Amending And Altering Soil
Not all solutions need be so drastic or involved. Sometimes simply amending the soil with organic matter loosens soil structure and improves water movement enough to solve drainage problems. Organic matter also invites beneficial organisms into the soil. Many insects and earthworms help aerate the soil through their movement and feeding, further enhancing water infiltration. Likewise, deep-rooted cover crops such as daikon radish can help break through compacted clay soil, creating channels for root growth and water movement. Alternately, gardeners can build berms in the landscape to lift plants out of poor-draining clay. Use a loose, organic-rich soil when building berms to enhance drainage.
How To Improve Clay Soil For Lawns
To break up heavy clay soil in your lawn, youll depend on organic material and other practices that will improve aeration and drainage. Tilling and using amendments are the best options before establishing a lawn, but there are solutions for breaking up clay soil, even for existing lawns.
Heres how to improve clay soil for lawns:
Gypsum Enhances Your Soil And Delivers Extra Benefits To Your Garden
Improving soil structure and relieving compaction aren’t the only ways that gypsum benefits your lawn and garden. Gypsum adds calcium and sulfuressential plant nutrientsto your soil. While lime adds calcium and makes soil less acidic, gypsum adds calcium without affecting your soil pH.
Adding gypsum to vegetable gardens helps prevent calcium deficiency, a primary cause of blossom end rot disease. This common disease can undermine your harvest of garden favorites such as tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and melons. Adding gypsum at planting time keeps calcium plentiful, so fruit can ripen without end rot. The calcium in gypsum helps your strawberry patch reach its juicy potential, too.
By taking steps to improve and maintain your heavy clay soil, you can enjoy all the benefits clay offers and reap the rewards of healthy soil and plants. Pennington is here to help you overcome lawn and garden challenges and grow the best lawn and garden possible, in heavy clay and every other soil type.
Always read product labels thoroughly and follow instructions.
Pennington with design is a registered trademark of Pennington Seed, Inc.
Fast Acting is a trademark of Encap, LLC.
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Should You Use Grass Seed On Clay Soil
As the traditional method for establishing your lawn, high-quality grass seed is readily available at reasonable prices.
If you choose to seed, you can hand seed a small patch of land without a problemjust sprinkle the grass seeds over the area you want to grow. If your lawn is sizable, use a seeder you can roll across the yard.
Pros of Using Grass Seed:
- Cheaper from the outset
- Easy to install on your own- even if youre a novice!
Cons of Using Grass Seed:
- Allow at least one full season for seed to fill in
- Weeds are more likely to break through
How To Improve A Clay Soil Lawn
A lawn with clay soil is heavy and compact when it’s wet. It can absorb and trap water for extended periods, making it difficult for grass to become established. When clay soil is left to dry out, it becomes hard, restricting drainage and reducing the amount of oxygen that is able to reach the grass’s root system. For areas that are not planted with grass, tilling and mixing of organic compost with the existing soil is the fastest way to amend and correct drainage problems. Sources of organic compost include, sawdust, seasoned manure, leaves and sphagnum peat moss. If grass is already established in the lawn, you’ll need to take some extra steps to improve the soil.
Take a soil sample and test it to determine the fertility, pH and nutrients that are lacking in the soil. Most local cooperative extension offices have a list of recommended soil testing labs or you can buy a soil test kit at a garden center and do the testing yourself.
Measure the length and width of the lawn, in feet, and multiply them together to get the square footage of the area. Subtract the areas you don’t need to treat to determine the total area. You need to know the square footage to calculate the proper amount of fertilizer and other soil amendments.
Mix 4 parts sand, 2 parts loam, 1 part peat and thinly spread a 1/2-inch layer evenly over the existing lawn, raking it into the surface. One yard, or 27 cubic feet, of mixture will cover about 600 square feet.
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When Should You Aerate
Before you run out and rent your gear, take a few moments to think about when youre going to aerate.
Generally speaking, if youre in a hotter climate growing warm-season grasses, you want to aerate your lawn in the spring or early summer, right when things start growing again and lawn mowing season starts getting into gear.
- But theres a hitch. If youre going to aerate in the spring, you need to begin preparing the prior fall.
- Remember that the problem with clay is that it doesnt allow water and nutrients to escape.
You dont want to make your lawns problem worse, so in the fall, you need to rake deeply removing the layer of partially decomposed leaves and grass, called thatch, so that when you aerate, your soil is as accessible as possible.
You should also consider your general location, regionally speaking. If youre in a northern climate growing cool-season grasses, youll want to consider aerating in the early spring or fall, as one help guide advises, when aeration is most effective for that part of the country.
