Backyard Blitz!!!

Hey Forumites,
Need some advice on a relatively inexpensive way of covering a 17.3m x 8m backyard for our tenants. They have a young 3 yr old girl that they would like to buy a swing set for. At this moment the backyard is good old melbourne clay, relatively flat, needs a little bit of leveling, but when it rains it turns into a mud bath that refuses to come off shoes(dont want that inside :( ). Any alternatives to laying new turf? We dont really want that expense, any ideas are appreciated!!

Oh yeah, we have a 2 day window to get in and get out, anyone got Jamie Duries number :)
Hi Nate

May I suggest you just bite the bullet and lay instant turf?

If you know there will be a small child, and also know that the parents wish to install playground equipment, go for the turf. It will absorb impact much better than anything else unless, of course, you wish to lay the regulation depth of 300mm of tan bark, impact resistant borders and all the other stuff which is required in playgrounds.

Yes, I know this is not a 'playground', but in the interest of child health and safety, have the girl's interests in mind when you choose the materials for the garden.

Of course, you could and probably 'should' lay a hard surface (pavers) close to the house (good for tricycles, too) but playground equipment demands a soft landing.

And don't forget that garden beds along the fences will take up some of that space. Choose soft foliage, quick growing shrubs / small trees and mulch under them, and voila! instant garden.

By the way, if they want shade, those 'shade pod' things are very cheap nowadays, and just pack away during winter, or can stay in place and replace them every so many years.

Happy landlording!

Hi Nate
I'm with Kristine on this one. Laying turf would more than likely be the most cost effective and economic solution in the long run. Think of the cleaner carpets/floor coverings etc as well!
Pick a hard wearing turf such as a buffalo (Sir Walter gets a good write up here and lay it yourself to save on labour costs.
Just be sure your tenants continue over a period of a good 6 weeks to water it in (naturally adhering to any necessary water restrictions) and the job's done :)
Other options include paving, but start saving your money :) Unless you have spare time and paving skills, it's not as easy as it appears.
Let us know what you end up doing and how it all turns out.
Thanks for the replies guys :)

was already thinking possibly a mix of large garden beds around fenceline mulched etc., turfed area (for swing set), and a lilydale topping flat harder area, so all your ideas sound good.

What is the easiest/cheapest way of leveling a backyard?

Please dont say shovel, thats what i did for the front, i paid for it physically, the wife called me the human bobcat :)


There's a few ideas in this thread

With children, something like a pine bark mulch (or a termine resistant bark mulch) to a reasonable depth would be kid friendly.

The problem with turf will be maintenance- you can't rely on the tenant to keep it looking good.

Also, if it's mud which doesn't come off, it may be clay, and also may have drainage problems- and that will not be good for turf.

Small river peblles may be an alternative.
Medium creek sand plus around 1kg gypsum/square metre will fix the clay. Sand also makes it easier to level the surface. Put the dingo to good use.

You should aim to spray the current weeds/grass with Round-Up some days before you start work.

There are cheaper lines of turf.
Hire a bobcat and driver - they do all the work and they take the rubbish with them.

Don't think they are very expensive - well worth the money.
Hi Natedog,

Get a Bobcat in with operator ( about $60 / hr ) usually a 4 hr minimum charge. I've never had an operator that wont offer his opinion on how to do things. ;)

Definately go with the turf option, a creeping grass will usually regenerate itself after hard times. Reasonably cheap to alternatives and a big plus for any family with young children.

Introduce some decent top soil with chook poo or something similar incorporated to give turf a good kick start. Also reduces the amount of raking required to remove small stones etc.

Make sure any surface water can run off the block and not pool creating boggy areas........the bobcat operator could help you with this. If going with the shovel method use a straight edge ( a long piece of STRAIGHT wood ) with a spirit level on top to get your drainage falls ( very important ).

Finally make sure the Bobcat doesn't compact the soil too much........get him to backblade the soil on his way out working backwards.

Good luck


PS..........get the Bobcat in the afternoon so your not paying for the morning tea smoko break :D
I did our front yard.
9m X 20m
Got some quotes , all were around the $4K mark .... yes 4000 dollars.
I definetly not the gardening/landscaper type but after some encouragement from a friend I deceided to do it myself (with the help of my 74 year old mother and 6 year old son .. plus a little interest from my 3 yo daughter ... wife was nowhere to be seen but did make lots of cups of coffee).
The yard was a mix of garden beds with bark chips the rest was half dead grass.
So I ripped out all the bushes and shrubs.
Bought two rakes for $20.
Picked up most of the bark chips.
Hired a guy with two rotaryhoes for $80 (actually gave him $100) who sent over the whole thing and the turned over all the soil.
I was going to get in some topsoil but he said that the soli that was there was very good.
Arranged for some instant turf, sir walter buffulo at $7.50 per meter.
Bought a spinker system, $240
Arranged for some river sand to spread ontop of the turf after it is layed.
Spent an afternoon rakingup all the rocks and stones, then leveling the ground (it has a natural fall to the front fence so it didn't need much).
Layed the spinkers, that took about 4 hours.
Turf delivered.
Spread the fertliser/lawn starter they supplied.
Layed the turf , took about 4 hours.
Spread the sand, another two hours.
Set the sprinklers to water it in.
That was in late April, and it looks terrific.
So it wasn't too hard, even for me and cost a lot less.
I would do it again if Ihad too.
Hi Natedog
Might pay you to put in some simple drainage while the machine is there, just to get some water past the clay layer, or into the stormwater, if that's possible. Those that mentioned the expertise of the bobcat operators are right too, most of them have a wealth of knowledge, especially if they have been doing it for a while. Some tough type of grass sounds good, and should fit into your 2 day window. good luck with the weather. :rolleyes: