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Lawn on Clay Soil

Posted by ARiverRuns 6a (My Page) on
Mon, Apr 29, 13 at 20:42

I have soil that has lots of clay and rocks. I've attached a picture of my jar soil test - there seems to be 4 inches of "goop" at the bottom of the jar, and then clear water on top - no layers.
Yes, I have quite a few worms. And no, my yard does not drain quickly - after a rain I'll continue to have puddles for longer than 2 days (except in the heat of summer).
My backyard is 5,000 sqft so I'm looking for solutions that can be fairly easily managed by one person.
1) seeing as this is clay soil, is there any advantage to using the clear shampoo on it - does clear shampoo work on clay soil or only on compacted magnesium-ladden soil?
2) I recognize I need a lot of organic material. I'm hoping to add mulched grass clippings, mulched leaves, used coffee grinds, alfalfa pellets, sugar, corn meal, and compost over the summer. As soon as one application is absorbed (maybe within 2 weeks), I'll add another application. Please confirm I'm going in the right direction with this and that all of these topdressings are appropriate for clay soil.
3) I can get triple mix (topsoil, peat moss, and compost) easily. Would it be good to use this as one of my applications (see above), or would it be counter-productive because of the topsoil in it?
4) I'd really like to level my yard - there are many bumps and even low areas which need building up. Is it okay to level with coarse sand, or will that interract badly with all the clay in my yard? Or will the sand interfere with the compost applications I will be doing?
5) because this is clay soil, should I consider aeration?
6) no, the grass is not in great condition, but I intend to pull many of the worst weeds by hand, seed the bare spots, and try to improve the lawn over the next few years with organic methods.
7) I'm in the Toronto area.
8) If there is anything else I should consider to get this lawn in better shape, please let me know. Thanks for your help.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Lawn on Clay Soil

What shampoo does is lessen the surface tension of water so it flows easier and it is a temporary fix. If you wanted to do this every time you watered your lawn it might help the water penetrate and maybe not do much harm to your soil. Since your soil lacks organic matter there is probably little that shampoo would do to your non existent Soil Food Web.
What that jar shows is that youi have clay soil with no organic matter. That soil needs organic matter and once adequates levels of that OM are in the soil water will soak in without using any wetting agent. Since there is no OM in that soil core aeration probably would be a good idea before spreaading around any form of OM on the chance that some of that OM would drop into those holes.
Rather then spending your money on this "triple mix" I would find a source of compost and use that. Keep in mind that "topsoil" is mostly the mineral component of soil and you already have enough of that component. Peat moss is a non renewable resource that the soil bacteria will not eat and that will not contribute any nutrients to the plants which is what compost will do.
Once your soil is in good condition your grass will grow and fill in and push any unwanted plant growth, "weeds" out although that may take some time to happen.

RE: Lawn on Clay Soil

Thanks for your help. Compost will be my primary focus then.

RE: Lawn on Clay Soil

Yeah that triple mix sounds better for potting mix.

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