Natural Lawn Rehabilitation

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This area of Calgary was severely damaged by the 2013 flood.  A new brick patio in the back yard had just been finished at the end of May.  About a year later, the owner contacted me to do something with her front lawns.  Her own, and the adjacent property.  The future of the houses were still very much up in the air, so a tight budget was set.

It is a little hard to tell the severity of the the grade change, but the mound that is visible in the fore ground in the third picture is about the size of the hole in the adjacent lawn.  There was next to no topsoil left after the flood.  What was there, was covered in a layer of river silt.

The machine in the pictures is another contractor doing similar work 2 doors over.


By the lilac next to the house is a major low spot. The mound of soil in the foreground should do the trick.
Luckily the old brick work driveways were not severely damaged.
A view looking the other way.
The grass is so deep, but  just clinging to whatever nutrients are left in the soil
This house was still boarded up from 2013  A closer look at the mound of soil we have to work with.  No soil was imported to the site

The actual regrading of the two lawns was too much to do by hand totally, so I had a mutual friend of mine and the property owner come with his skid steer and in an hour he did what would have taken a pack of people all day.  He left me with a pile of what ever topsoil and plant material he could find mixed as best he could and a regraded sub soil.

I then set to work with my shovel and wheel barrel and spread the organics over the two lawns.


Trying to salvage the flower gardens with the regrading. maybe a retaining wall in the future.
You can see all the construction going on around me as well but the pile of soil that was left to use
Must be careful around the trees. They set the grade here as we wanted to keep the costs down.

The next July (2015)

The treatment that I employed here consisted of this:

I stripped the topsoil and organics.  Remember this was a drastic repair I wouldn’t normally recommend this method.  After that I mixed the topsoil and organics and spread over the regraded lawn.  To this about 2 yards of compost was added from a local landscape supplier, then seeded with primarily a sheeps fescue.  Over seeded two additional times.  A timed irrigation system that came on twice a day was used.  The next spring and summer, organic fertilizer was applied, and 2 batches of compost tea made from worm compost.


Notice the biodiversity in the lawn.

Any bare spot that was found while mowing was covered by the dead grass as mulch
Keeping the lawn extra long the first year helps to bring nutrients up from lower down in the soil profile
As we mowed the lawns, virtually chopping and dropping vegetation. This allowed the grasses to slowly take over from the thistles and dandelions.
This was mowed using a reel mower. (like your grandparents used). A bit more work, but quieter to use.  When kept sharp, it leaves the plants healthier, and a nicer look I think. Natural lawn rehabilitation.
Sadly this house could not be saved. The structural damage after the flood was too much for the old house. The cedar in the corner is all that is left, including the neighbours house in the background. So sad.