My Experiences Leveling My Lawn with Sand
I guess I should introduce myself. I have been a lurker here for several years, but have always used the site to learn and research. I never felt experienced enough to have anything useful to contribute until recently so I never joined the site.
About a year ago I purchased my first home, a foreclosure in North Georgia. It is a 4 year old house that has always had renters in it. The renters severely neglected the lawn and landscaping. Over the past year I have spent a ton of time (and a bit of money) planting shrubs and fixing the lawn.
I spent a bunch of time researching how to level my lawn and everyone has a different opinion as to the best way to do it. I am not claiming to be any type of expert, but I would like to document my experiences in leveling my lawn. Hopefully someone will find this useful as I have learned so much from the site, I am hoping to be able to give back a little to the forum.
About the Lawn:
I have somewhere around 4,000 sq/ft of Bermuda. I am unsure of the type. It is probably some cheap builder grade stuff but I am unsure. The front yard gets a ton of sun and grows great. The back yard does not get any afternoon sun and grows much more slowly. I do not have an irrigation system. I use a old honda self propelled mower.
The lawn was probably 40% weeds and 60% Bermuda. The lawn was so bumpy and rutted that I was unable to mow at 2" without bottoming out and scalping the lawn all over the place.
I spent the entire year treating the lawn for weeds and babying it to get the bermuda to thicken up. By the end of the growing season I had gotten rid of most of the weeds. The bermuda grew in nicely and looked pretty good by the middle of July, but because I had to mow it so high, it didn't grow very thick.
I decided to level the lawn. After tons of research, I was unable to find much consistent info. Some people said to use builders sand. Other people said you should never use builders sand and you should only use river sand. And other sources said that you should not use sand at all and only use top soil or a combination of top soil and sand.
I was torn as to which direction I should go. In spring of 2010 2 of my neighbors paid a company to level their lawn. Both of the neighbors yards had MASSIVE improvements. The leveling company used river sand. They explained to me all of the steps that the Leveling company took, and they told me what they liked and didn't like about the service. Their huge complaint was that after a year all of the sand had settled to the bottom leaving TONS of small pebbles everywhere. Tons! The pebbles were probably around 1/4 in diameter. The lawn was not comfortable to walk on barefooted, and it seemed like the pebbles were not allowing the grass to grow as dense as it could. They also had problems with the sand on the hills on the sides of their houses. Rain moved the sand a little and left these little ridges on the hills that looked like mini terraces. I decided that I would only spread a small amount of sand on the hills at a time to help prevent this.
From their experiences I completely marked river sand off my list. I read about 1 other person on this site that used builders sand and seemed to have great results. The links to all of his pictures were dead, and I never was able to see them, but it appeared as though everyone was impressed. After reading that post, I decided to use builders sand, and I decided that I would try and replicate everything that the Leveling company did to my neighbors lawns.
My goal is to level the lawn enough to use the lowest setting on the mower (~3/4") and have the lawn grow super dense.
April 2, 2011:
I mowed the lawn as short as I could with my Honda Mower (about 3/4"). This was the first cut for the season. The grass was just starting to show a little green. It was super time consuming between emptying the clippings every 20' and bottoming out every 2' it took me a couple hours to mow. One huge benefit to mowing the lawn short was that it helped us to more easily see the highs and lows in the lawn.
We had gotten a ton of rain in the couple days before so the ground was nice and soft. I rented a walk-behind aerator from HD, and plugged the yard pretty heavily. I broke up the plugs with a rake.
April 3, 2011
I had 5 yards of builder's sand delivered. I used my ATV to pull a large wagon, and between my neighbor and I we spread the majority of the sand in about 4-5 hours. We used a large push broom to do the majority of the smoothing. I built something to drag by had using a baseball diamond drag. I used 3'x10' chicken wire and attached a couple 4x4 posts to it and pulled it around with a rope. This helped to level it even more.
On the high spots we had the sand fairly shallow, but in some of the holes the grass was completely buried. When the neighbors had this done their lawns looked very similar. In the deep spots the sand had to fill in from the sides.
After all of the sand was spread and leveled, I set out the sprinklers for several hours. It was amazing how much the sand moved around. The water moved the sand from the high spots to the low spots. It worked great.
Once I was done watering I applied some Vigoro SuperGreen. It is a 36-0-4 if I remember correctly.
Here are some pictures of the front yard immediately after watering the lawn for the first time. My wife said she loved her new beach!!