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15231 posts

Uber Geek


  # 1246073 25-Feb-2015 08:11
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I took out a load of clay and put in 10-15cm of topsoil, with heaps of drainage. The clay seems to have become mixed with the soil somehow, in places at least.

539 posts

Ultimate Geek

  # 1246080 25-Feb-2015 08:21
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timmmay: I took out a load of clay and put in 10-15cm of topsoil, with heaps of drainage. The clay seems to have become mixed with the soil somehow, in places at least.

I worry that topsoil only may in time compact down (especially on a well used lawn) and become "clay like". That's why I plan to work a lot of pumice with some organic compost into the tilled clay.


835 posts

Ultimate Geek


  # 1246121 25-Feb-2015 09:03
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Clay and silt particles will bind with other particles.  That's not a huge problem in a lawn as long as there are enough macropores for hydraulic  conductivity to still move water through the soil so you have even growth.  A garden is different, you need roots to go down much further in a garden.

222 posts

Master Geek

  # 1246169 25-Feb-2015 09:38
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Deeper rooted grass will always be better than shallower roots. One thing about Auckland is you can guarantee you lawn will be at satuation point during June to August :P
Not really a fan of the ryegrass lawn. They look good for a year or two then turn to weeds. Timmmay have you tried some applications of gypsum? 

5385 posts

Uber Geek

  # 1246220 25-Feb-2015 10:54
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Worms and other burrowing creatures will do this.  Over time they will work organic matter down into the soil increasing the top soil depth, and aerating the soil too. 

To encourage soil improvement you can use natural (e.g. blood and bone) rather than chemical fertilisers, avoid herbicides and try a very light mulch mow one a month or so, followed by wetting the grass down.

timmmay: I took out a load of clay and put in 10-15cm of topsoil, with heaps of drainage. The clay seems to have become mixed with the soil somehow, in places at least.


5385 posts

Uber Geek

  # 1246230 25-Feb-2015 11:10
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The trick is to create conditions that allow the ryegrass to thrive and deny weeds the opportunity to grow.

- Don't let the soil dry out, because dry conditions favour clovers and weeds with tap roots like dandelion.
- Feed a natural source of nitrogen (blood and bone, fish fertiliser etc), because low nitrogen conditions favour clovers.
- Keep it slightly long (~50mm) this will ensure a dense 'canopy' of rye grass that makes it hard for weeds to establish.
- Mow light and often.

Not really a fan of the ryegrass lawn. They look good for a year or two then turn to weeds.


222 posts

Master Geek

  # 1246249 25-Feb-2015 11:28
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Problem with Ryegrass is that it doesn't regenerate if it dies and can tend to thin out. It ideally requires overseeding now and then and regular fertiliser.
The best cutting height ive found for it is around 25mm.
Beauty about it is that it can look fantastic like the photo below.

Another issue I have found with ryegrass is that during winter they tend to hold more water and more damage from earthworm activity. Not 100 percent why its wetter but tend to think its from the extra water required in the summer.

I used to be a huge fan of ryegrass but now more interested in colonial bentgrass and fine fescue.


3267 posts

Uber Geek


  # 1246750 25-Feb-2015 22:55
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Here is some useful info on applications for different grasses.  It states fine fescue is not recommended for Auckland due to susceptibility to fungus from high humidity.  There are new veriaties that claim to tolerate it better, but better does not mean good.  Also says rye grass needs daily watering in Summer.  Tall fescue is a good option for relatively low maintenance.

You can never have enough Volvos!

222 posts

Master Geek

  # 1246775 26-Feb-2015 07:04
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I found rye grass is just as susceptible to the diseases. Problem with ryegrass is weeds like Kikuyu and Paspalum cant be removed selectively with herbicide.
When we moved into our house a couple of years ago the backyard had never been mowed or looked after. It was full of Kikuyu. There was no topsoil and it was mega compacted. Not even the weeds could grow in some areas.

I had a big family event over a Christmas and the wife gave me the ultimatum to get it sorted. The beauty about the ryegrass was I seeded it in October and had a lawn by Christmas. Its only 60m2 so I hand weeded it but over the year it got more and more weeds and the kikuyu took over again. I am going to spray and seed it with fescue shortly as I can easily control kikuyu with Haloxyfop.

