so we we could fix whatever might stay messed up after the contractor is gone.
I might even break down & pay someone in the business to come help me, especially if my old tiller won't start.
Ever grateful for your feedback,
Eddie
might even break down & pay someone in the business to come help me, especially if my old tiller won't start.
Ever grateful for your feedback
Good luck and don't stress about it
Keep us updated have a good weekend
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Thanks for all responses. When I finished this reply I looked back & saw a lot of ranting. I decided to leave it because sometimes it's amusing to see how ludicrous a situation becomes. Apologies if you're offended.
I've tried to be patient & friendly through this whole project, even passing out water a couple of times. This contractor has schooled me along the lines of what J. Baker said.
Their overall work has been so haphazard they have had to break up & redo over 100 feet of new concrete curb because it was in the wrong place...ending at my new driveway (that they replaced)...which they also broke up & redid. I have a whole new perspective on the saying "set in concrete."
I think this +/- 1 mile project has been going 2 years now. Around May 1, the city announced that final milling & paving would be blocking various parts of the road 8 PM to 4 AM May 5-18. Looks to me like they're about 1/3 to that goal (as of May 17).
This alleged topsoil is what the contractor brought in to top off the work in the whole area. I thought I was doing us both a favor when I gathered sticks & rocks in a wheel barrow. They wouldn't load it while collecting the few rocks they had pulled out. They "graciously" allowed me to empty the wheel barrow into the front-end loader after I mentioned I could just dump it on the curb so they'd have to pick it up. As this soil dried out it got almost as hard as the fill they put down first. I want to verify that it is the final layer before I spend too much time amending fill. Direct interactions about another issue make me hesitant to do anything that they can say interferred with their work.
If I can get to it, I'll put out some compost before they power rake. If I can't get that done, I may have to top dress it like hort101 said. If I sift the clippings & such I've been dumping for years, I get material about the size of course sand, but all organic.
That might be the best plan anyway. In everything I do to my yard, I'm thinking "minimize maintenance." I don't mind hard work, but, having hit 70, I'm finding that hard work is getting harder.
Thanks again, Eddie
Hey Eddie,

The Pros here have left you solid good advice.

You said:

" As this soil dried out it got almost as hard as the fill they put down first. I want to verify that it is the final layer before I spend too much time amending fill. "

This is called "Soil Slaking" and Surface Sealing. Seen it many times when Mineral/Clay Sub-soils that had no Organic Matter, were used instead of a good Top Soil.

After a Harley Rock Rake and Hand raking touch-up....all looks great with the "poor fill dirt"....... Check again after a good rain and drying period AND you have a sealed top surface as hard as a rock! Slaked and Dispersed!!

20 Pounds of Pelletized Gypsum per 1,000 Square Feet, applied on top of that hard/sealed soil surface with a Rotary spreader, will begin the process of opening up the sealed surface again.

IF you decide instead, to mix in some Organic Materials to the top layer, and then fine rake by hand after, then make your broadcast application of Gypsum as the final step, before Sodding.
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