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Discussion Boards > Active Subjects > Messages as Posted > Lawn, Turf, and Grass Forum

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 08-17-2005, 17:26 Post: 115009
BX23Fan



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 topsoil with wood chips in it -- a big deal

I'm about to purchase approximately 200 yards of topsoil for my new front yard. This will give me 6" of depth on top of a freshly graded clay/dirt/sand mixture (formerly a forest floor; hard-pan at about 18" below the current surface).

I've purchased a few yards recently for misc projects, and noticed that no matter where I buy, there always is a lot of wood (10%-30%, perhaps) in the soil. My limited wisdom tells me that less wood is better, but I can't back that with facts.

I can get soil as cheap as $13/yd (with wood), or a 'premium mix' for twice that which contains wood but much less.

What impact will the wood have on the end result? For example, will it absorb the nutrients out of the soil, leaving me with a huge fertilizer bill? Or, perhaps it doesn't matter in the long run.

I plan to hydro-seed, if that matters.

Thanks in advance.






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 08-19-2005, 12:22 Post: 115093
Iowafun

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 topsoil with wood chips in it -- a big deal

I'm no expert, but typically the wood will add nutrients as it rots. Hence mulch is chipped/shredded wood. You should be fine as long as the soil isn't too acidic. Some trees "poison" soil with higher acidity levels to keep out competition from other species.






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 08-19-2005, 13:07 Post: 115101
ncrunch32



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 topsoil with wood chips in it -- a big deal

Wow, that's a lot of topsoil. I purchased 20 yards just to use around the house for gardens and to top off some areas of the lawn where the grass is not doing well. 20 yards costs $500 here. I have no wood in my topsoil but it is very heavy and sticky with whatever they have mixed into it. I have actually pushed the bucket into the lower part of the pile - and the bucket wouldn't lift because the dirt was trying to come up all in one piece. It does seem to work very well in the gardens.






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 08-19-2005, 13:15 Post: 115102
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 topsoil with wood chips in it -- a big deal

200yds is an estimate I received from a topsoil 'calculator' based on my square footage and desired soil depth (6"Wink yeah right. I'm willing to splurge in this area to ensure a healthy lawn that doesn't yellow after a brief period of no rain. The bill for the 20 yds ($12.95/yd) was $281 after tax. $3000 on topsoil for the entire (BIG) front yard is within my psychological budget.

Your topsoil sounds much better than mine. Mine is very light and can be lifted with ease by my Kubota BX23's bucket no matter where I start to lift. There's a lot of air in this stuff, so that is probably why it's cheaper.






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 08-19-2005, 14:07 Post: 115103
ncrunch32



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 topsoil with wood chips in it -- a big deal

I agree its probably worth the investment, if you are going to stay there for a while. I wish the original owner had done that here. I end up patching things up and my yard is various shades of green and brown. I think I would be tempted to go thinner than 6 inches though. A little topsoil for growing grass will go a long way. Maybe 4 inches? But topsoil will never go to waste. Keep a pile on the side for future use!






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 08-19-2005, 14:31 Post: 115105
metastable



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 topsoil with wood chips in it -- a big deal

Iowafun got it right. Wood chips make the soil acidic. You need lime to sweeten the soil. After the pH has been optimized, you may need nitrogen. FYI--wood chip filler is really common, but breaks down and can leave your lawn lumpy if you don't have a good base.






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 08-20-2005, 16:16 Post: 115161
earthwrks

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 topsoil with wood chips in it -- a big deal

I'm a contractor. I don't want to be an alarmist but anyone when it comes to topsoil, mulch or even concrete should be wary of those who sell and/or truck it. Around here, short-loading is a HUGE problem. What they do is they say they are selling/delivering 30 yards---in a 24-yd truck no less! But when you get it you're lucky if you get 20yds. Even if they do deliver the volume they say they will, you are buying a "fluffy yard", not a "compacted yard" which your computations are based on. I tell my customers 1.)They deal directly with the top soil seller, that way they aren't mad at me when they are shorted. 2.) Figure on losing at least a third to half of the original volume. So as the saying goes "figure on how much you need then double it". To keep your topsoil guy honest go to a manager/owner and give them the dimensions you are working with that you want to fill. Let them tell you how much you need and what it will cost for the whole job. An honest guy will tell you about compaction loss and figure that in (or at least remind them of it). So tell them that since they are the professional you are relying on their professional input to determine the amount. One way or another get them to commit to not the yardage but the price---the job isn't done until, ALL the dirt is there---regardless of how much soil is needed the price will not change. And they will need to keep bringing in soil until your expectations which is what you agreed upon are met. Before I had my customers buy the topsoil I saw my jobs taking 2-3 times what I figured on ($2000-$4000 more) all due to short-loading. And the guys I bought from were friends so I thought.

