My lot is FUBAR

Discussion in 'Homeowner Assistance Forum' started by gdeangel, Feb 6, 2006.

  1. gdeangel

    gdeangel LawnSite Member
    Messages: 37

    I have an unfinished "yard" left by my contractor. It is irregular shape and I could use some advice, with an eye to a homeowner working alone, possibly renting equipment if it will really work and won't break the bank. Here's what I'm dealing with. Any tips are appreciated in advance, or other options you can think of that will work.

    1) Initial Surface Prep: The soil is all rocky and silty. I can barely dig a 6-inch hole with a shovel for my mailbox. There are broken bricks and construction debris on the surface. So far, the options for prepping I've come up with are a. hand raking the surface, b. renting a tiller and breaking up the soil, then hand raking, or c. dump a layer of topsoil over everything. Thoughts?

    2) Drains and Grade: Contractor / city graded down my yard almost 18 inches below the neighbor's grade in the back. The put in storm drains fixed at the lower height, but apparently they weren't there when the neighbor graded his property. Options I've come up with: a. fill all along fence with topsoil and make planting bed (I don't like this, as the area already is maybe only 20' wide), b. build up around the storm drains with crushed stone, c. use some kind of runoff barrier like you see on sides of highways, d. do nothing and let neighbor's yard wash down (will look funny, as he has a solid fence the whole way at the higher level...) Thoughts?

    3) Driveway: My lot has a funny sliver of yard on the far side from the house. But then my concrete driveway curves right up to the boundary, so I really can't run a sprinkler around it. I probably want to do some kind of plantings there, maybe in a stone bed, so it won't get rutty when I drive on it accidentally... but what can I grow this way, and how do the roots grow in the stone. Should I use a landscape fabric under the stone to block weeds? Does the type of stone matter?

    4) Planting Trees: I think I'm likely to break my spade shovel trying to dig out for the root ball. I thought of getting some kind of auger, but I obviously don't have a back-hoe, and I'm working solo. Can anyone recommend the right tools (hand or power) for the job, and if you know where I can get/rent it, that'd be a big help?

    5) Beds: I want to put in a drip line system for a bed, but again, there is an island of yard cut off by the intersecting concrete driveway and sidewalk. I don't want to be always tripping over the line. Is there a "professional" way to run the line under the sidewalk (other than building it right in the first place)?

    6) Sod: I don't have a huge budget, so professionally installed sod is probably out. How long would it probably take one man (no experience) to lay down say, 10,000 sf of sod? And can anyone recommend a good sod farm that delivers in NE Ohio? Any recommendations on the hardiest mix for the area are also appreciated...

    7) Fence: As I mentioned earlier, my back yard is real shallow, and the neighbor has a 6' wood fence right on the border - real ugly unfinished wood. I want to plant something like Ivy that will grow up all over it and cover my side of it. Any suggestions on what would do well in the silty soil, next to the storm drains (and what should I do to prevent the "beds" from washing down the drains with the runoff?

    8) Finally, yard sprinklers: What tips should I know about where to put sprinkler heads, how many zones, valves, etc. I want to have as little hardware as possible, so a leaky garden hose would probably be fine for me, but as this is my only chance to put in a system without tearing up my yard, I'd be glad for any advice. What is the least digging I can get away with?

  2. Gatewayuser

    Gatewayuser LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,765

    Are you a cop?

    #1 You could rent a skid loader and a rock hound or a Harley rake which will help break up soil and get rid of the rocks. If you don't know how to use one just rent a tiller and till it up real good and get rid of the rocks by hand. You also should have some good soil brought in and till that in as well.

    #2 Don't do any grade changes without calling the city you could get in some big trouble if you do.

    #3 yes use landscape fabric first to keep weeds from coming through, sorry I can't be more help on that one unless I see it.

    #4 If you rent the skid loader for #1 you can get a big auger for it and that would probably work but its going to be hard for trees to go in the soil you have so make sure to loosen it up good.

    #5 you should call an irrigation company for that one but they make a boring tube that sprays water so you can put pipes under the sidewalks.

