Sod It All

Every muscle in my body hurts. We spent all day Saturday -- until after dark -- laying sod, then most of the day Sunday.

The idea was to get something down on the sand to keep the dust down. For the last several weeks, everything in the house has been coated with a fine layer of dust. That was unavoidable even if we kept all the windows and doors closed (unpleasant) because dust was blowing under the house and up through the cracks in the floors. As the basement gets closed in, we can keep some of the dust out that way, but the reality was that we had a large back yard that was producing dust all day long, especially in the evening when the wind shifts and gets a bit stronger.

So we planned to spend most of this weekend putting up fences and putting down sod. We did not take any photos during the process, because 1) too much actual work to do, and 2) the actual work involved first being coated head to toe in horse manure compost, then being coated head to toe in adobe mud. But here's basically what happened:

Saturday morning, bright and early, we got up and... for some reason, the sod truck was there. The short version of the story is that I had paid an extra 10 cents per square foot to buy sod from a place that said they could deliver in the afternoon -- Magic Gardens, in Berkeley - because we would have had better access to the site then. But the guys who actually deliver the sod don't deliver in the afternoon, so basically, they lied to me. Yes, I am angry about it. I had planned to buy a bunch of plants from Magic Gardens: some of the fruit trees and a bunch of shrubby ornamentals. But now I think I will be looking elsewhere.

After figuring out where the stupid sod truck was supposed to put this sod when we had not cleared a path for it to the yard, we went out to get the concrete mixer for doing the fence posts (seriously, renting one of these is TOTALLY worth it), the fence posts themselves, and some rakes (our heavy-duty garden rake disappeared over the winter). And, uh, 480 lbs of concrete (for setting fence posts).

We then spent a lot of time gathering random garbage from the yard, making a big pile of it, and generally preparing the areas where we planned to lay sod. At this point we were ready for sod to be delivered, only it was already delivered. Nice.

Earlier in the week I had had a pile of compost delivered by Acapulco Rock and Soil Products (who were the only people I could find who would deliver compost in Alameda), and after clearing the ground a bit, and marking the boundaries of the sod areas with orange marking paint, I began spreading compost out, little wagonload by little wagonload.

At noon, our friend Elaine showed up to help. When we had spread all the compost out, Noel ran over it with a rented rototiller, kicking up bricks and large chunks of concrete like mad. And especially that damned gravel. I'm so pissed that we had such great, rock-free soil in our yard, and now it's full of gravel. I'm basically going to need to sieve the entire yard down two feet every time I want to prepare a planting bed.

After rototilling and removing large rocks and bricks, we rolled the area with a lawn roller (everybody with a lawn should have one of these; they really do make a nice, flat surface that's easier to mow), sprinkled fertilizer on it, and began hauling rolls of sod in.

Right around dark, our friend Vanessa showed up, and we set up the work lamps and worked until we had finished a large patch. I do not recommend doing this, nor laying down sod in a hurry; I spent a good bit of time the next day re-laying all that sod because some of it was as much as a couple of inches apart, and that really looks bad.

After you lay sod, you run the sprinkler over it, then roll it. For most people, that is the last time they ever roll their lawn, but we're going to be rolling it every day for the next week, then weekly for the next year. Because I'm a little obsessive that way, and rolling the lawn makes for a better lawn.

Sunday it was very hard to get up, but we still had a pallet and a half of sod. Some of the areas we thought would be ready to be sodded were not, so we decided to make a temporary sod farm in the middle of the yard. You can do this in Alameda, because the clay the sod is grown on stays sitting on the sandy soil here, and it's easy to just cut the roots and lift it out when needed. When the work is done in the other areas, we will move the sod there and it will be fine.

At the end of the day Sunday, this is what the yard looked like:

Side yard

As you can see, Noel had spent a fair amount of the day setting fence posts for the chain link fence we're putting in temporarily. It's basically going to be there to keep the dogs in. I'll grow a vine over it. (Actually, I had seen a clematis at Magic Gardens that I was going to buy, but I'm so pissed about the sod that I will look for it mail order.)

And the back yard. In the foreground is our temporary sod farm; this winter I will be planting a bunch of fruit trees there. It looks all rumply because I didn't roll it in; you don't need to, of course, but if you're planning on leaving your sod where you lay it the rolling helps the sod stick to the ground and flatten out.

Back yard

Wow. Grass. Haven't seen that back here in almost a year.

Grass!

The fence posts to the alley. We're putting a gate there (there was one when we first moved in, then it blew down in a storm, and the only feasible repair was to just take it apart and make a fixed fence there; but we wanted that gate back). (I put some green wire fencing across the opening to keep the dogs in temporarily.)

Side gate

First thing Sunday morning we moved all this wood from right where the side gate is going into the alley. It's the siding from the house. Some day, it will be back on the house.

Moved wood

posted by ayse on 10/10/05

4 Comments

As an owner of an Eastlake in Alameda (that needs work), I'm finding your blog absolutely facinating. I'm amazed at the amount of work you guys have done in the short period of time (we're more on the 20-30year plan). You're my inspiration...

Oh, the reason for this comment is that Evergreen nursery in San Leandro will also deliver to Alameda (no affiliation). The only thing is that they brought their large truck and wiped out some of side yard plants(not happy), so unless you have a huge driveway, ask for their small truck.

Also, did you guys hire someone to even out your backyard or did you do it yourselves? When our basement was completed, they left piles of dirt that eroded to small hills...we now have a meadow complete w/ undulating hills.

I'd love to hear more of your recommendations (as well as who not to hire).

Looking good. Is that fescue? Does it grow well in your region?

Tabby: it is a dwarf fescue, and it is supposed to grow well here, with water. I have heard it can have trouble in the shade, but we will see; the yard is really only in shade during the late summer, when it is quite hot.

Z: Thanks for the compost rec! I doubt we will have compost dumped in the yard ever again, because it is too traumatic to think about a truck driving on my grass. The driveway is large enough to handle a very large truck, but I would prefer to just wheelbarrow the stuff in.

The back yard was evened out when the foundation contractors removed the pile. It's a little dippy, but we raked it pretty much level, and over time we'll see how it works out. The problem with Alameda sand is that it settles over time, so I imagine we will be coming through and adding soil to low points for years to come.

And don't get too congratulatory about the progress; we have a good 20 years or more of work on the interior, including stripping pink paint off the woodwork in every room, and dealing with broken and unstable plaster that was further damaged during the foundation replacement.

Not to mention having only one bathroom, in the hall off the kitchen. We'd like to fix that.

this very neat. i like your stuff.

Note: We're getting pummeled with spam comments, so I've turned off the ability to use any HTML or include any links for the time being. Email with any issues.

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