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Help on "Removing" a Lawn?

4858 Views 7 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  Steamguy
I was wondering if anyone could point me in the direction of any good reading material on "replacing a lawn?"

I am looking at a job to completely replace a front lawn in a suburban neighborhood. The lawn is probably 50 years old, and has "built up" over the years to the point that it is 3"-4"-5" inches higher than the concrete of the driveway, sidewalk and curb. It's high enough that it is practically impossible to mow without scalping certain areas. The overall condition of it is very poor, with crabgrass, etc. ...and the bottom line is that it NEEDS TO GO and be re-done.

Would the best way to start off be to rototill? I have seen where some use a sod cutter ...but I question whether or not that would be of any benefit and the "manual" ones are out of the question. I have not seen any GT sod-cutter attachments ...debated on trying to fab one up and try it. Thought about fabbing up a "root knive" type attachment (vertical blade) for the back of the GT and make several passes to break up the soil some prior to rototilling.

Right now I'm thinking of rototilling when the ground is soft, blade work (front and rear) to scrape off 6" or so, add underground sprinkling piping, layer of topsoil, seed (or possibly sod). Does that sound about right?

I have tried searches on the subject (both here and on the rest of the WWW.) and have pretty much come up empty handed. Anyone have any ideas or good links on the subject?


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Oh, I LOVE this question.... Been there, done that!

So, here's the scoop....

When Littletractorgal and I moved into the house we're in now, the lawns were TERRIBLE! It was almost as if the previous owners knew NOTHING about lawn care, and didn't really care at all! Of course, the previous owners were me and my now ex-wife, so I'm allowed to say that.... 'cause its true. The lawn was SO bad that my mother wanted me to move into a condo, since she didn't think I was capable of yard care... I won't dispute that... I had thought those nice big round green things in the lawn were very pretty... til the first frost when I discovered I had tumbleweeds growing in my lawn!

LTGal was FAR more motivated about having a nice lawn that either I or my ex-wife were, so she researched it and told me what to do...

Here's how it went down:

1. We rented a sod cutter. All the research LTGal did said DON'T rototill, it would just spread the weeds and the crab grass. You need to actually REMOVE the bad sod, as far down as you can. In our case, the lawn was incredibly old and the weed roots went down at least 4-6 inches. The sod cutter is a gas-powered unit with a cutting knife underneath it that cuts your sod into uniform 2 foot strips, like this:

that lets you set a depth and strip the sod right off. You COULD build something to tow behind your tractor, and I KNOW some members here HAVE, but unless you do a lot of sod cutting for commercial purposes, it's probably not worth the effort. The sod cutter cost me $60 to rent for a day, and it was the best money I've spent on my lawn! It was the MOST fun I've EVER HAD on my lawn! It should be illegal! If it hadn't have gotten dark, I woulda done the neighbour's lawn too! :).

Of course, when I rented the cutter, they said cut it into about 6 foot long strips, roll it up and put it in your truck to haul away.... But we had to go so deep, a 6 foot strip weighed probably 200-300 lbs. So I cut it into squares by going lengthwise and then, um, heightwise (?) over my lawn... A 2' x 2' x 6" chunk of sod was between 25 and 50 pounds, depending on where it came from in the lawn (how much lawn, versus how much dirt, versus how much weeds, versus how much gravel).

2. We hauled it for compost. I estimated that I hauled away 10,000 lbs of lawn to our local landfill... We have compost areas in the landfill where they take "clean fill" for free, and they were more than happy to have all the cut sod and dirt.... I just didn't really mention all the weeds....

3. THEN we rototilled... Well, actually, my dad did, with his big Kubota... This is ALSO a really good way to quickly remove underground sprinklers you may no longer want... Except we still, after 4 years, occasionally harvest a 2" long piece or two of sprinkler hose.

4. THEN we put weed killer on, for a month or so... to get rid of the rest of the dandelions and other assorted weeds whose roots we'd missed.

5. Once the weed killer was abated, we planted potatoes for 2 seasons. This step is optional, but HIGHLY recommended... Lawn that has been around for decades renders your soil basically totally starved for nutrients. Putting sod back down immediately after removing an OLD lawn will often result in another poor, starved lawn. Potatoes are nitrogen fixers, helping return essential nitrogen to the soil... AND they're yummy!

6. We rototilled again after the potatoes, in an attempt to flatten out the lawn area some more.

7. We rolled the lawn area in preparation for putting down new sod. THIS is where your tractor will come in REALLY handy! I wish I had HAD a tractor for this part, because this is where you push that water-filled lawn roller over and over and over again on your lawn, trying to get it level AND packed.... Any spots that were too low, we filled, any that were too high, we took the dirt away... Then we'd water lightly to help the dirt settle more, and roll again. I'd highly recommend renting a tow-behind roller for this part. Rolling is crucial, because otherwise as the dirt settles you wind up with a humpy-bumpy lawn. SOME of that can be fixed "post-sod" if you water well and run a roller over it AGAIN, but that hasn't helped with our back lawn (we had a bit of sod left over from the front, so we rushed out and rented the sod cutter AGAIN, stripped off the back lawn and re-sodded before our extra sod died... But we didn't have time to do the full prep... and no matter what we do now, its humpy and bumpy... Oh well, I might get to rent that sod cutter again! Oh darn! :) )

8. THEN we laid the sod. And watered.... And watered... and watered some more.

All in all, it worked out pretty darn well, but its NOT a quick process...

(just ignore the snow, this was the only pic I could find of the lawn...)

(The BEST part, for me, anyway, is that LTGal let me GET the bagger and the gator blades for my little 160, 'cause she wants me to ENJOY mowing our new lawn! Yes, I know, its barely enough lawn for a push mower... But its WAY more fun with a tractor! :))
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