Dear PoP – Another Gardening Question

Photo by PoPville flickr user mustachioed

“Dear PoP,

I was reading the posting about what to plant in DC, and I have a somewhat related question.

We have a row house in Petworth that we are in the midst of landscaping…primarily putting in new grass sod.
I need to cover my 200 sq ft front yard with 4″-6″ of organic topsoil before putting in sod. Problem is my yard (I think like many people’s) is elevated six feet from street level with no option of running a wheelbarrow up the slope (there are steps and stone walls). And as a row house…no option from the back either. Has anyone figured out a way to move/place 3 cubic yards (nearly 6000 lbs!) of topsoil on an elevated front yard? Can you blow it in?

All suggestions welcomed!”

I wonder if this just requires old fashioned labor? Has anyone done a project like this themselves?

27 Comment

  • It might be a little bit awkward, but how about putting some boards over the steps and turn it into a ramp.

  • Please don’t use sod. Get some lovely groundcover like sweet woodruff or sedum or dianthus or liriope. Sod is terrible for the enviroment (the sod farms dump millions of gallons of pesticide and fertilizer-laced water into the Chesapeake, ocean, local watersheds all over, etc), plus it requires energy to maintain (mowing, watering). Go to and search for groundcover for your type of conditions (sun, shade, height you want the plants, etc).

  • why would you plant sod?

    if you want a grass lawn move to the burbs!

  • We hired a crew to do it. They installed a nice flagstone patio in our backyard and then the remaining 1/3 of the yard we had covered with sod. It’s a nice spot for our 3 dogs to relax and once the grass is established, just requires mowing and light watering occasionally. If you want grass, go for it. It’s one of the privileges of living in a low density neighborhood like Petworth.

  • didnt we have this convo on POP before? anyway. grass requires maintanence. Just plant a “no-Mow” lawn. better for the environment. no bother. and IMO it looks better than a generic lawn.

    • Let’s start a movement: Grasshaters United.

      • Well it just boggles my mind that we in DC claim to be so progressive and environmentally conscious but when it comes to taking such easy steps that are commonly accepted as better for the environment, people are so staunchly set in their ways that they get OFFENDED you would even suggest it. Like all the bag tax haters. The bag tax has reduced plastic bag consumption so far this year by an estimated SIXTY MILLION BAGS. like. who thinks that BAD? I encourage you all to start practicing what you preach. Meaning, if you aren’t a global warming denier, take some steps to cut that footprint.

        • ^ True.. Bag Tax does wonders.. Now I even have reusable bags in my car!

          *Yes it is sad that I drive an Escalade to a grocery store less than a mile from me and yet I want to save 5 cents on the plastic bags 🙁

        • Facts/details Please? “The bag tax has reduced plastic bag consumption so far this year by an estimated SIXTY MILLION BAGS. like.”

  • Check out too. They have great lawn replacements that can tolerate foot traffic.

    • Stepables yes – “creeping jenny” will spread like – sorry, can’t think of a non-cliche or non-dirty simile – and outlast buffalo trampling in all conditions – though it is more yellow than green, so a matter of taste.

  • I agree with the first poster “eb” – try a ramp up the stairs. Also, wouldn’t grass seed work just as well as sod? Sure, it’s a bit more work and you can’t be on it immediately, but isn’t it cheaper? Also, what’s with the hating on sod? Jesus, people can find anything to hate.

  • And per PoP’s post yesterday: If you wait a bit for the DC gov’s stormwater audit, they’ll install a rain garden and perhaps some permeable pavers in your yard, pay for 90% of it (up to $1200), and you’ll do some good stuff for the city’s (expensive) stormwater maintenance.,a,1209,q,499719.asp

    • FYI–

      As someone who has been through the stormwater audit program, don’t think that $1200 will cover 90% of the costs of anything. The small project I was approved for, the removal of 150 sq. ft of concrete and replacing it with pervious pavers, was $4500– so $3300 out of pocket after the $1200 disbursement. A $1400 project wouldn’t get you 50 sq. feet of pavers, let alone a rain garden.

      I’m glad I did it, but no one should operate under the assumption that they can get a sidewalk or patio for a couple of hundred dollars out of pocket.

      Their rain barrels are great bargain, though. Once you qualify, they’ll install a 75 gallon barrel for a $30 co-pay.

      • I’m curious about pervious pavers – like the idea, but don’t they eventually get clogged with dirt-grit etc.?

    • We had our raingarden installed today thru the DDOE RiverSmart program. It’s looks amazing. They planted 3 shrubs (approx 3′ in height which will grow to 5-6′) and a number of other perennials which bloom at different times during the year. They even laid mulch over my backyard.

      Jim is correct. This program won’t pay for a new patio but I would recommend the rain garden if feasible. We were able to install 15 plants and mulch with our $1200 allowance.

  • Lilyturf. $2 a plant at home depot on RI Ave.

    Durable, grows anywhere, looks nice, requires just one trim at the beginning of the spring.

    This is the stuff you see growing in many tree boxes around the city.

  • Man, of man! If the person wants grass, let ’em have grass. He/she wrote in for advice and got blasted.

    I agree on some points (seed vs. sod to avoid pesticides and fertilizer from the manufacturing process), but there are more important things to worry about that have a greater negative impact on the environment than a small patch of lawn.

    Use organic fertilizer, spread some seed, water only when needed (a healthy lawn native to this region won’t need as much water), use a rain barrel to help with that, get yourself a manual push mower, and enjoy!

    I love stepables, too. It’ll be part of our landscaping soon, in place of some of our grass, but we have a variety of native plants in our yard (+ grass) and love all of it.

  • Thanks for all of these gardening questions! Love them, and all of the comments and suggestions.

  • Do you think the soil is really that bad that you need to put that much topsoil in? I mean most soil in DC isn’t great but its had 100 years to settle and if you rent a tiller and churn up whats there, you’de be surprised how not too bad the existing stuff is. You can add a few bags of topsoil/manure/humus and you should be just fine.

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