Fixing Soil Damage After A Construction Project

Marvin Simmons

Construction projects, no matter how small, can cause lasting damage to the soil in your yard or garden if you don't take the right repair steps. Excavating for a new foundation, whether for a home, shed or a patio, disturbs the topsoil, while heavy equipment compacts the soil so plants have trouble taking root.

Clear the Site

A common mistake whenever excavation takes place is the use of the wrong fill materials. Often, the hole gets filled in with whatever is available after the project is done. Tree branches and leftover lumber are common items. While these are organic and will eventually decompose and benefit the soil, they can cause problems.

Solid wood can take many years to break down. During this time, the decomposing wood robs nitrogen from the soil, which can stunt plant growth. Fungus growth, particularly mushrooms, are also common where large pieces of wood are buried.

Before filling in the hole, remove all the construction debris – especially wood. If you must bring in outside materials to fill the hole, topsoil is a better choice. Large, deep holes may require more substantial filler. Recycled concrete chunks are often used, but avoid small pieces that will work their way to the surface and make the soil rocky. If you do use concrete, cover it with a 1 to 2 foot layer of soil so plants have plenty of room to root.

Till, Then Fill

Dusting over a compacted site with fresh topsoil isn't a sufficient fix. Neither is simply filling in equipment ruts with fresh soil. The compacted soil won't allow water to seep properly into the soil, and it also impedes air circulation.

If a site is compacted or filled with ruts, begin by tilling up the top 18 to 24 inches of ground. Use a power tiller to make the job easier. Once the soil is tilled, mix in some compost or topsoil to add fresh organic matter and to further break up the soil particles.

Bring In Fresh Soil

Major ground disturbance can leave a patch of your lawn bare for a long time. The lack of growing and decaying plant material weakens the nutrient structure in the soil. Construction activity also disturbs the microorganisms that live in the soil and make it a healthy ecosystem for your plants. After repairing the soil to counteract digging damage and compaction, spread a fresh 4- to 6-inch deep layer of topsoil over the ground. The topsoil will reintroduce the microorganisms and other creatures, such as worms, that are necessary for healthy soil.

Growing a healthy lawn or garden begins with the soil, so it's imperative to get it back into tip-top shape once your building project is over. Talk to places like AAROC Aggregates Landscape Supplies for more information.