Don't sing the building site blues

When you have a new house built it’s natural to focus on the structure itself, but even if all you want is a lawn, it pays to put some thought into it before work starts. If you have a raw block or are an owner building, you have a chance to save your topsoil. Builders hate topsoil, but you will need it for your garden. If you have any say at all, insist that the native soil is preserved on site.

Make a corral of bales of straw or cane tops laid on their sides and get the topsoil moved into this. It should be no more than 60cm deep to avoid killing the soil biota. Cover the top with biscuits of straw and tie down a tarp over the top. Do not let your builders use it as a handy storage dump!

As building begins you will notice that builders are not tidy creatures. There will be big bits of rubbish in a pile or skip, but the ground will also be littered with screws, lumps of mortar, snippets of corrugated iron and blobs of builder’s bog. Unless you make a fuss, all these small bits will stay on site, waiting to be dug up years later.

Once the house is complete, the final touch is usually a rough levelling with a Bobcat and a thin skin of lawn underlay soil, topped with turf. Again, you need to get involved – plan now for future drainage of heavy rain. You need the subsoil sloping away from the house foundations with a gentle gradient that leads water down to the street drains.

Once the subsoil is appropriately graded, it’s time to return the topsoil to areas you plan to garden, put lawn underlay where you want grass, and road base where you want paving. Planning will pay off!


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