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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have about 3 acres I bounce across with my Exmark and don't want to be doing this when I'm 80. This is mainly due to much of the acreage having been an orchard 50+ years ago. Recently, we had several wheelbarrows of dirt, so I tried an experiment. I put the 7' rear blade on my 30309R and ran it across some bumpy lawn, which scalped the surface. I tilled the high spots with one of those tiny Echo tillers. Then, I dumped the extra dirt at one end and pulled it across with the rear blade, which was like screeding before you lay bricks. The result was good and the only thing that took time was the edges. This led me to a plan, and I'd like to hear if someone's done something similar.

My idea is to rent a rotary tiller to automate the process and do big sections of the lawn at once.
1) Scrape with the rear blade
2) Run the rotary tiller to a height that knocks down the high spots.
3) Rake out the loose grass.
4) Run the rear blade at a height that skims the tilled high spots.
5) With now collected at the end of the row, run across again to screed the surface.

I'd do this in overlapping rows, so I just need to clean up around the edges.

Comments?
 

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Every time you do a cut and fill, and you want it to stay smooth, you want to roll it afterwards. Then it will compact the fills and create shallow dips where you filled. Then apply more fill, blade it out, and compact again
 

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The area I mow around our house, is like the Vietnam trenches and tunnels. From the moles.
I've contemplated getting a hydraulic rototiller, and turning it all under, then as you mention @Kbar getting down to the nitty gritty.
My property has more than enough high areas, I could push around to level it all out.
I've procrastinated a LOT. Mainly due to the moles. I'm afraid if I go through all the time and efforts, they'll return.
 

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I’ll say this. Every time I regrade, clear, reseed, I spend more mornings and evenings enslaved by those darn sprinklers in the summer. I’m glad the rains have returned.
 

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I have done something similar to areas of my lawn. You mention "cleaning up around the edges" I drag an old box spring from under a mattress behind my zero turn. It feathers the dirt into the lawn pretty well and makes a nice transition. This only work if you have gotten rid of all of the sod you till up. If you still have some loose sod it will clump up under the drag and make a bit of a mess.
 

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I just had it done at the house yesterday. Guy brought his 06 2730 with a drag harrow and his planter. He tilled it the previous week. Drug it yesterday, then hooked up his planter and planted the grass. Now we just wait for the rain that is supposed to come today.
 

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Im currently contemplating similar options. Ill be watching this thread for better ideas than mine!
I have a few sections that Ive reclaimed from the woods, and more coming, that I have been working to level before seeding.
I am not in a big hurry, so I have been trying a few different things here and there.
So far, what Ive learned is that its REALLY hard to get a nice level area with just the use of a tiller and bucket. Part of this, as I see it, is because the bucket only tilts when the tractor does, and a such, it can leave worse dips than a rear blade would when back dragging, since the rear blade will tilt via the 3 point, or somewhat more than the front bucket will anyway. I have not tried pushing forward with the bucket tilted up to level.
I thought that the tiller would be great at breaking up the soil and redistributing it somewhat to lower and higher areas. It does, a bit, but not enough.
I do have a very crude, and smaller, land leveler I built for the gravel drive that I plan to use on the next round. If that works even remotely well, Ill probably seed it and then do the "add dirt and level as needed" after the grass fills in well.
 

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When I had to redo part of mine last year I did the leveling with the land plane (has to dry,dry,dry). Then I rented a landscape rack to Finnish and fill of the rocks I hadpulled to the surface.
 

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Adding the topsoil without some form of compaction will lead to new bumps. Are you dealing with tire tracks in the old orchard or what is the consistent "low areas" and "high areas""?

Are all of the old tree stumps gone? As tree stumps and roots rot, they cause the ground to collapse and create bumps. If you have to take the time to dig out any old stumps or roots, in the long run its a better way for you to do it.

Make sure to use screened top soil, whether you screen the soil you have or buy it screened. There is often a lot of junk in the soil you don't want in the new lawn.

Watch the back blade isn't just following the tractor up and down over the rises, building new rises. Grading in crossing patterns and constantly changing directions should help that.

I was surprised how helpful and effective the landscape rake was in leveling the soil and cleaning it of all of junk in the lawn area. Add suitcase weights to the landscape rake if necessary to get the down force to achieve the results. You can put quite a bit of pressure on the landscape rake and not break the tines.

Make sure to call Miss Digg or whatever its called in your area to avoid any utilities which might be closer to the surface than you expect.

If you have a lot of clumps, I found a drag like this is effective in removing them. Once you use the tine down side to remove the plants, you can flip it over and smooth the ground quite consistently. The nice thing about using this is its all gravity as it drags behind the machine. I have a new one barely used I would like to sell. Its heavy, probably 175 pounds for the two sections hooked together.

 

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Two other simple things I found is when spreading top soil, its best to lift the bucket to about hood height and then dump while driving FORWARD and not when backing. Driving forward, the material spreads much more evenly and requires much less work.

Also, when using the bucket to smooth things, use the rounded part of the back of the bucket as it tends to produce smoother results.......
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
The tree stumps are long gone. What's left are irregular dips. I'll need to drag in at least two directions so the tractor doesn't create new rises. I'd been thinking about using a York rake to gather up the turf while it levels things out. Should I use a York rake or a harrow? Thanks for mentioning to drive forward when dumping the bucket; I've never tried that. When I put my bucket in float and laying flat, it does a nice job; I'll try tilting up, as you suggest, to see if this is even better.
 

