Repairing a sunken lawn
Radio interview source: Dave Minner, turf specialist, Iowa State University
If the yard looks like it's developing craters, there are a few reasons why this happens -- buried construction debris, rotted tree stumps, or dirt settling around the septic system. Sometimes a large boulder used to be in the spot, and even though it's gone now, the depression remains. However, before you start digging, call the local utilities to identify buried lines. Then, break up the ground.
Dave Minner is a turf specialist with Iowa State University and says to repair a sunken area, get out the tiller to work it up, then fill it with soil.
"You can even use potting soil, or some sand-clay mix, or compost," Minner says. "If you use straight sand, you'll have a dry spot in the yard so I wouldn't recommend that. Compost is a really good thing, you could even mix 60% sand and 40% compost and that'll grow pretty good grass."
After all this work, the last thing you want to see is another crater forming in the same spot, so be sure the soil is tamped down well as you're filling it. For large areas, there is a tool called a "trench packer" that fits on the front of utility machines. It vibrates and shakes and packs. The other way to settle the dirt is simply to wet-pack it with water.
"Pack it as good as you can and leave it bermed up a little higher on it, and then get the hose and just jab the hose into it and really get it good and wet and soaked," Minner says. "Water is an excellent packer, and it will help that soil settle down and get all those voids and air spaces out."
Most holes eventually stabilize over time. But if pockets keep forming after several attempts to fill them, call a soil consultant or geologist for an inspection.
Recognizing sinkholes: Sometimes, a sunken area in your yard can be a sign of a bigger problem. Here's what to look for, and what to do.
Sinkhole repair: This cross-section diagram demonstrates how to best fill a sinkhole, starting with large rocks on the bottom, and working up to smaller pieces of rock, sand and soil at ground level.
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