Lawns are insane. Think about it. The focus is to combat nature in order to flaunt a sense of “order” over your property. Established between the 16th and 17th centuries in Europe, lawns were a way to flex how much cash an estate had by being able to oversee a piece of land that was utterly useless. In the US, lawns have become an incredibly expensive act of conformity. Grass turf is the most grown crop in the U.S. but provides no tangible value other than happiness. The last two years, I painted my patchy grass with LawnStar Grass paint. I would recommend it for anyone trying to fill in bare spots. However, this year I was focused on a more long term solution. Lawns are expensive but you can fix a front yard for less than $1000.
Admittedly, this is going to hurt but it will save you a serious amount of cash. You’ll see in the picture below that I dug about 6 inches down with a shovel. I did this across the majority of my lot which is about 800 sq ft and disposed of the dirt. You can use a tiller to basically rotate the soil and then spray a bunch of non-selective pesticides over the entire area to make sure everything is dead. I did this as well and used Roundup Grass and Weed Concentrate. My goal was pretty much Armageddon on the front lot. On an 800 square foot lot, the total effort for this was about 20 working hours.
Compost, Top-Soil, Leveling:
This is a little less brutal and you can actually start to visualize some of the returns. I ordered compost using this compost calculator to fill in the dug up lot. Compost basically creates an organic foundation for your soil and grass. It is of such a higher quality than old dirt and it is relatively inexpensive. The compost ran me $200 for the entire lot with delivery included. You really should not plant or sod directly onto compost because it can create bad drainage issues so I ordered top soil as well, which cost me $100 with delivery. Basically, fill the lot in with compost. Lay down topsoil on top. Mix it up. Level it out.
Remember that if you order sod, it will have about 1 inch of depth to it. You’ll want to level for about 1 inch underneath where you want you grass roots to start. So, say you are next to a sidewalk, you would want to level at about 1 inch beneath the level of the top of the sidewalk. Read about the benefits of compost here.
First off, find out which grass makes sense in your area. I ordered Kentucky Bluegrass. Apparently, you can only order Sod in pallets of 500 square feet so I had to order two pallets which each cost $250.00 with delivery. Sod comes in rolls on the pallets, with each roll about 4 feet long, 2 feet wide and 1 inch in depth. Each roll is probably between 25-30 pounds so it is some heavy lifting.
You will want to roll it out so that the ends align up with the next piece of sod. You want to avoid overlap, but also not have any space between the separate pieces. You want it to fit together like a puzzle. Each row of sod should interlock as well. See a picture here.
You do not want your potential gaps in your first row to be perfectly aligned with the potential gaps in your second row so I simply offset each row by about a foot and used a utility knife to cut pieces to place in the end slots. Before placing the sod down, coat the area with a thin layer of water to add some moisture for the sod’s roots. Make sure that you have 100% ground contact between the sod and the soil, or else it will die.
Once you finish laying the down down, you will want to water it for about 15-20 minutes two times a day (morning and night) with a sprinkler system or oscillating sprinkler. I bought this one for $12.00 at Lowe’s to hold me over until I did more research on a better system. This is very important so it is worth saying. If you cannot finish laying all your sod down in one day, you still need to water what you have laid down, and you should try to water the rolls you have on the pallet still. Sod is really only good for a day or two so try to keep it in a shady area.
It’s gametime boys:
Here is what everything looks like now. I purchased a hose-splitter so that I could run two different above ground sprinklers to each side of the lawn. The splitter works exactly how you think it should. I bought two of these sprinklers from Melnor which I am really happy with. They’re lightweight and easy to use. I also cut out the top of the lawn and made a small border with these edging stones. All in all, I am very happy with the way it turned it. It is a shit-ton of work. Don’t get me wrong. I am not trying to glorify this. However, it has definitely made it more enjoyable to hang out outside and not have the neighbors hate me. Also, now I can just ignore people that ring the doorbell rather than pretending not to be home.
The whole thing cost me $958 which saved me over $1600 from the estimate I received. This allowed me to invest a few more dollars in other endeavors. Also, I am a complete idiot so if I can generally figure out how to make this look right, I have no doubt you can do the same for yourself. Lawns are expensive but you can fix a front yard for less than $1000. One last note before seeing the below, my water bill was $15 higher this month.