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6 days ago I had a landscaping company perform a lawn renovation. The first few inches of the existing turf was removed and new loam was trucked in, followed by hydroseeding.

Shortly after the hydroseeding, we had some pretty torrential rains overnight. Now looking at the soil, countless rocks and sticks seem to have been exposed or surfaced by the rain. The entire yard is covered in rocks and twigs, some upwards of an inch, some sticks measuring several inches or longer. They quote was for screened loam, but now I'm dubious and I don't know how to proceed. If it was screened it was clearly screened to maybe an inch at best. It looks like total crap and I worry about the impact on the grass and the ability to mow it safely. I'm not sure how to proceed.

Is this normal, or am I getting screwed? Can this be raked out without damaging the seedlings and requiring re-seeding? Any advice appreciated. Lawn 1 Lawn 2 Lawn 3

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Mmm yes there is a problem here. You don't say roughly what area you are located but let's say you are in a temperate zone. Part of the lawn installation process would be "fine grading" where a machine is used to rake over the loam before seeding. In a temperate location the result of the fine grading might not easily reveal the sticks and stones since they may be coated with a layer of fine silt or clay; then the mulch in the slurry used in hydroseeding will cover a lot of sins. That or the installer did not notice or they subcontracted the loam part and were careless in the inspection before seeding. Clearly the surface is not suitable for long term mowing - both the stones and the sticks will be a problem and they cannot easily be removed unless scraped off with the loam and carted out.

That however would be a major operation and might not be necessary. If say magically a couple of inches of true fine loam without sticks and stones were spread over top of the existing and re-seeded would that suit your purposes? The sticks and stones will still be under there but not interfering with operations like mowing and leave a clean comfortable surface for walking and children playing.

Now how to achieve this. Many areas have state/provincial organizations that are dedicated to maintaining high horticultural standards in the industry. For example there is the Maine Landscape Contractors Association. Find out if your contractor is a member; if yes they have a reputation to maintain and it might just be an oversight, so invite a rep to investigate the situation and suggest a remedy. If not, invite a different contractor in who is a member and ask him for a quote to overspread and re-seed. The quote will be a confidence booster in your negotiations and/or be of great use if you decide to push for a legal remedy.

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  • The problem with putting a couple of inches of good loam on top is that rain will soon bring the sticks and stones back to the surface, until you get a good thatch of grass roots thick enough to keep them below ground. If you don't want to take out this rubbish and start again, another option would be turf not seed, which will keep it out of your mower blades. – alephzero Sep 4 '19 at 13:28
  • So raking it out is not an option? The rain has brought most of it to the surface already, and it's only about 4000 square feet. – MPR Sep 4 '19 at 16:35
  • @MPR "The rain has brought most of it to the surface already" - how do you know, if you haven't dug up the entire lawn to look? You may keep getting stones literally for years, and it only takes one stone to wreck your mower. – alephzero Sep 5 '19 at 21:35
  • You're right that there is no way to know for certain, but I did dig down in a few random spots and the quality under the surface seems to be much more consistent. – MPR Sep 6 '19 at 2:33
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In my experience in the industry, you're probably getting screwed. Bottom line - the contract stated "screened loam" and there is no way that what was delivered was screened loam. It's possibly not even loam.

I would first contact your original contractor, explain the issue, and allow them to try to make it right. Definitely insist that they make a site visit, to occur within seven days. If the contractor provided the topsoil, they were not ignorant of the soil they delivered and will probably try to stall you until you go away (that's the reasoning behind the seven-day deadline - to prevent them from stalling indefinitely). If they contracted out the topsoil, they will (if reputable) fall all over themselves to get the soil replaced and then re-hydroseed the area. This would probably be at the expense of their sub-contractor, so the sooner you contact them, the better.

If they refuse or delay the site visit, then contact the consumer protection agency (if one exists) in your state/province and file a formal complaint. Follow this up with very negative reviews on all relevant online forums (just the facts, though - NO editorializing). You'll then have to eat the cost of sodding the lawn.

As for raking: sure, you can rake all of the sticks and stones that you see now, but almost certainly there are more just below the top level that will rise with the next heavy rain. Raking your "lawn" for sticks and stones could become your new hobby in that case - personally, I'd just sod it. Good luck.

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