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Kent

Soil loosening question...

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Kent
Dave, I was thinking more of having something like the Cub folks do with their "plow days" with everyone bringing their own "picnic lunch on the ground" in addition to their tractors and implements.... :<) Kent

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PatRarick
I would say it depends a lot on the type of soil. I did about the same thing that you are thinking of, last fall. I used my moldboard plow first, then tilled it a couple of times. Pat

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gretsch
I use a bobcat (high lift to heavy for fixed yards). Remove the topsoil (if you have any) and pile off to the side. Dig out the remaining dirt/clay and place where you want;ie: dig out humps and use to fill in low places, ect..You need a bucket with teeth for this. It can also be used to remove shrubs and small and/or rotten stumps. Bring your topsoil back and spread (smooth bucket in float mode will do wonders). Plow or till for seeding. Note: big stumps can be dug out around, bark chopped off, and chaisaw below grade. You really don't want a bobcat or backhoe on you lawn for a year or two to allow for the soil to settle. Hardest part is right mix of seed(s), fertilizer, and mother nature.

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beamer
I agree with Pat. For minor humps/hills and low spots. I would plow to flip the sod, then till, then box blade. Especially if you can let the flipped sod rot a little. Seems like the box blade could collect the rocks to be dropped off to the side without getting out of the tractor. We have clay here and this method works good (no rocks though). You'll want to keep as much original top soil so you wont be constantly fertizling your yard. Green manure keeps nitrogen in the soil. Works for me. Beamer

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Kent
Has anyone ever tried to use a rear cultivator or something like that to loosen unplowed land? I want to completely redo my back yard (maybe afterwards it could be called a lawn), and I'm looking for some way to loosen the soil & sod a bit so I can use either my heavy-duty dozer blade or Johnny Bucket for grading work... another club member has even offered my a loan of his grader blade... I'll eventually till the top of it before rolling and sowing grass, but I'd prefer to till after some of grading has taken place. I think this might work better, because in some places I'll need 6" - 8" of fill. I'm afraid that if all that is "fluffy, tilled soil" that I'll never get it rolled and packed enough so that it won't settle and leave me with hills and valleys after a while. I think filling and rolling with untilled soil would work best -- plus the more tilling I must do, the more rock-picking I must do... and that's not my favorite pasttime.... I've even thought of plowing the whole thing with my moldboard plow, then levelling it, then tilling it to sow... The thing with using the plow is that it seems an "all or nothing" kind of approach -- you couldn't just work on the high spots. I finally got to look at one of the aftermarket rear box blades at Home Depot, and it looks pretty lightweight to me -- I'm not sure it would be up to the job of loosening soil. Moving and spreading it, yes, but perhaps not for loosening sod.... Was wondering if a rear cultivator with narrow shoes rather than sweeps might work.... Any suggestions? http://simpletractors.com/images/b_attachments_images/cult_spec1_small.jpg

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ka9bxg
Last year I had to loosen up some soil with lots of rocks 6 inches to 2 ft large.I used my clultivator off from my walk behind with the adapator hitch.Took a while but it did work.I used my old wonderboy 700 for it.Bobcat would not touch it unless I put the forks on and used it as a plow.Farmall A with mounted plow would not even go in.Good luck Bob

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Tuffy
The rear cultivator is not for breaking sod. It is for cultivating row crops which are in the ground and need tilling to remove weeds and loosen soil. You will never get the cultivator to break the sod - it is too tough and the cultivator is too wide a swath; it will bite in and your tractor will spin out and/or get stuck. A box scraper is a good idea but you need one (and a tractor) big enough to move an adequate amount of soil. I tackled a similar project and the end solution was a friend came in with a back hoe an loader to do the crude re-alignment. Then I followed with my 710 and grader; then roller to finish the job. good luck. Steve

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Sandy
A lot of it depends on how much sod you are planning on having lay around after you've "skimmed" it. That sod makes up a good portion of what you'll be dealing with. If the weather conditions are right (meaning sloppy and loose) you can take off that whole top 3" layer and go to town on just relatively loose dirt, but you'll have a mess afterwards unless you immediately set that top layer (sod) back in place. The proper weather is key to this approach (right after a good frost when things are real loose). If you've got tiller enough to slowly do the whole top layer and move things around and reseed that's another option. I've found when you get some big piles made up with the skimming the top method that having a snow plow truck around to push some of that heavy stuff off in the woods is best. (I've seen the pictures of your house). Have a couple loads of topsoil brought in, level it, reseed and be done with it. That sod is one of your biggest obstacles, it clings together and gets real heavy, real quick. Once you get below that things are relatively loose. With a couple of strategically placed loads of topsoil you'd be much better off and not have to worry about the rocks much. I know you want to do it with your tractor, but a rental Bobcat does this in one afternoon.

