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Mike Wood 's Profile
Mike Wood
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Joined:
25/08/2011
Last Updated:
06/09/2011
Location:
Colorado, United States
Climate Zone:
Cold Temperate
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Male





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Food Forests for Pine Ridge Reservation
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A Tip for Suburban Gardeners

Posted by Mike Wood almost 11 years ago

Where did the topsoil go when they built this place? Mike spills the beans.

 

Let's say you live in a typical American subdivision built in the last 30 years, maybe one that looks something like this:

 

 

If you do, you probably know there's no topsoil.  But there was topsoil before that virgin prairie/forest was flattened to make garages for SUV's and safety playgrounds for safe kids, right?  What happened to it?

 

Well, we can't use topsoil as structural fill -- dirt that goes under houses and streets.  It gets stripped off the project site first, and buried in non-structural spaces, like easements.  That's the strip highlighted in the next image:

 

 

It could be 10 feet wide or 30.  There could be 6 inches of topsoil buried there, or maybe 8 feet or more.  There might be some, but buried under several feet of mineral soil.  Or, as this only applies to fill areas (where the grade was raised from the original, as opposed to cut areas) there might be none.  One near certainty is that there won't be any close to the house.

 

But on the  off chance your backyard is in the right spot, it doesn't hurt to take a shovel, dig a hole by your back fence, and see if you find that buried topsoil.  It would make an excellent spot to plant trees (thus blocking your view of the naked elderly neighbor), and deep-rooted nutrient raisers like comfrey.

 

A bit more complex arrangement:

 

 

If you can get your hands on the original grading plan at your local planning authority, it should show where the cuts and fills were.  Otherwise, Google Maps and guesswork might pay off.  Or not.

 

Somewhere out there, a permie might find this to be useful information.

 

Cheers!

Comments (6)

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Mark Brown
Mark Brown : It is a good thought Mike - that we could find that soil and use it to grow some food. Do you think perhaps it has been sold to the landscape suppliers as topdressing for lawns? I may be getting cynical in my old age.
Posted almost 11 years ago

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Mike Wood
Mike Wood : I suppose that's possible, Mark, but I never saw it done. Reckon it was cheaper just to bury it rather than stockpile. Come to think of it, though, there were times the topsoil would be saved... building golf courses!
Posted almost 11 years ago

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Tim Auld
Tim Auld : I'd say it's too variable to be sold to landscape supplies. I've just come across an individual who is paid to demolish houses. Apparently, part of this job is to remove the top soil. This guy has an alternative arrangement, but from the sound of it the conventional means of disposal is paying the council AU$80 to dump it. Don't know where they put it though. To landfill?
Posted almost 11 years ago

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Mike Wood
Mike Wood : I know. It sounds insane that the developers would just bury the topsoil. But I can tell you, from my time in the heavy construction business, I buried -- personally -- at least 50,000 cubic yards of it. In the grand scheme of things, that's ME, one scraper operator, in a few weeks' time, over a couple of years.

I've been there, done that, got the T-shirt. And I can prove what I say. It still makes me sick inside, but that's the reality.

I'm not blowing smoke out my ass here. This was my JOB for a decade.
Posted almost 11 years ago

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