Ideas for levelling an uneven sward?

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DanielCoffey

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Ideas for levelling an uneven sward?
« on: May 20, 2018, 18:29 »
I would like to pick your collective brains on the most effective way of levelling an uneven sward that we are responsible for on our new property.

The area I am looking at is about 750m2 of former paddock and it was used by horses until the end of 2016.

Since it is deep clay soil they have left deep holes all over it from the weight of their hooves on the wet clay in the winters. It is covered by moss, grass and mixed low flowering stuff with sparse rushes and is now inside my new fence line.

During 2017 I mowed it with a mulching mower when the weather permitted and the sward has thickened considerably once it was no longer being grazed or trodden on. The rushes have reduced too. It is in significantly better condition than the other side of the fence which is still badly trodden clay with poor grass due to the presence of the horses.

The issue is not what my 750m2 is covered in - I am happy for the mixed sward to remain - it is the uneven surface. This makes it hard to mow because the mower front wheels drop down into the hoof holes and the blade bogs down on the grass and moss.

I am considering the following to remedy the surface...

EITHER very heavy top dressing with sand and light soil and waiting for the grass to grow through. This would require a vast quantity of material to be delivered and spread...

OR rotavate the heck out of it for the whole of this season (yes, I have a two-wheel tractor with large rotavator) and then reseed the entire surface in "flowering lawn mix" very late in the autumn.

OR just leave it, struggling with the mower until hopefully the sward thickens so much it closes the gaps over the holes.

If I decide to rotavate it, I do have two questions for the horsey types among us. Given that the paddock on the other side of the fence is in active use by horses I would assume that using any form of herbicide on my portion would be totally out of the question, yes? Also, what would be the likely response of the paddock owner if I were to sow Yellow Rattle to help weaken my side?

We are under no time constraints at all here and I would rather do it right.

Opinions please?

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sunshineband

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Re: Ideas for levelling an uneven sward?
« Reply #1 on: May 21, 2018, 09:59 »
This is only my personal view... I am sure there will be lots of schools of thought!

Maybe rotovate the worst area and reseed as you suggested, bearing in mind that almost everything already there will regrow after rotovating anyway. This would enable you to see how well this goes.

Take the weather forecast into account though as rotovated clods set like concrete in dry conditions and if you are to have a level surface you will need to rake over at the very least.

Not sure if that helps but it is what I'd do.  ;)
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DanielCoffey

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Re: Ideas for levelling an uneven sward?
« Reply #2 on: May 21, 2018, 20:16 »
Multiple rotavator passes was my first thought too. The rear-tine rotavator I have will bust up any clay clods without issue but I will give the surface a light pass with a part-filled roller when I have reseeded it.

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sunshineband

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Re: Ideas for levelling an uneven sward?
« Reply #3 on: May 22, 2018, 18:07 »
Multiple rotavator passes was my first thought too. The rear-tine rotavator I have will bust up any clay clods without issue but I will give the surface a light pass with a part-filled roller when I have reseeded it.

Good luck. Hope it works

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DanielCoffey

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Re: Ideas for levelling an uneven sward?
« Reply #4 on: May 24, 2018, 20:54 »
Phew - you were not joking when you said clay soil set like concrete when dry!

I tried to go over an area near the house where repeated passage by a tracked digger had squashed dips that collected water when it rained. The raised centre was fine but all I could do with the track lanes was loosen the rocks and hardcore that were in the top layer, throw up a load of dust and skid over the compacted clay pan underneath. I'll have to wait till we have had some rain the previous day.

An hour of work and I managed to make one pass over about 400m2. I'll stone pick next then do it again once it has had a wetting.

I have not touched the grassy paddock area yet either as it too is dry and the grass is getting long with flowering stalks. I'll do a mower pass first on that lot. I am glad I don't react badly to pollen.

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sunshineband

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Re: Ideas for levelling an uneven sward?
« Reply #5 on: May 24, 2018, 22:29 »
Looks like a long old job there. It'll be a fine balance to get that point of balance between slimy, slippery clay and concrete.

