Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Now what to do about our dirt yard June 15, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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Last week Tuesday, trenching for a new water line. MN Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

LIVING IN A FISH BOWL, translation along an arterial street through Faribault, means our property is exposed to anyone who passes by. We try to keep our yard looking nice with the lawn mowed, weed growth curbed and flowerbeds tended. I’ve received many compliments on our flowers, especially.

Two sections of sidewalk were removed to access the water connection, leaving part of our front yard and boulevard dug up. The sidewalk has since been replaced. MN Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

But things look a lot different a week out from a major excavation of our property to replace the broken/leaking/corroded water pipe into our house. Our north side yard, a portion of our front yard and sections of the boulevard now showcase dead grass and dirt. It’s a mess. I don’t have any other words.

Our dirt yard. MN Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

I look across the spacious hard-packed dirt parking lot of a lawn and see this: work and money filtering into the earth, adding to the estimated $5,000 expense of replacing that water line.

The heavy excavator packed the soil rock hard. MN Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

This past weekend Randy and I stood on our lawn destroyed by digging, by the treads of the excavator and by piles of dirt and considered our options—seed or sod. We measured and debated and discussed…and then decided to wait. Whichever option we choose, this is not a good time to restart a lawn due to the heat of summer and the current drought. A KNOW YOUR WATERING SCHEDULE notice included with our water bill on Monday reaffirmed that delay. Under current rules, we can water only three days a week, although exceptions can be made for new sod or seed. Yeah, we’ll just wait.

I don’t feel good about waiting as I like to be a good neighbor. Yet, there are other issues in our neighborhood that have been ongoing and reflect poorly on our neighborhood and remain unresolved. It’s frustrating.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your perspective), ours is also a neighborhood where people cannot afford lawn care services. Springtime brings a bountiful crop of dandelions. Creeping Charlie creeps. Pristine yards are not a priority. But my neighbors keep their lawns mowed, so we’re good.

Once we’re ready to begin this project, we’ll need to till, rake and level the dirt. As Randy pounded the tines of a garden rake into the soil on Saturday, he suggested miners and pick axes. Yes, the ground is that hard—rock hard. But, hey, at least there’s a new indestructible non-metal water line buried deep below that ground. And we have water. And the hydrangea were spared. And the old pipe didn’t burst to the point of water gushing into, and flooding, our entire basement. And we were home when this happened…

TELL ME: If you have any suggestions for our yard, I’m listening.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


14 Responses to “Now what to do about our dirt yard”

  1. Oh no … you have my sympathy x

  2. Washe Koda Says:

    Wow I wonder if a roto-tiller rental would prep that compacted soil ?

  3. I have zero suggestions for your yard but it does seem like it would be prudent to just wait until the weather is a bit more cooperative. It is so difficult to wait when it does not look like you want it to look. But your neighbors understand and in time it will be back to the nice green lawn you once had. Glad you got the water issue fixed.

  4. All good points, count the blessings. Re establishing grass is a natural process, my guess is that when the rain finally comes you will see grass before you decide what you will do.

  5. Oh, Audrey! I am so sorry! I have some flower seeds I could send you, but that won’t help much. Anytime you need an ear, you are always welcome to contact me, Sweet Lady. My heart goes out to you and Randy. ❤

  6. Sandra Says:

    Yup, looks pretty much like our property 2017 and May, 2021 when Xcel first replaced our gas lines, this year was the electric lines. We are not “square”, your lawn looks about the size of the area back of my place. Both times they used this product. Don’t know where it’s available commercially, but works slick for irregular spaces, germinates fast, the netting does bio away – well, mostly. We had people walking on it and the lawn service caught the edges a bit. They started with what your lawn looks like, put down a layer of rich, black dirt, seeded generously, laid the mat. I have many pictures, but the little one on their web page looks like what happens with the mat as seed germinates. If you want pics, send me an email, I can definitely supply. It was the same contractor, PCS that’s an arm of Q3, the same team lead, he kidded me about taking progress and info pictures. Your being able to get it commercially would be key, there must be similar products on the market. You’ll figure it out, your older house will never look so good! Glad about the hydrangea! https://www.profileevs.com/products/rolled-products/vegetative-establishment-blankets/futerra-environet


    Yes, that is a big mess! I think you are wise to put off seeding grass until later summer/early fall. Or you could also do what is called dormant seeding which is very late fall. The seed is put down and worked lightly in so it has contact with the dirt. It then germinates in early spring. You could go to the University of Minnesota’s Yard and Garden website where there is a lot of information on seeding grass, options, pros and cons etc. In the meantime, you could be working on the quality of the soil. The work probably kicked up some clay, got compacted and needs work. Does Faribault have free compost available? That is something you could check out to help the quality of the soil. You could also check with a Master Gardener in the area. I’m not sure if Rice County MGs make garden calls, but if so, they might be able to come and advise you on the condition of the soil and yard. They may not be able to come until after July 1 as they are restricted on in person work until then. Hope this helps.

    • Colleen, I appreciate the time you took to share your suggestions because these are not things I thought of in determining what to do with our yard. Yes, the excavating kicked up some clay (I’m used to the rich black soil of sw MN) and compacted the ground. We need to do something to loosen and improve the soil. Faribault does have a compost pile; that’s a good suggestion. Contacting a Master Gardener is also a good idea. Thank you so much for those helpful ideas. We definitely won’t plant grass or place sod for quite awhile.

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