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New lawn


LawnSite Senior Member
central Maine
I suppose this isn't the most exciting question, but for me its pretty important. I'm located in south-central Maine and built a new house in the middle of a forty acres of woods. The contractor who was supposed to excavate the site and finish the yard couldn't finish up and now I can't get him back. Right now my yard consists of about 12" of sand. I'm going to try to finish it myself. I asked about buying topsoil. Now I've decided to buy a small, used backhoe with a front end loader and use the topsoil I already have. My question is - how deep should I make it. When I asked about buying it, I got quoted two prices - one for 3" and one for 6". Also, should I get a tiller to mix it with the sand that's already there? As you can tell, I don't know anything about landscaping. I'm just tired of paying for stuff and not being satisfied with the results. While I'm at it, my wife is wondering what type of bushes she can plant along the foundation to prevent soil from washing away (we have a slope of about 15 degrees).

Thanks for any reply or other help. Please feel free to give any advise.

Rodney Anderson

LawnSite Member
MJ we may hear someone else say different but I have done this with sandy soils. One before working the soil into the sandy soil try to purchase some leaf compost or another non-
manure compost and work it into the soil. this will work as an amendment, give the soil texture, retain moisture, improve drought and disease dolerance and will give the soil
a bonding agent for surface pesticides (meaning a bonding agent to help prevent leaching). A yard for every 1000 to
1500 sq.ft.. Once this is done then you can add the top soil
as a seed bed to start the seed. At the most a inch or two. this has worked very well for me in OH. It may be more expensive but will pat off in the long run.
The plant selection would very for the bank. Knowing trees and shrubs you mat want to plant either a shallow rooted plant such as a burning bush or a low growing plant such as
rug or blue star juniper. The juniper once established will reduce mulch and possilble erosion. Good old plain ground covers could be an option like english ivy, mertle or even
turf lilly maybe some one else has a suggestion. Good Luck!


LawnSite Bronze Member
South Bend, IN
Right now you will not be planting a lawn, so use this winter to investigate and establish your plans. You may be able to find and install some of your ornamentals, but it is better to do it right than to rush it. A shredded bark or wood chip mulch around the house will stabilize the area temporarily - 2 to 3 inches will be good for a year.

Success in a landscape is 99% cultural practices, and the most important cultural practice is to put the right plant in the right place. This rule is true for grass, shrubbery, and trees. Many of us here can give you good advice for our regions, and that advice would be wrong for you. For specific help in your area , go to your state extension service at http://www.umext.maine.edu/ . Peruse that site, especially the "Topics" and "Publications" sections, and then find the nearest office in "Counties" for more personal assistance.

In general, adding organic matter is beneficial, but many "composts" and other ammendments are short-lived. "Black dirt" is just soil with at least a 6% organic matter content. For a long-lived enhancement, especially for turf, consider adding a significant amount of woody material - sawdust or finely ground wood chips, not tree service refuse - to your planting medium. (Email me if you wish the details of this procedure.)

If you have sufficient topsoil, a 6" depth would be great usually. However, properly done, it must be applied in two steps. First add half the topsoil, level, and till as deeply as possible. Then add the rest of the topsoil and till again. Then finish grade and seed. If you just add 6" of topsoil without tilling, you are establishing an interface between the two soil types. The method described above is the best way to avoid detrimental soil interfaces. Soil interfaces can negatively affect drainage and plant root growth.

There has been a number of general discussions on lawn establishment in this forum in the past. If you go to the "Show threads from" listbox above, and set to "Show all threads", you could also peruse these discussions.