539 posts

Ultimate Geek

  # 1247210 26-Feb-2015 17:22
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Niel: Here is some useful info on applications for different grasses.  It states fine fescue is not recommended for Auckland due to susceptibility to fungus from high humidity.  There are new veriaties that claim to tolerate it better, but better does not mean good.  Also says rye grass needs daily watering in Summer.  Tall fescue is a good option for relatively low maintenance.

Spoke to the turf grower who has been growing turf for many years just round the corner from where I live. He reckons fine fescue will be fine.

292 posts

Ultimate Geek

  # 1278373 7-Apr-2015 14:38
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Thread bump.

Thought I would post in here rather than make another lawn thread.
3 weekends ago I hired a rotary hoe/rear tine tiller to churn up what was a carpark made of mostly stone with some dirt (about 70% stone, 30% dirt). Obviously this was in no way suitable for sewing a lawn, but was great for drainage.
So I ordered 3 cubes of top soil to cover the area with about 10cm or so of top soil, and then rolled out some tall fescue woolgro on top of that. That was a hard day.

That was just over 2 weeks ago now. The lawn is a lawn of two halves right now. One half is sprouting nice and thick and dense, the other... well it's like my head... a bit bald. Grass is coming through but very thin... maybe 6 - 7 blades per 10x10cm square?
This half doesn't have quite so good drainage - after a 15 minute watering from the sprinkler, quite a few puddles form - but they do drain away within 10-15 minutes.  

But my biggest problem at the moment is I made a grave mistake in ordering cheap top soil.
Weeds. Lots, and lots, and lots of weeds. 

I'll let this picture do the explaining...

Any ideas?

15231 posts

Uber Geek


  # 1278427 7-Apr-2015 15:11
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Let the weeds grow, roundup them, dig them in. Then do it again, let them grow, roundup, dig them in. Then sow grass again. You can't spray at this grass age and I suspect this will be a better solution than letting everything grow then killing off weeds and planting more grass later.

539 posts

Ultimate Geek

  # 1278462 7-Apr-2015 15:53
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I really should update this thread with how I went with my own lawn. WARNING: Super long post follows.

tdlr: Lawn has been laid. Was a huge amount of physical work. At a guess 100+ hours of labour. Grass is growing, need a couple more sprinklers. All good.

It took almost two months but I got there in the end.

Before doing anything I sat down with Microsoft Visio to draw an irrigation plan (after measuring the lawn by tape measure) to get a semi-accurate area calculation to identify how much grass and soil I needed and to calculate irrigation requirements.

Much like Jeeves I had carpark soil (aka subdivision soil). I did the initial breaking in of the soil by hand with a pitch fork and spade. My lawn size was 65m but this was incredibly hard work given how compacted the soil was. I probably only took it down to 1-2 feet at this stage. Beyond that point there were just tonnes of stones and rocks, and below that layer solid clay.

There was an abundance of good quality soil from where the former owner had created additional gardens sitting above ground level. These gardens were boxed in and of around 3 feet in height. I was told by neighbours that she spent thousands $$$ on several truck loads of quality soil.

My first step was to remove the garden areas, then I decided I had to make room for the good soil by removing the bad soil underneath it. This was a tortuous task of keeping the good soil on the sides whilst I dug up and removed the clay and rocks which I then filled up a 5m pink skip bin. I then moved the good soil to the already tilled area and then removed the clay and rocks from beneath the garden areas.

Over a week and a half I filled up the 5 cubic metre skip bin with "bad soil" and rocks etc. I also made two additional trailer runs to the dump so all in all perhaps 7-8m of soil removed. All done by hand wheel barrow by wheel barrow.

After this I realised that I hadn't gone down deep enough to free up and de-compact the existing soil given the depth I would have to go down with the sprinkler bodies. So I hired a rotary hoe and spent the weekend with this bad boy. The smaller one I hired gave up the ghost (possibly due to not being serviced regularly) and I was provided a much larger self-drive unit. I spent around 8 hours using this to retill the ground (and to a greater depth). This also allowed me to mix in the remaining good soil with the underlying soil.

