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How to breakdown clay

Discussion in 'Turf Renovation' started by snuddenstang, Apr 9, 2006.

  1. snuddenstang

    snuddenstang LawnSite Member
    from nj
    Posts: 56

    I renovated my yard last Spring with Hydroseeding. I now realize I did things a little backwards. I have a problem with drainage in certain areas near the bottom of a hill in the back yard. The rear yard is 15k sq feet. My yard is mostly clay and they water just doesn't make it's way through the soil because it is so compacted. I aerated last fall and it did not sem to help yet. I have underground sprinklers. I know I should have amended the soil before hydroseeding but it's too late now. My lawn does look nice, but I need to break down the clay so those standing puddles of water can drain down into the soil. Any ideas?
  2. bondman35a

    bondman35a LawnSite Member
    Posts: 82

    Try areating again and then top dress with some type of organic material. I would shy away from peat moss because that holds water, and as you know so does clay.
  3. SLSNursery

    SLSNursery LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 442

    Not seeing the soil, or knowing the composition makes this tough to diagnose.

    Sometimes when we work on athletic fields that are badly compacted we will treat with a conditioner. Although it is also a clay product, it works in the root zone to provide porous space for improved drainage and root growth.


    Bondman is correct about peatmoss holding water, yet I would still consider some sort of organic topdressing. We have our own screening plant, so we are able to adjust as necessary to meet changing field conditions on the various sites we encounter. A lot of times, I'll set up to mix a sandy compost product for topdressing after aerating. See if a supplier has something like this in stock for you. We'll even do this after overseeding on residential lawns. A good drag, either chainlink, or similar helps too!

    Good Luck.
  4. Prolawnservice

    Prolawnservice LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 612

    Chances are, that area is high in magnesium, which will bond the clay together so tight as to not let the water through, have a soil test done to see how much you'll need to correct this, gypsum is calcium and sulfer this will help you two fold by increasing the calcium level and knocking out some of the magnesium as is caused by the sulfer moving through the soil. A good dressing of compost together with this will help as well.
  5. chriscraft

    chriscraft LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 390

    try calcium sulfate(gypsum) Mich States agro dept suggests 100 lbs per 1,000 sq feet for heavily clayed soils. I know your predictament. We are all clay here. We regularly aerate our customers sping and fall, and use 40lbs per 1,000 sq feet twice a year, i would aerate youe lawn then use a tow behind spreader (wide open setting) our spreader holds 200 lbs of it, and go 40 per 1,000 600 lbs. I would do that 4 times during the season. It will work 4 times faster than doing it once per year. We find that after 5 years of aerating (twice a year) and 40 lbs per 1,000 (twice a year) our customers soil turns int a sandy based soil, caly is nearly gone, and watering bills reduce 80%. at least thats what happened to my lawn and customers report similar findings.
  6. snuddenstang

    snuddenstang LawnSite Member
    from nj
    Posts: 56

    If I am doing all this aerating, do I have to overseed after I aerate? My lawn looks pretty full now but if I aerate it isn't it going to mess it up?
    I am waiting for the results from my soil test.
    I plan to aerate soon and add gysum at 40lbs pre 1000 sq feet.
    Should I also seed at the same time?
    Should I also add some sort of organic matter at the same time or just add the gypsum? Thanks for all the advise.
  7. chriscraft

    chriscraft LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 390

    well , if you have access to a topdressing machine and organic compost i would top dress with a 30% sand 70% compost mix if available. We aerate twice a year for 50% of our aeration customers and rarely over seed them. I dont believe aerating significantly (thins out your grass) at all but if you want it thicker that is the time to seed and topdress. You can topdress with 1/4" sand to help with drainage in the spring and do with compost in the fall also for organics. Either way your lawn will do poorly until you get rid of the clay under the soil. Redo the entire lawn with 4-6 inches of topsoil and resod (which is generally price prohibitive) or aerate gypsum regularly until the clay is gone(Much cheaper)
  8. PSUturf

    PSUturf LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 663

    Frequent aerating is the best way to go without starting a new lawn. A double aeration will not thin the lawn or make a mess (unless you do it when the soil is saturated and you end up with mud). Yes, you will see a lot of cores but after two weeks they should disappear if the lawn is growing well. Be sure not to mow when the grass is wet the first few weeks after aerifying.

    I am not a big fan of compost topdressing for the purpose of improving soil structure. It's pretty hard to get enough of it worked into the aerifier holes to actually do any good. More than likely you will end up with a thick organic layer on top of the soil. A Hydroject or Vertidrain aerifier would be very helpful with fracturing the compacted soil at depths greater than 4". 4" is about as deep as your average aerifier will go. Your local golf course superintendent should be able to refer you to a contractor that could use a Hydroject or Vertidrain on your lawn.
  9. Az Gardener

    Az Gardener LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,899

    You can also install a fertilizer injector system and inject humate based bridge products that will fertilize and break down the soil every water cycle. About 200 bucks in materials, unit and parts and about 1-1.5 M/H to retrofit old system. The pro baseball fields out here also use a product called turface to fill in the core holes after you areate. Ewing irrigation carries both the turface and Fertile Earth feeders. I have these on most of my properties www.fertileearth.com also very profitable to sell and keep filled.

    Water wisely too, short water cycles close together so you don't have run off and maybe even shut down the valve at the bottom of the hill or put it on another program so it doesn't water as frequently.
  10. Grassmechanic

    Grassmechanic LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,697

    I had to show this to my brother in law. He is a soil scientist with the U.S Dept of Ag. I had 4 years of soil science in college as well. We were both laughing out loud at this. You cannot take a mineral (clay) and "turn it" into another mineral (sand). You can however, change the soil structure to allow the soil to have more "tilth" and to change the water holding capacity. Perhaps this is what you are referring to, but you can't turn clay to sand.

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