Asked on Jan 14, 2012

Re-doing lawn after it was dug up

Melissa G
by Melissa G
The sewer line under our front lawn was recently replaced, which means the crews dug up all of the lawn. They replaced the dirt and planted fescue seed, which grew well. But the ground is still soft -- when we walk on it, our feet sink a little bit. We obviously can't use a lawnmower with the lawn in this condition. So, any advice on what to do? Do we need professional help for the lawn?
  7 answers
  • Melissa, I am guessing that they didn't pack down the new dirt at all? My first step would be to call the people who did the sewer line job and speak to them and find out what they can do about it. Another option is to go and rent a little hand pushed "steam roller" type thing. You fill the drum with water and push it around like a lawn mower. That will pack the ground down some. You want to be careful though, you don't want it packed so hard nothing grows or water/rain has a tough time penetrating and ends up pooling in the yard.
  • Dan is right on this. If they back filled and leveled the soil then seeded. You will end up with a big depression on the lawn in short order. All the soil that they dug out should have remained leaving a bump in the lawn. As water filters through the soil it will compact bringing it down to level as it once was. To rush this you can take a garden hose, a three or four foot length of 1/2 inch PVC pipe and with a glue on adapter put a hose connection and a twist type shut off on it. Connect the garden hose and turn water on. While doing this push the plastic into the soil that has been replaced. As the water enters into the ground you will begin to see the ground settle out. Its not going to happen over night. You will need to repeat this once or twice a day for about a week. But it does work. You can also use the roller method, but that really only works if the trench is not to deep as it takes a lot of weight to push the soil down when its really deep.
  • 360 Sod (Donna Dixson) 360 Sod (Donna Dixson) on Jan 15, 2012
    How long ago did they complete the work? I am assuming that the rest of your lawn is fescue? Is it possible that you can take a picture of he area? My concern for you is that you may have annual rye grass seed and no fescue in that area.
  • Melissa G Melissa G on Jan 16, 2012
    Thanks, everyone. We bought the house in October and the work was done then by the seller, so we can't contact the company that dug it up. They did not pack down the dirt (if they did, they didn't do it well). I don't know how far down they dug, but a rough guess would be about 4-5 feet under the lawn. I don't know if that's considered deep. I'd be happy to give the roller a try. Two questions, though -- would the roller ruin the grass that's on there now (I don't mind reseeding if so)? And would the roller expose areas of the lawn that are uneven, like a depression over the length of the sewer line? Four Season Nursery -- we are in metro Atlanta. Many of our immediate neighbors have fescue. I am fairly certain that fescue was the grass that existed before the dig.
  • You can use the roller and where ever the soil is soft it will sink in. But if they did dig four feet, which is not uncommon to get below frost line. The roller will only settle about one foot deep. Eventually you will have another depression as the soil below sinks down. As far as hurting the existing grass, It should not, but it really does not matter as once the lawn settles you will need to put more topsoil back to fill in. Although after doing this some of the existing grass will come up you will need to reseed those areas.
  • Melissa G Melissa G on Jan 16, 2012
    Thank you. It's sounding like a bigger job than we expected. If we try to do it ourselves, I imagine it's going to be a years-long process of waiting for the soil to settle, filling it in, then reseeding again. Would a professional service help us avoid all of that? Or would we still run the risk of the lawn sinking in the future and us having to refill/reseed? One other thing I forgot to mention. When the lawn was refilled, the Georgia red clay that had been under the lawn wound up on top. It certainly isn't nice topsoil anymore. I presume this is another thing we'd have to address -- the reconditioning of the soil?
  • use the hose method. Its not that big of a job to do but will take a few days or so to settle out all the soil. You can purchase root fertilizer units. Its a pointed pipe in which the hose attaches to and injects water into the ground to water and fertilize tree roots. But my post prior tells you how to make your own for about $15. As the water is injected into the ground it causes the soil to re-settle. You will be amazed on how well this works. After doing it for a while the ground will become saturated and real wet at the surface. stop at that point for about eight hours and then do it again. After a few days you will notice the soil no longer settling out anymore. Once that happens put down new top soil and then using the roller pack it down and reseed. You will need to put topsoil down, so any red clay on the top will be buried under the new soil.