I am renting a home. I have been here for 1 year and am planning a minimum of 2-3 more years and possibly longer. I am willing to spend money but because I am renting I would prefer not to spend a fortune. I am free to customize the backyard (obviously without building any structures). My yard is approximately 100 ft wide and 50 ft deep. the neighborhood is older the dirt is hard, grass is patchy in the back. The yard has about 8 trees, 1 cherry, 1 palm and the others I am not too sure they are tall and basically not to wide. The yard was dissected with oleander bushes ( running left to right, right through the middle, umm unclear why). I have begun cutting down bushes and have about 15 stumps - how do I get rid of the stumps? The yard is riddled with roots from the trees and as I mentioned before patchy grass - more grass than dirt but still patchy. I am unsure if rototilling yard to lay sod or reseed is possible without bending blades on a rented rototiller. I need ideas on preparing the dirt and hopefully cover patches of dirt and the roots. Cutting down trees is not an option very costly. I am in northern Ca dirt is usually very good, I think yard is hard packed from years of neglect. I also would like suggestions of fighting gnats. Lastly, My patio is old (root issues exist) a few cracks and it slopes down towards house, how can I raise it to level towards yard height for drainage issues. I have 3 kids who use backyard and a dog who brings in muddy paws from patchy yard and we spend a lot of time outside in yard. I would love to fix these issues with low cost, please help with ideas.
Low cost and yard work together in the same sentence translates into hours and hours of backbreaking work.
Since it's not a very large yard, how about looking into what it would cost to get a pro to at least prep the yard for the next step. One days work with the right equipment could grind out all the stumps and till the soil for whatever new use you would like. Sure, it will cost more in dollars but the time savings involved are huge.
When we cleared our land, we took the DIY approach. Still, I spend a fair amount of money renting or buying yard equipment - plus over three years of very hard labor. All this to clear half of our 1-1/2 acre lot. A year or two later, I was building an addition for my next-door neighbor and had a guy there operating a high-lift. I had him come over to the back 3/4 acre section of my yard that was still heavily overgrown - filled with downed trees and underbrush. He cleared out all the bad stuff, leveled everything out ready to be raked and seeded and left all the pretty trees. Took him a total of 25 MINUTES. Cost me $50.
Several issues here...
Hard, older dirt: the best way I know of is free but has a high labor cost. It's to enhance the soil with compost. But it won't happen overnight. Since you're in California, I'm not sure what how long it would take to break down, but in Michigan, the compost I create in the summer will depending on contents be usable in the fall.
If you drink coffee, you can put the grounds on the hard areas and mix them in as best as you can. They'll attract worms which will help aerate and break up the soil.
You could also purchase packaged compost and spread it on the hard soil areas. It will soften the soil as it gradually is absorbed. Grass clippings will do the same thing.
Clearing bushes and stumps: Unfortunately bush stumps are harder to remove than tree stumps. With the latter, I just cut down below the surface, cover the trunk, sometimes use an ax to slash the roots, and let nature take its course.
With bushes, the roots are not as thick and are typically more spread out. This is where a rototiller comes in, but depending on how thick the roots are, your concern for use of a rototiller is valid.
Although we did use a rototiller when I turned under grass to create a garden, we were only dealing with grass, not tree or bush roots.
If the stumps are of trees, not bushes, you could try to pull the stumps out yourself, with equipment specifically for that use. But there may be an access issue of getting a truck or the equipment back in the yard.
One easy but not quick option is to plant some strong ground cover plants or invasive herbs and let them take over the stumps, planning to pull them out after they've completed their work. lemon balm would be good for this purpose. It spreads easily but can also be pulled out easily. It's very fragrant and can be used for tea if you're so inclined.
Another option is plant morning glories around the stumps, making sure they cover them as the vines spread. They generally will kill stumps. But not the roots. You could try axing the roots and pouring white vinegar into the slits; vinegar allegedly has properties that kill roots.
Another possibility, although I've not tried it for roots, is to solarize the area but putting down plastic, anchoring it, and letting the roots die from suffocation and heat. However, I don't know how long this would take.
Unfortunately though, if you want something quicker, I think hiring someone with the right equipment might be the best option, as Jaybee suggests. Otherwise you could spend a lot of time and not see results for quite awhile. And spend a lot in muscle salve and cold packs in the process.
Unfortunately I don't have any suggestions for gnats. You might try ehow.com, which has a lot of helpful hints on bug eradication.
Raising a patio is beyond my knowledge other than to inquire why it slopes toward the house. Does the entire ground/yard area slope toward the house in that area? You mentioned drainage. Is there a drainage problem from the patio, or is the patio subsiding or sloping for some other reason?
There are others here who can address that issue better than I.
This sounds like a really big project; perhaps you can break it down to what you can accomplish yourseld and what is best done by pros.
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