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I just bought a house and the yard is a disaster. The yard is full of weeds and is not level. I would like to get rid of the weeds, level the yard and put down sod. What is the most effective way to remove the weeds and level the yard? I'm looking for an alternative to using a pick axe.
 

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I live in Philly and the yard is very mature. The soil is Moderately moist and not sandy at all. Everything I plant seems to do really well
 

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Too Short? Cut it Again!
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Spray the weeds with something like RoundUp and let it do its thing. Then rent a heavy duty rototiller and turn the soil over, folding in ammendments at the same time. Level everything off.

Apply a starter fertilizer if you are going to seed. Apply seed, top dress, roll lightly and water until all of it germinates (perennial rye will pop in about a week and blue grass, fescue and so forth may take 21-30 days).

If installing sod? Same basic prep. Ask the sod farm for feeding recommendations. Lay the sod with staggering the joints and making them as tight as possible. Make sure you have a person going right behind you to start watering and that the sod is no more than a day or so from harvest---especially this time of year. Roll the sod into contact with the prepared soil. Water so as to keep the sod layer alive but not so much that you drown it or for such a short period of time you do not get water to the soil underneath . Your goal is for it to transplant its roots into the topsoil. Do not underestimate the amount of watering needed. Sod lawns can take as much or more as seed ones to establish. Try not to walk on the sod unless you have to do so.

Mow tall. Water early in the day so grass blades are dry and unattractive to bugs and fungus.
 

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Hire a landscaper to come through with a harley rake (http://harleyrakesonline.com/). You might be able to rent a machine with it if you find it cheaper. This will level off the yard beautifully. I would do this before you deal with the weeds as opening up the soil surface will inherently attract new weeds to the equation. Once the lawn is harley raked, then spread grass seed, weed killer, fertilizer, etc.
 
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