Learn how to improve clay soil for lawns and maintain it like a boss.
Clay soils are problematic in lawns. They have dense, compact texture and have poor drainage. As a result of that, they become very soggy when they are wet. And during the summer season, they dry out too much. When you have such tight soils, the required amount of air, water, and nutrients cannot pass through them easily.
These results in stunted growth of roots, and the grasses on the lawns become disease-prone, weak, and weeds develop more quickly. That’s why you should learn how to improve clay soil for lawns, as it’s necessary if you wanna maintain it in good quality.
Hence if you have clay soil in your lawn, you must improve its quality so that the lawn is healthy. The best way to improve the quality is by top dressing the lawn with compost and fertilizing it organically. The organic matter will decompose and lead to the improvement of the soil.
How to Improve Clay Soil for Lawns (Step by Step Guide)
In this section, we will discuss the proper method of how you can improve the clay soil in your lawn. With this step by step guide, we will be focusing on how to improve the clay soil for lawns.
Total Time Needed: 6 months
Steps to Improve Clay Soil for Lawn
Step 1 : Soil Testing
Start by testing the soil. You can determine the amount of phosphorus, nitrogen, potassium, and other nutrients that are present in the soil. To do the test, purchase a soil test kit and after collecting the soil, take it for analysis. When you get the results, start amending the soil.
Step 2 : Aerating the soil
Aerating the soil is the next step. Clay soil is dense and hence needs more attention to allow water and oxygen to pass through it. Using aerators is good as it removes dirt from the lawn, helps to break the soil, and permits the growth of grass. After the ground thaws, you should start aeration. For compacted soil, aeration must be done twice annually.
Step 3 : Top dress the lawn
When you want to top dress a lawn, you require loam, sand, peat in different ratios depending on the type of soil in your lawn. If you go by the rule, you need four parts of sand, one part peat, and two parts of loam. You can buy bags of the mixture, or you can order a truckload and then spread it on the lawn. One must ensure that the mixture goes through the soil and allow the existing grasses to stick up through this mixture. It is better to top-dress after aeration (especially in September).
Step 4 : Only if you have neglected the lawn for some time
You need to till the soil. One can rent a rear-tine and a self-propelled roto-tiller to enable you to break the surface of the ground and go to the place where the clay soil level ends. For tilling purposes, use four parts of sand along with one part peat and two parts of loam.
Step 5: Creating a proper drainage system
Clay soil, due to its dense texture, drains very slowly and saturates easily. This happens during the rainy season or snowfall. Therefore having a good drainage system helps to transfer the water from the lawn to another area with the help of pipes.
Step 6: Mow the lawn
The grass in the lawn will die off and leave the lawn as the breeding ground of weed, disease, and insects. You must first mow the lawn in the lowest setting and rake the entire place. This ensures that the seed falls close to the soil. You can spread the seed with a push spreader or with your hand, next water, and cover with some stray to prevent birds from eating the seeds.
Step 7: Feed the grass
Feeding the grass is the next step. The compact slays soil prevents nutritional elements from reaching the roots of the grass. Purchase a fertilizer which will suit the soil type, grass type, and time of the year when you will be using it. You need to keep in mind these factors when choosing the Nitrogen (N), Potassium (K), and Phosphorus (P) ratios in the fertilizer. In general, the lawn fertilizers have high ratios of nitrogen. One must fertilize twice annually. One must be done during spring, and the other is during late spring.
Step 8: Do not step in the soil for sometime
Clay soil tends to become compact in areas where there is heavy usage of the foot. It is better to stay away from the lawn. Avoid excess mowing of the lawn, especially when the ground is wet. You can instead lay stepping stones or create sidewalks or make a path so that you can walk without stepping on the soil.
Step 9: Mulching the lawn
Mulching the lawn is very important. Leave leaf and grass from the lawnmower on the lawn. This will decompose and provide nutrients to the soil. This will also lead to lawn friendly earthworms coming to the lawn. Earthworms will eat the mulch and fertilize the soil simultaneously. Liquid soil conditioners also help to loosen the soil. The conditioners for clay soil usually consist of humic acid, gypsum, and catalytic enzymes. This is applied during the growing season. These products need about two to three years for results to show. They cannot replace organic mulching.
Step 10: Control watering
Do not water frequently. Shallow grass is a common problem if you have clay soil. If you water it in a shallow manner, the roots will reach up and create more problems. It is better to put a sprinkler on a timer and water the lawn with one-inch water every week. You can use a rain gauge to measure the water levels.
If you have clay soil in your lawn, it is very easy to give up on the clay soil and let the weeds and diseases do their job. But if you persistently follow these steps of how to improve clay soil for lawns and take the precautions, you will get a healthy and beautiful lawn in your house.