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I'm curious about this too. Our lawn was relatively smooth (a heck of a lot better than the road the town maintains!) but 20 years of mowing with a garden tractor has slowly sunken/compacted the areas where the wheels track. Probably made worse when I mowed after heavy rains and the underlying soil hadn't had enough time to dry out - but sometimes mother nature doesn't cooperate and you have to do what you have to do.Where it will get interesting is, my 738 probably weighs close to twice as much as my old tractor. Twice the damage in half the time? We shall see.
 

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It's amazing what using a heavy lawn roller can do to straighten out the ruts and tire tracks from years of mowing. One of our neighbors mowed his yard for 20 years with his craftsman mower in the exact same pattern every week. He had such ruts in the lawn I felt like I was driving across speed bumps with my zero turn the first time I mowed it for the new owner. I swear his mower followed the ruts like a car at the carnival on rails. It was very annoying to mow across the ruts, so I see why he never did.

In the spring, I rolled the lawn with a lawn roller and it really helped to smooth it out. Of course soil compaction is a real issue for lawns and then I core aerated his entire lawn in a X pattern to provide easy access for water and nutrients to the grass root structure. After aerating, I used good commercial granular slow release fertilizer and it thickened the lawn significantly. I have been applying it every 60 days and his lawn is much improved. We are going to core arerate it again here this weekend.

Now, mow the lawn in alternating patterns every single week, changing about 30 degrees in angles each week. I also use a striper wheel on my zero turn, which is attached right to the rear of the mower deck to help stripe the lawn, but it also smooths the mole tunnels and other such changes which happen between mowings. The main purpose of the striping kit is to knock over all of the grass in the same direction as mowing with each pass. But it does help smooth the surface at the level I have it set.

If you have access to a serious lawn roller, one which weighs 900 pounds or more, try it on the lawn and run it in tight over lapping patterns. If the lawn roller is 5 feet wide, I would make a pass back and forth every 3 feet, making sure to cover the entire lawn several times. Roll the lawn in crossing patterns and changing direction. Just be prepared to deal with the compaction issues rolling the lawn causes, so core aeration is the ideal way to address the problem. Otherwise, the lawn will be smoother but also likely thin out as the grass roots struggle to get water and food......

When you can pull core plugs which are 3" in length, it's ideal to help improve the grass health. Any more than 3" isn't really necessary as the majority of the grass root structure is similar in depth to the length the grass is cut. That's why cutting the lawn so short in the summer causes it to die quickly, as the roots are very shallow. If you cut the grass about 3.5" on average, most of the grass roots are going to be in the very first 3" to 4" of surface depth.
 

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Unless there are some really undesirable humps you don’t want, why not have some 75/25 or even 50/50 topsoil and sand delivered. Then spread it over the existing lawn filling in the ruts as you go. A light seeding and fertilizer afterwards and water. There are YouTube videos on it. I’m planning on doing exactly that next summer/late spring. I have an I beam I’ll be dragging around to smooth it out. A chain link fence and some lumber would work also. The trick is to have something really long like 8-12 feet to span the dips and you’ll get a better finish.
 
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Sulley, you ever use a chain harrow on existing grass? I'm thinking of trying that to rip/ level out existing bumps in my lawn. While also aerating followed by an overseed.

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If you have a lot of clumps, I found a drag like this is effective in removing them. Once you use the tine down side to remove the plants, you can flip it over and smooth the ground quite consistently. The nice thing about using this is its all gravity as it drags behind the machine. I have a new one barely used I would like to sell. Its heavy, probably 175 pounds for the two sections hooked together.

Sulley, you ever use a chain harrow on existing grass? I'm thinking of trying that to rip/ level out existing bumps in my lawn. While also aerating followed by an overseed.

Sent from my SM-N981U using Tapatalk
 

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I've used a chain harrow on the lawn and it was OK for dragging a lot of loose thatch out. It was a ton of work clearing the grass out of the harrow after each pass. It nothing for ruts or high spots. I won't do it again.
 
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I'm not sure what you have down now for turf, but my experience would be you can skip your step #1. If you mow before you till, the tiller would just rip all the grass apart and mix it in. You can also skip step 3. Personally, I find it very difficult to grade with a rear blade. If you have that talent/skill, my hat is off to you. I go from tilling to the landscape rake, with gauge wheels. The landscape rake works well for grading and it also picks up large rocks and roots at the same time. Mine has a flip down blade, so ti can funtion like a back blade. I rarely utilize it, unless I have a lot concentrated material to move. At that point, I usually defer to the FEL to pick it up and move it or back drag it.
 
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I've used a chain harrow on the lawn and it was OK for dragging a lot of loose thatch out. It was a ton of work clearing the grass out of the harrow after each pass. It nothing for ruts or high spots. I won't do it again.
Interesting, I was kind of hoping the thatch would not build-up in the chains and just sluff itself off and I could just mow that back up. But, that might be a pipe dream. I don't really have ruts so much so much as almost giant worm casts. If you walk around parts of the yard you can feel, silver dollar sized humps under your feet that probably stick up an inch or more in spots make it like mowing a rumble strip. I was kind of hoping a harrow knock those down. The lawn is pretty healthy so I'd rather not start over. Maybe Sulley is right about the roller in the spring. But I have pretty staunch clay, so compacting more seems a little contradictory.
 
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