Please help: need baby steps fix to uneven ground due to moles

ellen_portland(z8 OR)January 29, 2009

Hi everyone,

I've posted before, but am getting a little desparate, due to the fact that our almost 3,000 square foot backyard has gotten much worse with ground settling over the various old mole tunnels. It is a bit hard packed and covered with old grass.

Before we bought the house it had continuing problems with moles. My husband has brought the "visitors" under control with vigilence(sp)but the backyard is now somewhat dangerous to just walk around in at times from being uneven. I've almost twisted an ankle a few times.

Money is pretty tight, especially with the economy. We don't have the savings to pay for an overhaul, especially when we want to make sure we have something in reserve in case the house itself needs a major repair.

We have a nine year old son and an almost two year old Golden Retriever who enjoy the yard and I am concerned about the risks of them or visitors running around as you can understand.

Can anyone suggest low cost ways to fix this problem? I don't know if they exist! I can get a tiller and spread dirt on my own, but the dog uses the yard regularly. I will have to do it in pieces.

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I've seen lawn rollers in the past. They are look like big barrels with a hooped handle that comes out from one end, and returns to the other end of the barrel. There is also a threaded hole where you fill them up with water to add weight.

About 2 years ago I enquired about them at a tool rental place locally. . . about $13/day to rent.

I'm not sure this would do it but it's the cheapest thing I can think of.

It might help if you saturate the lawn thoroughly so that it's softer and easier to mush down with the roller.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2009 at 6:52PM
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The concept of a roller is good - it will flatten things out - but the practice could very well create additional problems. Weight will cause soil compaction and weight on saturated soils can irretrievably damage soil structure. Soils under lawns tend to be compacted anyway, due to the amount of foot traffic they get as well as the routine use of equipment like lawn mowers, etc. And a heavily compacted soil prevents water from penetrating deeply, causes the roots of lawn grasses to stay very close to the soil surface and contributes to issues like thatch build-up, soil infertility and diseases.

Aerating the lawn (later in the season, after the soil has dried sufficiently) to alleviate compaction and then adding soil (or better yet, a fine, screened compost if you have it) to even out the low spots may be the most practical and economical approach. You could overseed at the same time if you have large areas involved or very deep depressions but the existing grass should grow through a reasonable thickness of soil or compost. And you wouldn't even have to till!

    Bookmark   January 29, 2009 at 7:22PM
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ellen_portland(z8 OR)

Thanks so much for both your replies. I had been thinking of the roller, but I hadn't thought about the compactness... and the fact that it's sunk, it probably is pretty bad. It's a very large area I guess I will have to do it in stages, I just don't want the dog to screw it up.

What would be a good, inexpensive LOL way to aerate a lawn?

    Bookmark   January 30, 2009 at 9:44AM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

Ellen, we rent an aerator (gas, plug removing type) from a local tool rental every Spring. $25/hr with a two hour minimum here - working quickly, we can do our lawn, two neighbors (smaller areas of grass), load the aerator and run it over to a friends house for his lawn, have it returned before being charged for a third hour.

We have a foot powered aerating tool for a steep slope we have in grass - it's pretty darned tedious for doing a large area though, and best used by someone with some body weight above the foot :)

I don't know what the shapes of the low areas are that you are dealing with - it wouldn't work well if you have long narrow stretches with mole runs underneath - but I've corrected ankle twisters using the X, peel, fill method...

Cut an X into the low spot with something sharp and straight (like a half-moon edging spade), peel back the sod from X center in four pieces, fill the low spot under the grass with top soil, tamping it down. Then fold the sod back, add grass seed to the 'seams' if they are too wide, water.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2009 at 11:23AM
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ellen_portland(z8 OR)

Thanks- I just checked them out at our local rental- they are $50.00 for two hours. Our yard is sort of a level pie shape with an extra rectangle attached around the back of the house. I haven't created much of a garden yet, mostly shrubs lining the fence (hope some haven't died from the snow).

Do you think a sod remover would be a silly idea? I might be stretching things a bit, but I was thinking it might remove the sod at the higher areas as we pushed it along. Maybe even re-use the sod. As if you can't tell, I am very new to all this. It needs to get done, but I feel a little overwhelmed.

I wish pictures did it justice, but the grounds really rough all over, HIGHS and lows, bumpy, uneven- but basically level (LOL) and mostly covered with a tough but decent grass.

So, aerator at the end of Winter/Early Spring? dirt/mulch in
the lows... overseed. How would you level out the high areas?

    Bookmark   January 31, 2009 at 4:30PM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

Aerate then cover the lawn with fine compost and reseed any totally bare spots.

No need to use a sod cutter.

I feel your pain, my yard has ankle twisting highs and lows. We been doing the advised method on the front lawn and it has improved a lot. The compost does settle out so you may have to do it more than once.

Aerating helps the grass as does compost so it is all good.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2009 at 9:45PM
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