    #6 Sorry not in your area, but a fescue rye mix would work well in your area, seeding would be the easiest and best way to make a lawn if you have no experience sodding.

    #7 Your not really allowed to grow something on someone else's fence you could try clematises. You could put some stone down to keep the soil from eroding.

    #8 It all depends on what your water pressure is, that will determine how many zones you will need. Some yards may take 4 while others may need only 1.

    Remember to you can always call a landscape company to help. I hope I was some help to you and welcome to Lawn Site!:waving:
  3. gdeangel

    gdeangel LawnSite Member
    Messages: 37

    Thanks Gateway. How long would it take someone who's never run a rock hound or harley rake to learn (or for that matter never run a skid-steer)? Also, I've seen a rock hound come in down the street, and it left a lot of small rocks on the surface, but then they covered it up with sod...

    On a hypothentical "private" storm drain, how whould you stop surface runoff without reducing the grade. Right now, my neighbor has a nice gradual grade, and then its litterally a 90-degree drop-off to where my contractor scraped down everything to the level of the storm drain. I though of shoring up the soil under his fence with railroad ties, but I think nice crushed stone might give us both better yard drainage.

    For the fence cover, maybe I'll run a string of grape vines a few inches off the fence, and they can "naturally" find their way onto it. Unlike most fences that are set-back... this one is right on the boundry line, so I expect I'd be within my rights to plant against it (otherwise I'd just paint it a nice color, but I'm sure that's a no-no).

    Thanks for the tips on the irrigation... I consulted a pro and he wanted like $3,000 to do it. At that kind of money, a garden hose become a respectable option.

    And nope - I'm not a cop.
  4. sheshovel

    sheshovel LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,112

    We need pics to advise on your situation,you can post them here.I really need to look to tell you any usefull advice.Can you take some?
  5. Gatewayuser

    Gatewayuser LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,765

    Usually you can take a skid loader course at a local tech school for around $100 or less most people enjoy the class because its kind of fun. It all depends on how fast of a learner you are and the brand that you will use, it could take 1 hr or it could take a day, but remember as you are learning you are also getting the work done. Also usually the renter will deliver it for around $40 which is a good deal.

    About the grape vine you need to be VERY careful letting it grow on a fence because they are very strong and heavy and will tear it down quick.

    Where the grade changes you could always put a up retaining wall with good drainage behind it to slow the water down and give it a very appealing look.

    Irrigation, I would still recommend you have a pro put it in and its worth the $3000, also make sure to get multiple bids too.

    I just thought you might be a cop because you said FUBAR.

    Good Luck!:waving:
  6. gdeangel

    gdeangel LawnSite Member
    Messages: 37

    I'll take some pics, but we were just bombed with snow so you can't really see anything now. In the meantime, I have attached a good sketch. (I don't know the depth of the various utilities, which I've done in red.) Come to find out, our site was originally planned as a connector between two roads, and then the first people in wanted it to be a cul de sac, so that's why we're the lowest lot, with all the storm drains and stuff. If anyone has good ideas as to what would look good and/or work with the site limitations, I'd love to hear it. The back yard is about 20 feet deep, with an 8' patio put in by the contractor.


  7. hole in one lco

    hole in one lco LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,793

    If you are on the west side call me ill come out and look at it for you .
    chad kashubeck (440) 341-9637 free
  8. sheshovel

    sheshovel LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,112

    I would bring the grade up at the house bu adding soil like you said..then hand grade it down towards the storm will have to rock around the drains are just top drains or do they have holes in the lines all along so surface run off goes into them?
    As far as water coming off his property onto yours.It is his responsibility to handle any water coming off his property properly so it does not do damage to your property.Remember drainage is JOB-1 the most important thing to think about now.
    I would take Hole-in-ones offer and let him come out and look at it.Free ya can't beat that price!
  9. mow king

    mow king LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 571

    If you end up needing any help with certain aspects of your project, feel free to PM me; I'm in your area and have a skid steer as well.
  10. kootoomootoo

    kootoomootoo LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,369

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