The Q&A Archives: Grass on a hill

Question: I live in end unit town home, with 10'of yard & 30'of common grnd (Cg) between units The grnd slopes from grnd level (gL) in front to gL in back& is shady. The front&back yards are sunny 1/2 day. Cg is grass.Traffic pattern goes from my front diagonally to Cg in back.All 40' is washed out in streaks, with lumpy grass. I will fix all 40' of yard, because HOA will not fix Cg. How do I fix it?

Answer: Common ground usually means everyone pitches in to help, but failing that, you might try repairing the area by rototilling and regrading so it drains properly, or installing a French drain to redirect the excess water which is washing out the turf and making the ground lumpy. You may need to get permission to install a French drain in a common area so pursue that before you start to work on your project. French drains are quite simple: in essence they are just trenches filled with gravel, with sand on top of that. Often, you'll see French drains defined to include a drain pipe as well, though the traditional design is simply the gravel-filled trench. The advantages of French drains are low cost and easy installation. In addition, they can be covered over with turf after installation, making them less conspicuous. A French drain starts with digging a trench. The depth and width of the trench can vary, but 5 to 6 inches wide and 8 to 12 inches deep are common sizes and usually satisfy most needs. Grading is a critical consideration ? you must ensure that enough slope exists for the water to actually flow, and flow in the right direction. It might be adequate to check very short stretches of drain with a level to ensure that a slope exists to carry water in the desired direction. However, you should take whatever measures are necessary, including a survey and grading, if needed, to ensure that you have at least a 0.5 percent slope. A 1 or 2 percent grade is better. Add gravel to the trench to within a few inches of the surface. Gravel for this use is typically 0.5 to 1 inch in size. On top of the gravel, lay at least 3 or 4 inches of coarse sand. This provides a medium in which turf can grow so that the trench will not be visible. But remember that the sand must be coarse or it won't allow water to properly drain through. Turf may be seeded into the sand or simply allowed to grow in from the adjacent stand, if the turf is a spreading type. Or, you can lay sod over the sand.

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