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? Thanks!