Choose Edwards Lawn & Home
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Only Water Your Lawn Once To Twice Per Week
Many people assume that more frequent water equates to more growth but that is not the case. Watering too frequently can be just as detrimental as under-watering. NEVER water a little bit every day. Doing so just helps weed seeds to sprout and get established.
Most lawns only need to be watered once to twice per week . As long as your lawn receives the right amount of water for the soil during a watering session, gets plenty of sunlight, and is mowed properly, it will be getting everything it needs to grow and thrive. As a rule, 4 hours of water in each area per week is ideal.
Can You Amend Clay Soil In Existing Lawns
Adding compost, gypsum, and pine bark can help amend clay soil before establishing a lawn, but you might want to use other options to break down and loosen clay soil in an existing lawn.
The best way to amend clay soil in an existing lawn is by aerating and dethatching. A plug aerator can remove plugs of soil to loosen up the soil and create spaces for air, water, and nutrient penetration in the soil.
Allowing thatch build-up on a lawn with clay soil can worsen the layer of dead matter and can worsen compaction and aeration problems. Therefore, dethatching is a great way to help grass thrive well on lawns built on clay soils.
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From The Expert: Lawn Care & Watering
City of Victoria News June 17, 2021
Laura Wood, owner of By The Woods Custom Landscaping and Victoria resident, shared several ways to care for your lawn during the Emergency Outdoor Watering Ban and general maintenance reminders.
Laura Wood is owner of in Victoria, MN and The Garden By The Woods garden center in Chanhassen, MN. She has been a resident of the city of Victoria for almost 20 years and has been proud to serve the community in many ways, including as a member of the Victoria Fire Department for the past 11 years. She has been an industry leader in practical, sustainable landscaping that merges low maintenance and cost effective solutions with great care for the environment to create high quality landscapes.
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I recently renovated my courtyard, carefully double digging the clay soil and adding plenty of organic matter. When heavy spring rains arrived, I discovered I had created a giant bathtub. As deep as I had dug, and despite a slight slope to the garden, I could not change the fact that my garden has solid clay subsoil, which prevent excess water from leaving the garden. When it comes to drainage, clay soil can be incredibly problematic. Luckily, there are a variety of solutions for improving drainage in heavy clay soil.
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Why Is Clay Soil Bad For Your Lawn
Clay soil is not suitable for growing a healthy lawn because the soil particles are heavy and compact easily. The soil holds too much water and can make the ground soggy or waterlogged, especially if there is excess watering.
Here are the reasons why clay soil is not good for your lawn:
- Compaction: clay soils have poor drainage and can lead to waterlogging. The grass will turn yellow and start to die if there arent breathing spaces in the soil.
- Shallow roots: grassroots suffocate in heavy clay soil and may develop poorly.
- Soggy yard after watering: You might find yourself with a yard thats always muddy because clay soil does not drain easily if not amended.
You can successfully establish a lawn on heavy soil, but you will first need to break up the clay soil to improve drainage and aeration.
Ive discussed below the best fixes and ways to improve clay soil and establish a lawn with healthy grass.
Mulch Your Grass Clippings
Grass clippings are an essential part of lawn care.
As a rule, you can recycle the grass clippings of an inch or less in length by returning them to your lawn. They will filter down and decompose quickly.
However, you need to remove longer grass clippings since they can smother or shade the grass below or use a mulching mower to make sure small clippings are created, long grass clippings may damage the lawn.
Do not throw bagged grass clippings out, as it is an excellent source of nutrients, and you can use them as a garden mulch.
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Best Way To Irrigate Sandy Soil:
Water moves quickly through sandy soil and it retains very little moisture. Sandy soil can absorb water quickly but it can lose this moisture almost as quickly as it absorbed it. Sandy soil is common in coastal areas.
- Water quickly and for short periods.
- Water just long enough to thoroughly wet the root zone. Anything that gets past the root zone will leach and is a waste.
Pro tip: Spreading compost or leaving grass clippings is a great way to help your sandy soil retain moisture for longer periods of time.
Benefits of Sandy Soil:
- Warms up quickly in the spring
- There are specific grass types that perform very well in sandy soils
- Drains quickly. Less threat of flooding
- Bc particles dont stick together, its easier for grass to establish roots in sandy soil. Its loose and can be easier to work with.
