Hurricane Irene knocked out power, collapsed bridges older than most can remember, and left lawns buried in what can only be described as “muck” across much of Vermont. Once power is restored, roads are rebuilt, and normalcy returns, many folks will be forced to reclaim or at least make a decision about their lawns.
Many golf courses suffered extreme damage to the point where starting over by tilling under the greens and fairways may be the only viable option. For those with a home lawn in a flood plain or next to a waterway, removing silt and sediment can be a daunting task. Before you begin any work, be sure to wear rubber boots, face masks, and gloves to avoid any potential contamination from the sediment. There is a high likelihood that the silt and sediment, being of the finest particle size, will contain petroleum products among other liquid waste.
First, removing as much sediment, debris, and silt is important because leaving it behind will not allow a new lawn to drain properly because clay retains rainfall and does not have air pockets necessary to support healthy roots. In many cases, a complete lawn renovation may well be required after removing the sediment now covering your old lawn. At this point in time, any buried turf is now beginning to decompose into itself, further adding to the foul odor now emanating from fields.
What can a regular home owner do about silt and sand on their lawn from a flood if grass still remains? After shoveling or sweeping shallow sediment (under 1”), the lawn can be aerated a few times and then heavily overseeded to add new grass and help restore the lawn prior to winter. Depending upon the quality of the loam or soil deposited on the surface of the lawn, it could act as topdressing of sorts, promoting surface germination while improving density before winter. If the sediment has more silt than sand, adding compost or topsoil may be a better option for those lawn areas still partially alive. If your lawn is buried and dead, the only viable option is to remove the sediment and start over by bringing in loam. Keeping the silt contaminated by petroleum products and other effluent discharged during the flood is not what you want to have as a base lawn area.
Either way you slice it, the job is not easy but regaining any turf area now makes sense if possible before winter arrives. Doing so may well prevent further erosion next spring and the mud storm that non-grassed areas could prevent with a fall seeding.