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Kent
Thanks for the input. It's not so much an issue of using my tractors as it is timing and weather. I have a friend with a 40HP Kubota with loader and backhoe who's done work for me twice in the back already, digging the new ditch, initial gradework, etc. I plan to have him remove some shrubs and stumps with his backhoe this spring.... My biggest challenge is timing and weather. I work at the base two weekends a month, and all too often it's rainy when I have a weekend off -- my co-workers jokingly use my schedule as their weekend weather forecast... With my luck, my scheduled vacations aren't usually much better. Trying to schedule a piece of rental equipment for a weekend (they're busy here on weekends and you typically need to reserve your weekend rental 2 or 3 weeks in advance) or get my neighbor there when I'll be there and the sun is shining is about as difficult as getting all the stars to line up. In comparison, my tractors are sitting there waiting on me and any sunshine that might occur.... I may just have to till the whole thing to chop the sod up and go from there. I want to bring in a couple of loads of screened loam (not cheap here, where you must screen out the New England stone crop), but I'd like to use that expensive stuff for topsoil, not fill dirt in low spots... You can't buy fill dirt here without getting at least 1/3 rocks.... I was thinking of spreading this purchased, screened topsoil for the final gradework, just prior to sowing. I was thinking a cultivator with narrow shoes might work -- I know you can get them down to about 2" in width. They're also fully adjustable on the bar, or you could remove some and use only two or three if that's all you could pull -- kind of like a "mini-subsoiler". If I could cut through the sod, I think that would be enough....

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arnoldir
Kent, If you dont want to bring in topsoil, then the only way to get really good results is to till the heck out of it 2-3 times first, then do your grading. This brakes up all the sod clumps. However if you have lots of weeds, rent a sod cutter and toss the top layer in the woods. If you till throughly, then let it sit for a week and get rained on, all the rocks will float up to the surface (don't ask how ?) then rake them off and do the grading. I have a Troybuilt Horse tiller, and always start lawn renovations the day after a heavy rain (wet soil tills better). after the first tilling I wait till it dries out and then go back and cross till it (two passes at right angles) down as far as the machine goes. Final grading is done with the snow blade on my 6216, or a Brinley - Hardy box grader on my Model V Walker (works great). After final grading, I seed it and then work it in with 36" aluminum landscape rake. Final step is to roll the whole thing with the riding roller sulky behind the Walker, but a tractor and tow roller works just fine if you have turf tires on the tractor.

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TomSchmit
If you decide to use your own tiller, there is a way to make the operation much smoother: Bring in a load of topsoil now (while soil is frozen) and spread a medium (2" to 3")layer over the sod. The grass plants will begin to rot underneath the topsoil, and the roots and stems will chop up much more easily with the tiller! I have renovated my whole yard, and know from experience. Even if the turf is killed with Round-Up, the roots and stems remain tough and very difficult to till. If you bury them for a few weeks, they chop up nicely. That way, you do not have to scrap off the sod and handle it separately. You will, however, still have to deal with the mud! Tom in Milwaukee

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Sandy
Those sloppy weekends can work to your advantage when it comes time for the loader. Then again, it may be big enough that you don't need to worry about that. If you've got a place in the woods to dump all that topsoil, have him push it out there and smooth it somewhat. Have your topsoil brought in and level it out with your ractor before it becomes to hard. Then you can use your cultivator, disc etc. to really smooth things out before reseeding. That sod doesn't look like much until you try to tangle with it with a small tractor, you could wind up stuck in that obstacle all summer, literally. It'll stop you dead in no time unless you've got a loader to pick it up and move it around. If you don't want a big mess in the back woods from all the sod, the best thing is to till it under and start from scratch although you will have to decide if a couple loads of topsoil will be too much fill then. You might even be able to fill in that area next to the house you worked so long in in the pictures to smooth that out with that excess sod. Either way, you'll have tons of material with 3" of sod from your yard to put somewhere and smooth over or fill in somehow. I don't think in a couple years after all the grass has decomposed that it'll be near as big as it was when you first put it there though although it will still be a substantial amount. Another very important pont, Make sure you're grade goes away from the house. In a big storm you could have torrential rains in you basement if you're not careful.

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Kent
Tom, that's a great tip to kill off the sod and partially decompose it before tilling. Then, I'd only need to till down through the existing sod layer, which shouldn't be nearly as bad. I know there's lots of rocks in what's there now, and I don't want to till deep and bring any more of them up to the surface than I can avoid. It wouldn't "dilute" the good topsoil too much either, since you'd only be mixing the 2-3" new topsoil layer with the 3-4" existing sod/topsoil layer. Once mixed up well, I could grade this into the low spots.... That just might work, if I can get topsoil in the winter.... Kent

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Sandy
I'll just reiterate what I said at the end of my last post. The idea of spreading topsoil on it now and tilling it under come spring sounds terrific unless you get higher than the natural progression of rain water to run into your house. It may look good until you have a big storm. I hope you're catching my drift. It could be a disaster in the making.

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Dutch
Kent, You got a lot of good advice. Bottom line is, your "B" doesn't have what it takes to do any extensive site work. Now, if all these guys would get away from their keyboards and visit you with a pick axe and shovel.................

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Kent
I'm not worried about drainage -- it might fill the woods full of mud, though.... Another reason that I don't want to try a "big tractor" on this is that there's two septic tanks buried in this hillside back yard, not being used. I don't want to break into them, nor do I want to remove them with Massachusetts environmental protection laws... let sleeping dogs lie! A Bobcat might be safe, but not a front-end loader....

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