How To Grow Grass On Hard Packed Dirt - When we first bought the house, we were wondering how to plant grass seed in hard soil. We tried everything! Some things worked and some definitely didn't. That's how we finally made it.
To plant grass seed in hard soil, amend the hard soil before planting the grass seed. No amount of TLC after planting will make up for poor soil preparation. You need to introduce air and organic matter into the soil in the root zone before seeding the sod. Enrich the soil and THEN plant your grass seed.
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This wasn't the quick and easy solution we were looking for at first, but it completely changed the way we think about our lawn. Read on for more information on how to grow a lawn in less than perfect soil.
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We learned pretty quickly that going hard ground is a better option in the long run.
Hard soil can occur when the soil particles are too small, such as in heavy clay soil. grass
It is also hard because it has been compressed over time. The ground in nature does not receive much foot traffic.
The absence of vigorous circulation allows air to exist in some of the void space between the soil particles. Bases need that air! Therefore, compact soil that does not have much available air will not be the best for roots and turf.
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The first step is to do a soil test. Soil tests can tell you how much clay, silt, sand and organic matter your soil contains. They can also give an idea of what nutrients may be lacking. Do a soil test in the lab, it's worth it! If you're not convinced, read this article on why soil testing is important.
You can even try compacting your soil, but honestly, that's a bit far for a home garden. I used to test soil compaction on large construction sites (where compaction is desired!). These types of soil compaction tests are exciting, but they're not really designed for home gardens or the organic matter they (hopefully) contain.
In most home turf cases, hard soil is caused by high clay content or soil compaction. A soil test will tell you if you have very heavy clay. It will tell you if perhaps your soil has less organic matter than you expected. Or maybe your lawn used to be a dirt road. It is difficult to grow healthy grass in an unfamiliar growing medium.
The dirt becomes hard when the airbags are crushed. Perhaps the air pockets were crushed by glaciers thousands of years ago. Or maybe a car drove over the grassy area. Whatever the cause, compacted soil does not have a good mix of minerals, air and water.
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We need to reclaim some empty space in the soil to hold air and water. The roots of herbaceous plants need direct access to both air and water.
One way to bring air back into the ground is with a central aerator. An aeration corer is a machine that removes small plugs of soil, leaving small air holes in the soil. The machine is about the size of a lawnmower and is usually available for rent. A half day hire will do for most residential gardens.
Central aeration is often a good idea for residential lawns, which are often compacted. It will create great air gaps for the grass root zones. These gaps also retain moisture to help the grass get through dry periods.
Core aeration is often followed by composted topsoil. This involves using a wheelbarrow and rake to place about an inch of loose compost on the aerated lawn. This increases organic matter on the soil surface as well as in the central aeration holes.
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Many lawns will be ready to seed at this point. Keep in mind that you may need to aerate the core every spring and fall for several years to start seeing a difference. It's not a short-term solution, but it's relatively easy and cost-effective.
What if the soil is still too hard for grass to grow? Sometimes central ventilation and compost dressing only
Enough to create the well-drained soil that grass loves. This is especially true when it comes to planting grass in clay soil. Grass may grow, but it will never prosper. Weeds, bald spots and potholes will always be a problem.
If the future lawn area is open and accessible, it is possible to loosen and improve the dirt that is already there (even if it is clay). This is usually done by digging up the first few inches of soil and mixing it with organic matter. A common method is to use a rotary tiller and grow in compost.
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Tilling organic matter into the soil can be a bit drastic, especially if you're using a machine... but it works. Leaf tillage or composted manure is common in our area. It's a lot of work, but organic matter holds air well in the soil.
Unfortunately, plowing can also produce weed seeds. You should also spend more time leveling the ground before planting grass seed. Some people work in the fall and level the ground several times before and after winter to allow bumps and lumps to settle into the lawn.
If all else fails (or it's just too annoying), consider bringing in a high-quality turf. Purchased topsoil can be placed over existing land. Because you know what you're working with, you'll have confidence that it drains well, is rich in organic matter, and has lots of great air spaces in the root zone.
Bringing in good topsoil is what finally worked for us. In fact, it turned out to be a little less expensive and slower than we had assumed. We brought in a truckload of very high quality topsoil and just buried all the clay. No more tracking clay around the house, and no more hassle growing weeds. It wasn't cheap, but we didn't regret it one bit. Worth it!
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By "good topsoil", I mean actual soil that has been dug up somewhere. The topsoil is extracted as a complete product rather than mixed with separate ingredients. It also shouldn't be from anywhere toxic agricultural chemicals have been sprayed. There is also "manufactured topsoil" which can be manure compost mixed with some sand, sawdust and wood chips.
In our area, we have a wonderful local supplier of OMRI-registered soil, which is sustainably sourced and managed. If there is something similar in your area, it could be a great option.
Topsoil in our area is about $40 per yard. Our truck bed holds about a yard, so you might think the price of dirt is $40 per truckload of dirt. We started with a van and it worked so well that we decided to do the whole yard.
We ask for a total of 20 yards of topsoil for both the front and back yards. The topsoil came in 2 dump truck loads. Including delivery and tax, the bulk order was about $900. It was enough to bury the clay in 6-8″ of topsoil. we water and
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The grassy area a few times to let the air pockets settle, and then it was all smooth sailing to the grassy city.
If you're thinking of doing something similar, consider measuring your yard before ordering. Also, make sure you can change your property's ranking this way. You may only need to do a small area. Just do what you gotta do! And be sure to source your potting soil from a sustainable producer.
Most types of grass can grow through 2 to 3 inches of topsoil placed on top if the existing established plants are healthy. Grass often grows through topsoil when a thinner layer of soil is placed on top of an old lawn. Some of the grass (and possibly weeds) survive the topsoil and manage to push up through the soil.
For this reason, it's best to get rid of weeds in an old lawn if you plan to bring in a few inches of new topsoil. If your lawn is being renovated and you're reading an article about growing grass in hard ground, then chances are you have some weeds to deal with. Remove them before placing the topsoil.
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It will grow in the fill soil, but it won't have the same access to nutrients as it would if it were growing in topsoil. The wild grass can even be seen growing in fill piles on construction sites. While grass will grow in fill soil, it usually will not thrive.
Backfill is a building material and must be free of organic compounds as it is extracted from the soil beneath the topsoil. Backfill is great for "filling in" low spots in the ground, but it lacks the decomposed matter that makes topsoil so good for turf.
The grass that will be planted in the fill will do better if organic matter is introduced into the soil before the seed is planted. Loose, uncompacted stuffing can be good with just a little
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