Topsoil-procedure for putting it down

Discussion in 'Landscape Maintenance' started by GrayM, Mar 2, 2011.

  1. GrayM

    GrayM LawnSite Member
    Messages: 84

    I did a spring cleanup for a customer, and she said she's thinking about having me renovate her front yard this fall. Right now it essentially has no grass, and a lot of the topsoil has eroded away. This has caused tree roots to stick up about two inches in part of the yard. So, in order to seed the lawn I'll have to bring in top soil to replace what was washed away by erosion.

    What's the best process to do this properly? Should I till the ground before spreading topsoil? How thick should I spread it? When I'm done spreading the new topsoil should I go over it with a lawn roller?

    I haven't measured the yard yet, but it's probably in the 3Ksf-5Ksf range. What kind of crew would you use for a job like that? Would I be able to finish the job in a timely manner by myself, or should I use a crew of 2-3 people?

    Would it pay to rent a mini skid to help spread the topsoil, or would I be better off wheelbarrowing it? The yard is sloped to the street, but it's not ridiculous by any means.

    What would a rough job schedule look like?
    Thanks for the help.
  2. castle555

    castle555 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 127

    Be careful with terminology.
    Topsoil on a farm is different from what you buy at the local landscape supplier. And usually it does not have the right consistency.
    Topsoil is usually clay and silt -not the stuff you want to recondition an area
    unless you are going to combine it with organic compost in a 40/40/10/10 blend (adding 10% sand)
    If you till the soil you are going to stir up an incredible number of weed seeds.
    If you decide to till it, then water it for a week or two and get the weed seeds to germinate, then spray kill them. After that use soil amendments in combination with planter mix and organic compost.
    to add to the soil and rototill it. Rototilling is 'Old School" these days with the soil additives we now have< I place the soil on top, then condition it with organics.
    Your depth should be about 4 to 6 inches (what about roots)
    Calculate the area and go for about 4" of new soil mix to achieve finish grade.
    I calc. 1000 cu ft for 3000 Sq ft at 4" depth and that's about 38 yds of soil

    Best thing is to Specify Planter Mix. buy yds. of 50/50 planter mix, and ask the supplier what the composition really is. There are different blends.
    I'd use a three man crew and apply the material via wheel barrow.
    Figure 2 hours per five yards for two guys (to a front yard) You can charge about .15 cents /sq ft. for application and spreading it out.
    Have it delivered.

    When I prep an area for lawn, I rake to rough grade then install the sprinkler pipe.
    Then backfill and rake it again closer to finish grade, then roll it, wet it, rake it, roll it wet it, rake again and final roll. It should look as smooth as a gold green before you seed or sod, or you don't belong in the business.

    Why not do sod? instead of seed? you will find the cost about the same only that the instant effect of the layed out sod is preferable for the customer and referrals. If it is going to be sod I use a pre-emergent weed herbicide like RonstarG and a starter fertilizer say 13-13-13 to 16-16-16. It's like pizza -they want it yesterday.

    What about irrigation? Spray Rotor? Pop-ups? Also, if you need to trench in drain lines or sprinkler pipe, 4" of soil added on will keep the actual trench digging to about 2" to 4 ".

    Only nice lawns have good irrigation systems.
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2011
  3. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    If tilling is called for, just till in a bunch of compost, unless your soil is beyond hope, then you don't need 'topsoil' there.

    However, eroded and exposed roots should be covered with actual mineral soils along with plenty of OM.

    One might need too watch the erosion to make sure that it can be done w/out sod...

    Myself, I would get started this spring/summer so at the right time we are ready to drop the seed and be done... If erosion IS a real problem, it is better to find that out now rather than do a lot of work, get it seeded then discover all the new, loose soil, gets washed out in gullies...

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