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Rippled new lawn

Hello .

Apologies for the saga ... but:

Six weeks ago, I had a 250 square metre lawn laid. I tried to save the old lawn but it was too compacted and the grass hardly grew. The moss did well.

A local landscaper came and rotovated the old lawn. The existing lawn was rotovated into the earth and then flattened by loose raking and boarding. After this, a layer of about 3cm peat-based topsoil was applied, together with dried cakelets of chicken manure - this being loosely raked and then boarded. By boarding, I mean that a length of scaffolding board was placed on the ground and a heavy man jumped up and down on its length and then turned the board over to the adjacent bit of ground to be boarded. This was repeated until the lawn looked like a patchwork quilt. Onto the topsoil was placed newly cut turves - mostly in brick-pattern. Some of the turves were a bit wedge-shaped where the cut was not all that true. As each row of turves were laid, the scaffolding plank was placed on top and the turfer jumped up and down on it. This was repeated until all the turves were laid.

Since that time, there has been a good amount of rain and the lawn has never been allowed to dry out. In fact, we have had a little too much rain over the past week or so.

I have noticed that as the lawnmover passes across the lawn, it judders up and down frequently along the mowed length ... it is rippled. There are numerous highs and lows - probably no high nor low any more than 1-2 inches different from the flat/even bits of lawn. I have cut the grass three times - every time on maximum height setting - and I have scalped the odd high bit of lawn. There are lots of lows that look lush green.... and the lawnmower judders and bumps along where the lawn is ripply and a little uneven. Despite all this, at a distance, the lawn looks lovely and healthy and stripey!

The landscaper has assured me that when the lawn beds down, it will flatten out. In any case, he says, if it still remains bumpy, he has promised to return in a couple of months and put down top-dressing in an attempt to even out the ripples. The problem is that I have never used this landscaper before and, from the way he treats his tools, I am not sure that he will be reliable enough to return in the summer to apply the top-dressing. I have retained 20% of the agreed price until either I am satisfied that the lawn will even out over time ... or that he returns to top-dress.

I was a little unhappy with him rotavating the existing lawn, since I was under the impression that the old turf should have been cut away first. Secondly, I was under the impression that after rotavating, the soil should have been tilled and raked and trodden on until it was firm and even - that the hours spent in good preparation should have yielded a flat lawn.

Am I being too pedantic? Is my insistence on a flat lawn at this 6-week stage unreasonable? Will top-dressing the entire lawn with a dragmat or levelling tool even out my new lawn? Is summer the right time to do this (July)? What sort of mix of top-dressing should be used?

Any comments would be most helpful. I am really not feeling too good in not having paid him ... but having been let down by fully-paid builders who never came back to correct defects in my home renovation has left me a little wary ...

Re: Rippled new lawn

Hi Bish,

No, I don't think you are being pedantic at all. Yes the soil will settle a bit,but it is likely to settle relatively evenly all over, so the ripple effect will largely remain.

Why there is a ripple effect is interesting. I would think that the rotovator created bands of raised soil and these were not levelled out with a rake.

Yes, the area can be levelled with a top soil type dressing. It depends on how uneven the lawn is as to how long it will take to level it. It's best to do it in a few goes rather all at once. It's not an exact science so it's best to do a little at a time.

Re: Rippled new lawn

That was the decision I made too. Not having done this before, I just needed some support!

Re: Re: Rippled new lawn

I laid a lawn a few years ago, I never went to the extremes of the chap you had. When we moved into the house, the back lawn was awful (in fact it wasn't a lawn at all, just what looked like a builder's yard). Anyway, I dug it over by hand, roughly, then hired a chap to rotivate it. I then raked it, and then did a choo-choo motion over it. It took a couple of hours, but I got it flattened. I then ordered the turf, and laid it brick-like fashion, and I had a perfectly laid lawn. In your case, especially whilst its damp, try obtaining/borrowing a heavy roller and get the kids to use it by running it up and down the lawn over a period of a few days or more. This should do it. Me and my brothers always did this for my grand-dad (who was a gardener). The bigger the garden the better.

Re: Re: Re: Rippled new lawn

... and they tell you to keep off a newly laid lawn ...! I hired a roller and that was just about hopeless. I filled it with water - though I suspect it should have been sand. My only fear is that the lows in the lawn, being softer than the highs, are likely to get deeper with the pitter-patter of tiny feet zooming across it.

I think I've decided to wait a couple of months - say until September - and then slowly top-dress while there is some growing space between then and November. Does anyone know of a supplier of good topsoil ... or give me the ideal formula for this type of dressing so that I can go to a local supplier and ensure that I get the best stuff -- rather than graded builder's refuse??