When To Water The Lawn
If you find your lawn has taken on a grayish cast or appears to be dull green, its telling you that it needs water. You can also check your lawn by walking on it: If your footprints dont disappear quickly, its because the grass blades dont have the needed moisture to spring back. While it may seem like you can head out to water your lawn anytime during the day, your lawn actually needs more specific care. Watering in the morning is the best time for your lawn its cooler and winds tend to be calmer so water can soak into the soil and be absorbed by the grass roots before it can evaporate. If you must water in the evening, try between 4 and 6 p.m. which should give the grass blades time to dry before nightfall. The later you water, the greater chance of disease becoming prevalent in your lawn. Its worth noting, though, that you dont necessarily have to water your lawn. Lawns are resilient. Established and properly cared-for lawns can survive weeks without water by going dormant , then recover once the rain returns.
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Clay Soil Can Provide An Excellent Foundation For Healthy Plant Growth
Clay’s potential as one of the best soil types for plant growth lies in its unique properties. The individual particles that make up your clay are extremely small compared to other soil types such as sand, silt or loam.1 Thanks to the surface area of all those small particles, clay soil has a greater capacity to hold water and nutrients your lawn and garden needs. Managed well, clay soil typically requires less irrigation and less fertilizer, and leads to healthier plants all around.
Even if you’re certain you have heavy clayand have the clods on your boots and tools to prove ittake time to test your soil before you make changes. A soil test takes the guesswork out of your starting point, so well-intentioned soil work doesn’t backfire and make things worse. If you’re new to soil sampling, your local county extension agent can help with advice and soil testing kits.
Your test results and recommendations can include ways to improve your clay soil, along with helpful information about your soil’s organic matter, pH and nutrients. In areas with heavy clay, it’s a good idea to test your soil every three to four years.1
Amending your soil with organic matter helps improve its structure.
How Much Water Does A Lawn Need To Stay Green
Grass requires different amounts of water depending on how much sun the lawn receives. For instance, a south facing lawn in full sun will require .6-.7 of water, a normal facing aspect with partial sun will require .5-.6 of water, and a north facing aspect or lawns in full shade will require .4-.5 of water per watering.
Every sprinkler system is different and the output of each sprinkler zone on an irrigation system is different too. The best way to determine how long to water a lawn is to get an accurate measurement of each zone in a sprinkler system. Using a rain gauge or a flat-bottomed flat-sided container is the best way to get an accurate measurement.
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About Clay Soil In Maryland
In central and western Maryland, one might have soil that is loamy, clay, or rocky. Loamy soil is a mixture of sand and clay. In general, soil is usually a mix of types and not 100% one kind or another. You can know if you have clay soil by moistening a small clod of dirt and rubbing it between your fingers. If it forms into a long ribbon, you have clay soil!
Clay consists of the smallest particles, meaning it can hold the most nutrients and retain the most water. However, it also means that it can be sticky when wet and hard as concrete when dry. Therefore, those of you who want to know how to care for and water a lawn with clay soil have their work cut out.
Soil Amendments Such As Organic Matter And Gypsum Improve Heavy Clay And Relieve Compaction
Amending your soil properly can overcome heavy, compacted clay and get it back on track for healthy lawn and garden growth. Adding materials such as organic compost, pine bark, composted leaves and gypsum to heavy clay can improve its structure and help eliminate drainage and compaction problems. Avoid adding sand or peat moss to clay they can make those problems worse.1
Your soil test or extension agent can help you determine the right amount of organic matter for your soil. As a general rule, when possible, add a layer of 3 to 6 inches of organic matter on your soil before planting, and work it down into the top 10 to 12 incheswhere most roots grow. In following years, build on your efforts by adding 1 to 3 inches of organic mulch as a topdressing each year.1 As it decomposes, it continues to gradually improve clay soil.
Gypsum is easily applied to the soil surface with a regular lawn spreader. It’s an ideal amendment for improving soil structure and relieving compaction in existing lawns and gardens. Lilly Miller Garden Gypsum starts working immediately starts working immediately to help loosen compacted clay soil, increase water penetration and improve drainage, correcting soil conditions to allow for better plant root growth.
Gypsum enhances soil without affecting soil pH and provides calcium to prevent blossom end rot disease.
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What Grass Grows In Clay Soil
If breaking up clay soil is not a working solution for you, you may want to think and opt for a turfgrass that grows in clay soil. Zoysia, buffalo grass, tall fescue, and Bermuda grass are great grass types to grow on clayey turfs, depending on the regions climate.
To help your grass survive and thrive in clay soils, it is important to ensure a deeper root system thats extensive enough to absorb nutrients and water in poorly aerated soils.