A dishonest guy will him-haw around and be non-committal about the yardage---they figure you are at their mercy so you will---and have to---pay anything to get the job done and overwith.

By the way, concrete redi-mix suppliers will try this same thing if they can get away with it. A friend was a party once and was talking with a concrete supply owner---he boasted that he makes $250,000 over and above his regular sales just because of short-loading--the last time this happened to me it cost me $250 for a 1/4 yard and they were literally next door.

If you are wondering if you got what you paid for and you are using a loader, count how many level or "struck" buckets you get from each load then multiply that by the "struck" cubic foot or yard capacity which may be stamped on your bucket or you can have your dealer tell you. Then if there is a problem, you have solid evidence you have been ripped off, or rest assured you got your money's worth.






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 08-20-2005, 18:59 Post: 115170
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 topsoil with wood chips in it -- a big deal

Earthwrks - based on my limited experience having rock, bank run, and topsoil delivered I agree. The pile always looks much smaller than expected when it is dumped. Also - I see nothing over the top of the truck when it comes - the driver tells me it is the law - that they can't really fill their trucks all the way to the top. My daughter who worked with the county and state transportation departments as a summer engineer intern told me the problem is pervasive - no matter who you order from. I guess that's how these guys make their money.






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 08-20-2005, 19:09 Post: 115171
ncrunch32



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 topsoil with wood chips in it -- a big deal

Another comment on deliveries of rock and dirt, etc. My understanding is that, if the truck gets stuck, YOU - the purchaser has to pay the towing fee. I noticed that on rainy days the trucking company would repeatedly ask me if the conditions were OK. Luckily the truck just managed to pull out of my back yard with all 8 wheels spinning in 4wd.

A buddy of mine who worked with truckers in a past job, told me later that when these guys ask you whether conditions are OK - they are setting YOU up for the towing bill. Instead you should be noncommital and tell them that they are the experts - that you don't really know about what types of conditions their vehicles can handle.






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 08-20-2005, 20:55 Post: 115177
earthwrks

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 topsoil with wood chips in it -- a big deal

As far as filling to the top that varies around here with who you talk to. I beleive the law is 6-8" below the side rails but I have yet to find it in the DOT Reg. book. Some guys try to impress the customer when they pull up with a mountain-peak of dirt showing---but the truth is if you level it out there would be a lot of room to spare. And with the peak showing it makes it really hard to tell if you are shorted.

As far as getting stuck, I find the lazy operators I dealt with wanted me to accept the responsibility just like you say. And you are very correct with the stance you take with them---let them decide. I had one diver who backed a 24yd trailer into a ditch that I just put a new culvert in and he crushed one end. I told the customer to deduct $200 from the soil bill for me to fix it. The soil owner went ballastic. The customer didn't feel like fighting and gave in and paid me to fix it. The owner tried to make accept the responsiblilty for the actions of his driver---no way!

Around here customers refuse to pay for a driver's mistake in getting stuck. Most places I know will fire the guy first.

Then there's the driver my one buddy has who actually backed into my new skid steer with his big dump (got mirrors?). This same guy when he delivers for me, his boss will call and tell me "make sure the ground is level because the dumb___ will raise it anyway" The last time he raised it on unlevel ground he flipped it over and caused $33,000 in damage to the trailer frame. Yep and this guy is on the road!

Concrete trucks are a little different. Sometimes when pouring a new driveway the approach/apron off the street is soaked from rain with a foot or more of mud (in a subdivision for example) and the only choices you have are: get the truck to the back and start pouring and pay for towing or turn away the truck and pay for a load you can't pour---ouch. My buddy chose to pay for towing ($600). I used to pour mobile home concrete piers (as many as 44 per home). Spring time mud made the mud two feet deep. Only once did a truck get stuck and turned out she forgot to lock the front axle--but she had another truck waiting with a tow cable just in case. We never discussed a towing bill though.

On another job I told the conc. dispatcher to NOT allow his guys to go through the alley that had low utility wires. What'd they do? Took down the wires. The driver just shrugged his shoulders as I wrote on the bill that I wasn't paying for the wires he downed. Apparently he knew more than I did 'cause he said "If the wires aren't higher than 13'-8" we will take 'em down--that's the law" he said.






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