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Old 06-15-2008, 04:14 AM   #1
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How To Prepare Yard for Lawn?


We recently bought a house in San Diego, CA, where the owner had let trees and shrubs grow in the front and back yards for decades without any maintenance. We'd like to landscape them, including planting grass. How should we prepare the yards? Specifically:

- I think we'll need to roto-till the yards because the dirt is very hard and compacted. Will roto-tillers work on hard dirt?

- The dirt also has lots of tree/shrub stumps, about 4 to 5" diameter. I'm thinking of cutting them myself by digging a hole around them and using a small electric chain saw. How far below the surface should I cut them? Will they cause a problem for the roto-tiller?

- What about horizontal roots in the dirt? What diameter roots should I worry about taking out?

- What about rocks? There are lots of rocks embedded in the dirt, although most are less than the size of an egg. Do I need to get them out?

Finally:

- The yard isn't perfectly flat. What technique does one use to make sure it's flat after it's been tilled?

Thanks.

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Old 06-15-2008, 10:52 AM   #2
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OUCH!
Boy are you in for a job. By posting this I presume that you do not have a lot of landscaping experience and, by extension, much equipment or much experience with equipment. My suggestions are for Georgia clay soil, so change to suit your particular needs.

If I were starting a job like this, I would expect to use:
Chainsaw
Tractor with subsoil plow, PTO rototiller, rollover blade, and rock rake
Backhoe/front-end loader
Dumptruck

To start with, I suppose that it depends on how much you want to trade-off between DIY and getting through with it. It is often cheaper in the long run to hire certain portions of a job simply because of the tools needed. For instance, I used to do a lot of mechanic work. Now even a tune-up requires several thousand dollars of equipment to do it properly.

That said, chainsaws are relatively inexpensive compared to hiring it done. THEY ARE DANGEROUS! You did not say how big the trees and shrubs are that you want to remove, unless the stumps mentioned are all that you have. A small, quality chainsaw should not be problem. I have never bothered to use an electric one. I can't begin to think they would be useful for anything other than small trimming in an urban area where noise might be a factor.

Dig the stumps out or curse at them for the next ten years. They will be in the way when you grade, rake, aerate, or anything else and after they rot they can (again, in GA) cause a fungus that can only be remedied by soil removal and replacement- quite expensive- or waiting another 20 years for it to spread out. Kind of like an oil spill in the ocean, it will eventually dilute untill not a problem.

You did not say what size your yard is. Ballpark guess for 1/4 acre yard- $5,000- $10,000 for a contractor or the equivalent of sweat equity.

Just my perspective as a Georgia Certified Landscape Professional.

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Old 06-16-2008, 08:43 AM   #3
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How To Prepare Yard for Lawn?


As downunder suggested, without the necessary tools you will spend all of your time working hard and have little to show for your efforts except a sore body. A contractor will be able to dig out and haul away the stumps and loosen and grade the soil.
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Old 06-17-2008, 05:44 AM   #4
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Just to add,chainsaws are not intended for use below grade. You will quickly become frustrated if you try to cut the stumps as it will dull the chain immediately,there is no way to get all the dirt off the stumps to do this with a chainsaw, that is what stump grinders were made for,or you can do it the old fashioned way and use a shovel and an ax.
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Old 06-17-2008, 03:20 PM   #5
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I'm a true DIY'er but even I hire out land clearing. A dozer, skidsteer and trackhoe get a lot done in little time.
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Old 07-24-2013, 03:03 AM   #6
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the lawn doctor is here they are right hiring professional is costly and if your inexperienced it can be time consuming and frustrating at some points in time i would suggest taking it one step at a time have someone with experience come in and give u some guidance before u start ripping things out because before u know it things could get out of hand and end up not knowing where to start or where to end and call for help.

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