I then had in total 5m of pumice sand and 2m of basic (not weed free) top soil delivered. I added the Pumice sand on top of the good soil. At this point the fine fescue was delivered. I spent an hour talking to the turf grower who recommended that I mix the sand and soil together (including the additional top soil i had purchased) to avoid "dry layers". The turf grower also spent a good amount of time looking at my irrigation plan and giving me excellent solutions to a potential undersupply of water flow.
I did this soil prep all by hand but this wasn't too hard as everything was nice and loose by this stage. I also added in two bags of organic fertiliser which I mixed in by hand.

For irrigation I went with Hunter Pop ups (just the standard sprinkler bodies at around $6.00 each) with standard nozzles ($3.00 each). The MP rotators look great but are almost 10x more expensive. I got a plumber to install a take off valve before the mains supply entered the house which importantly mean I bypassed the pressure relief valve into the house. I then purchased a 50m roll of 25mm MDPE (Poly blue) pipe. I probably went overkill on the hose but felt safer that this hose and MDPE connections could deal with full mains pressure without any problems.

I spent about a full day (spread across Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning) installing the irrigation system. This was quite fiddly as I avoided using any connectors (except for connecting tees for the sprinkler bodies to screw onto the feed pipe) such as a right angled connector around bends, instead I just looped the hose around corners. I did this to avoid pressure/flow loss.

I kinda messed up the depth of the irrigation hose and sprinklers in some spots as they were laid slightly too deep, as I discovered after I had installed the lawn. I can remedy this by changing from 100mm to 150mm sprinkler bodies at a later date. All the sprinklers still do the job but a couple are sub surface by an inch or two. All in all I installed 10 sprinklers.

I spent Sunday afternoon and evening finally laying the lawn after spreading some fertiliser the turf grower gave me. I only did around 50m of my lawn as I was completely spent on the Sunday evening and there wasn't enough light left. I laid the remaining backstrip on the following Wednesday evening after work aided by an external work light. This small section took around 4 hours.

Currently the lawn is growing really well in the first 50m area. It is only this area where there are sprinklers. I ran the sprinklers evening and morning everyday for around a week.
I had to delay installation of sprinklers of the backstrip as I need to purchase some specialist MP rotator nozzles for this long rectangular area. In addition I don't think there is enough flow/pressure to run the 10 existing sprinklers with the additional 2 required for the backstrip. So I will need to install a Solenoid valve and get an irrigation controller to manage these two areas. I've been hand watering the backstrip section but it is a bit dry and is still struggling to establish itself (my fault/laziness). My lawn is also complicated by lawn areas under eaves which doesn't get any rain exposure. I will address this with an irrigation controller and section off several zones which will still need some watering over winter.

In total my spend:
Soil - $650
Lawn $500 ( at $5.75 + GST per metre I thought this was incredibly competitive with other suppliers and even woolgro.
Soil removal $550
Rotary hoe $ 120.00
Irrigation $350.00 (  the cheapest in NZ as far as I could find, and also great on the phone to give advice pre-purchase)
Labour $200.00 (student hired for several half days of work)

True total: $2500.00

All in all I'm pretty happy. Fine fescue looks amazing, soft fine leafed grass. Some dry patches where the grass has not taken. But not so many on the main irrigated area. More on the backstrip.
It's been 3 weeks since the lawn was laid and I still haven't done my first mow yet, mainly because I haven't got around to sharpening my mower blade. The ground level is a bit lumpy however as my leveling off and final compacting of the soil before laying the lawn was pretty poor. Annoyed that I missed out on a cheap used Orbit irrigation controller on Trademe :p.

To do list:
Cut grass
Level off/flatten
Install irrigation controller and 3-4 Solenoid valves
2 x MP Rotator strip sprinklers
Backflow device

If I had to do it again I would:
Hire a mini digger excavator rather than do all the initial digging by hand.
Find a mechanized method to screen for rocks/stones.
Hire a bigger bin or two 5m bins.
Invest in Powerade stock before starting the project.
That's all.

It was really hard physical work but actually really enjoyable. My back hasn't felt so strong in years.

3267 posts

Uber Geek


  # 1278670 7-Apr-2015 21:03
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I'd add that you could let fresh top soil settle for a month (with watering it) before putting down lawn, which also lets the weeds come up so you can spray them (twice) or rotary hoe (twice).

You can never have enough Volvos!

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