DIRT and lots of it - Leveling the lawn.

The goal. A totally level lawn. Here's how this process went.

And so it begins. Round Tree Landscaping supply brought this to me. They were recommended from my sprinkler guy Miguel. I'm happy that it's coming from Sacramento. I think the dirt locally has a lot more clay in it. I'm trying to get rid of that stuff. It's like concrete! AND this was cheaper than anything around here. 

I'm standing in the garage taking a picture until I realized the dust cloud was about to start. I didn't get the door completely closed before it laid down 1/2" layer of dust on everything...

And there it is.... 
12 yards of screened fill dirt. It's great dirt. I'm excited to get going on this project! 

Here we go. This is totally lower than the mow strip and especially low down the center. It was graded to have water just run through the lawn and to the drain instead of using french drains. I've changed all of that. Now it's time to raise the grade! 

I've allowed the old lawn to completely die and I am filling in dirt to level the lawn right on top. I asked a few people and did some reading and the lawn is so dead it shouldn't cause any problems just leaving it as it is. 

There are some VERY low areas in the lawn. It was all graded towards the drain. I've installed a couple of drains since the grade will now be level. 

End of day 1 of moving dirt. Moved 4-5 yards in 3 hours. Not bad for this hardworking girl!

Day 2

Making progress. More than 1/3 done and this is the deepest part of the lawn that requires the most dirt. I'm thinking the rest will go faster. Hopefully...

The pile is definitely smaller. Probably have about 3 yards left. Not going to be anywhere near enough...


This is DEEP. More than 14" in the middle. 
It's going to look great when it's all level. 
Since this is going in on top of the old existing lawn which had about 6" of combined fill, sand and top soil, there is about 2' of soil that is not native to the lot. The soil here is an awful clay that is like concrete. Will all of this new dirt, the lawn should drain very well. Hopefully this will help with the watering...

And after a hot day of moving the rest of the 12 yards, Watermelon and a huge ice water!! 

And then there's the re-do...    :-( 
I realized that the dirt was all a little too high to allow for enough top soil and the sod. so, I'm having to reduce the levels by about 2" overall. Good news is that it's making that first 12 yards go farther. So, I have to dig out a few more inches of dirt. I'm using a long 3' level as sort of a screed board to make sure it's level in all directions. Works great. 

Now I think that 4 more yards of fill dirt may finish out the leveling and then I will need 5-6 of topsoil for it to be all done! 

3" from the top of the mow strip. I'll add 2" of top soil and 1" of sod. Perfect! 

Now I need to go and rent a roller to make sure it's all compacted nicely. I've used a long level as a screed board. It's working really well, but ruining it as a level for any other purpose. It's now covered in dirt... Kinda like me. It's a dirty job. 

Round 2 - Another 12 yards. 6 more fill, 6 top soil...

Another big delivery. This day is always exciting even though I know it's the beginning of a few more days of hard labor. 

Can't wait to get to the top soil that's like black gold. 

But first to finish the fill dirt. If nothing else, this lawn will be LEVEL. I am using a 3' level as a screed board and making sure every inch of it in both directions is level. It's a lot of work on my hands and knees, but I know this will be worth it. I know 90% of any project is in the preparation, so I'm taking my time with this one. It's a big project, so lots of work on the front end. 

The fill is complete. I rented a roller from Home Depot and rolled the field dirt 3-4 times, a couple in each direction. Now it's time for top soil! 

I roll a little, then level it out, then dump more. Doing all of one thing all at once was overwhelming. This squirrel goes from one thing to another thing to another. It's working out so far...

Michael came out to check on my progress and low and behold, it started to rain!! 
Just a few sprinkles, but it was a welcome change to the 100+ temps we've been having. 

It's hot and I'm a busy girl who also has a job. So, I have to do a little here and a little there. Many days this requires a 5am Yardfit alarm and a headlamp. I can get in a good solid hour before I have to stop and get ready for adulting (shower and getting ready for work and kiddo off to school). 
My neighbors think I'm crazy... The looks I get when someone drives by and I'm out with my headlamp on, in the dark, shoveling dirt. Hey, I gotta get this done! 

Finally!! The fill dirt is all in. I only had 2.5 5 gallon buckets of dirt left over. I estimated that one a little too close. But, I nailed it!!

I rolled and rolled and also tested out the sprinklers. The edges don't get as saturated as the middle, but that's to be expected with a pieced together system and pipes that get gradually bigger as they migrate from the front yard to the back. I didn't plan this and having to work with what was here. 

I'm super happy with how it's turning out. It doesn't get more level than this, which was the goal. 

Here's the before and after...

Looks 1000 times better already!! 

Now to order the sod!