Is the Grass Really Greener? Ask Your Landscaper

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Sometimes it seems that the grass is really greener on the other side. This may be true, due to the differences in grading on the property. People who live where the land is flat find it dull and uninteresting; often they go out of their way to create height and interest in their gardens. People who live on sloped properties often try to flatten it out so they can avoid the problem of having to get up the driveway when it�s covered with ice and snow. Keep in mind, that even properties which seem flat aren�t perfectly flat. Almost every property has some �grade� or slope, dips or rises. The grade of a property should never be confused with grading, which is the term used to describe changing the existing slope. You should always assess the variations in the property�s grading, and consider any needed or wanted grade changes before you finalize your landscape design.

Grading needs may be either be minimal or extensive. You may need to flatten an area for a patio or ground level deck. Your lawn may need grading so that it will slope evenly from you house to the street. Some plans may call for mounds of earth called �berms�, for screening or adding interesting height to an otherwise flat property. Keep in mind, the grade should never be changed around the drip line of a large tree because this could either bury or expose the roots, killing the tree. Raising the grade around a tree, then construct a well around the tree to avoid burying the roots.

Grading and drainage are interdependent factors in landscape design. It is always best to grade your property so that water will drain away from the structures, not collect in beds, borders or paved areas. Proper grading helps to prevent having to pump water out of the basement after a hard rainfall. Water must quickly drain from paved areas so that the placement does not become icy, creating a safety hazard. It is always wise to know how well your soil drains before planning any grade changes. Professional landscapers have a simple way to test drainage, which you can do yourself. Dig a hole three feet deep and fill it with water. Let it drain for a day, the fill it again. If it is empty or less than one-third full by the next day, there are no drainage problems. If it is still two-thirds full or more, drainage problems are severe, drainage pipes and tiles may need to be installed. If the hole is between one-third and two-thirds full you may be able to correct the problem by changing the soil. If this is the case, it may be necessary to change the grade in a two-step process. The top-soil may need to be removed and retained, the grading done, then the top-soil replaced. Soil is expensive so if possible, fill in low areas of your lawn by moving it from a higher area of your property.

Consultation with your utilities companies may be necessary to determine the location of existing underground pipes and cables. The ability to change the grade of your property may be determined by whether pipes and cables will be exposed or make access to them or their meters impossible by the change in grade. You can�t just move soil around, or pave large areas without thinking of the consequences. If the grass truly is greener on the other side of the fence, inquire with your neighbor as to whether they had it graded, you may find they have valuable advise. Before attempting any major changes, consult a professional, this will save you time, effort and money in the short and long term.

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Author: Pat Munro
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