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Sodding Rocky Lawns

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by cwlawley, Jan 25, 2006.

  1. cwlawley

    cwlawley LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 470

    I am getting ready to start sodding a lawn here in NC that is a complete mess. Basically the soil is really very compacted clay (something an aerator wouldn't plug thorugh) and it has a large number of small rocks. There is not much grass, more weeds and crabgrass than anything. It is about 2500 sq ft.

    I have done small sodding jobs with prep-ed lawns before but I have no clue where to start with this one. Of course we need to go the most cost effective route. What should I do?
  2. NickN

    NickN LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Alabama
    Messages: 1,009

    I've found that most wanting sod installed on rocky soil aren't prepared to pay the cost for a correct install.Rocky soil causes drainage problems,in that it will not retain moisture for extended periods.The grass will dry out faster and require more frequent watering,not to mention the lack of proper root development.This problem(root development) is compounded by clay soil.
    To properly install sod and give it the best chance for a healthy lawn,you'll need to remove some soil and rock.If it were just the clay,you could get by with amending.After you remove the top layer,you'll need to bring in topsoil and grade.Then install the sod over that.
    In most cases I've ran into,it's 1 acre lawns people want installed,so the cost is quite high when they need soil renovation like you mention.At 2500 sq ft,your cost wouldn't be near as high as you're talking about 6 pallets of sod.However,if you remove 3 inches of soil and rock and replace with topsoil,you're looking at roughly 23 yards of removal and 23 yards of installation.That's where the cost comes in.
    I won't install sod on rocky soil because of the above mentioned problems.I've seen what happens and I don't want someone calling me back when their grass dries out and dies.
  3. Az Gardener

    Az Gardener LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,899

    You all are spoiled. Thats all we have here is rock and clay if your lucky, a lot of places we have caliche too which is your worst nightmare. We have some of the best turf in the country. Clay holds water-good for the Turf. Amending the soil typically improves drainage and adds some nutrients that quickly dissipate. The rocks are providing the drainage. I would just be concerned about them being uniform so the soil structure is consistent. If you have a concentration of rock or sand in one area, like trenches, you will have hot spots, but even worse they don't hold fertilizer so the turf ends up being a different color. You will want to get rid of the weeds/crabgrass. If you want to go the extra mile install a fertilizer injector with the irrigation system and use a biological product that will break down the clay and breath some life into the soil. Also advise client to learn their controller and water for short cycles, with multiple start times, back to back, to prevent runoff. So, 3 start times say at 4-5-and 6 AM with 3-5 min. run times( for spray heads). If the shape is right you could use MP rotators, that will eliminate the need for this as they put out water so slow. See how long it takes to puddle or run off and use that as your guide. I would be more concerned about having a good finish grade than the rocks or clay.
  4. JB1

    JB1 LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,904

    we would run the harley rake over it good , then sod it, we have a lot of rock and it works alright.
  5. cwlawley

    cwlawley LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 470

    Thanks for the replies. From what I am thinking now my next steps are...

    1. Kill remaining weeds. Wait a couple of days.
    2. Skim the top 1" of soil off, level (grade) and rake large clumps, rocks out.
    3. Add 1" screened topsoil and fine grade with rake.
    4. Should I roll?
    5. Install sod.
    5. Water short cycles, multiple times.

    Would anyone change this?
  6. Scag48

    Scag48 LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,067

    Definately need to Harley that sucker and get the rocks out. I would even top dress to help the root system since clay and hardpan isn't a preferable growing environment for sod.

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