And stone picking, don't mention stone picking  :lol: :lol:

Do make sure you have a plan for all those stones or you'll put them in one place and then have to move them all we used our first "mountain" as hardcore for a patio area, and the ongoing bucketsful every week to line the inside of our wire fences to make it less attractive for rabbits to burrow in (despite already having the wire buried in the ground with an out-turn 6ins below the surface

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DanielCoffey

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Re: Ideas for levelling an uneven sward?
« Reply #6 on: May 25, 2018, 15:25 »
Yes we have rabbits but they are not pests (yet) because we are not growing anything (yet).

In fact we have pretty much the full set... rabbits, wood pigeons (of course), pheasant, dove, partridge and roe deer. So far the rabbits have ignored the 50-pack of bare root hawthorn I planted last winter because it has the plastic spirals and the roe deer are a bit leery about approaching the house that closely. When the trees go in, it may be another matter. If they chew through a tall standard oak, we'll be needing professionals to make sure there is venison on someone's menu.

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sunshineband

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Re: Ideas for levelling an uneven sward?
« Reply #7 on: May 25, 2018, 16:38 »
Yes we also have pheasants, mice, voles, rats, moles, wood pigeons and the occasional deer, as well as the usual range of insect pests.

Sometimes I marvel that we have any crops at all in the face of such adversity  :lol: :lol: :lol:

We do grow a lot under enviromesh, debris netting or bird netting, and use snappy traps in the polytunnels. The latest in our armoury is a solar powered gadget with an underground spike that emits a regular vibrating buzz, to encourage moles to move away. I'll let you know how effective it is!
« Last Edit: May 25, 2018, 16:43 by sunshineband »

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Rocinante

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Re: Ideas for levelling an uneven sward?
« Reply #8 on: June 14, 2018, 13:47 »
I have a simular problem having been invaded by a very unhelpful ground worker who must be related to the moles that brought up the rear. I was quoted ridiculous amounts of money to level and reseed it, its just under half acre so prices where probably justified. Did some sums and it came about that for a bit more money i can buy a two wheeled tractor from BCS with a Power Harrow and do it myself and end up with some useful kit. So waiting for the Autumn to get going and hopefully next year have something that looks like a lawn.
Regards,
Roccinante

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DanielCoffey

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Re: Ideas for levelling an uneven sward?
« Reply #9 on: June 14, 2018, 13:57 »
Despite the bad weather we have had yesterday and today, South Ayrshire is still as dry as a bone. It gave us a few hours of light rain and an inch below the surface is still dry and powdery.

I may have to invest in a stand sprinkler and deliberately soak one area, rotavate it and move round.

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sunshineband

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Re: Ideas for levelling an uneven sward?
« Reply #10 on: June 16, 2018, 11:04 »
Despite the bad weather we have had yesterday and today, South Ayrshire is still as dry as a bone. It gave us a few hours of light rain and an inch below the surface is still dry and powdery.

I may have to invest in a stand sprinkler and deliberately soak one area, rotavate it and move round.

Or just wait of course  :nowink:

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Goosegirl

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Re: Ideas for levelling an uneven sward?
« Reply #11 on: June 22, 2018, 12:03 »
I also agree with rotovating, plus get some coarse sand and grit to mix in with your clay soil to help improve drainage.
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DanielCoffey

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Re: Ideas for levelling an uneven sward?
« Reply #12 on: June 22, 2018, 12:41 »
The drainage seems to be OK now it has rested for a season. Last year was terribly wet in Scotland of course but we have added field drains.

Now I just have to do the next round of stone picking then the rotavating before it dries out again. The test bit of rotavating worked well and has given me a soft and level surface. My roller has arrived and will be part-filled with water to press it a little after seeding.

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jezza

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Re: Ideas for levelling an uneven sward?
« Reply #13 on: July 31, 2018, 17:16 »
Hello  before doing any work on the land make sure it's not still registered as agricultural land  I know some one who fenced a horse paddock off for a garden  then had problems with DEFRA   jezza

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DanielCoffey

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Re: Ideas for levelling an uneven sward?
« Reply #14 on: July 31, 2018, 18:52 »
Fortunately we are OK - while I can't build a dwelling on that part, it is properly attached to me when we went through the purchase. Our neighbours have the same restriction in that only part of their plot is available for a dwelling too... the rest has to be "gardens/utility/woodland".



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