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Clay soil question


LawnSite Gold Member
A2, Michigan
In my never ending quest to understand more about treating and improving clay soils, I spoke to the local Lesco dealer. He recommended adding a product like Turface to the soil to help break up the compaction and improve drainage. I've also heard that one of the local high schools has been adding tiny rubber chips to their football field to improve compaction. Any thoughts on this?




LawnSite Silver Member
S.E. Michigan
Turface is used mostly on athletic fields. Crumb rubber has been, and still is, being studied by Dr. Trey Rogers at MSU. His studies have shown a reduction in injuries, more than compaction issues. That's probably why you're beginning to see it being used on sports fields. For relieving compaction in lawns with clay soils, aeration, gypsum, and the addition of organic matter will probably work the best.


LawnSite Member
Correct. It can be difficult to overcome significant physical compaction issues, such as on a sportsfield.

The most efficient aeration is done by microorgansims. In order for them to do their job, you must promote them through the addition of organic materials (which they feed and grow on). In difficult situations, adding microorganisms themselves is a very good way to expedite the process. This can be done through compost teas or through the addition of any of a number of biological products in the marketplace these days.

Good luck!
Adding om will help, as will getting soil chemistry correct!

Take a soil test and look at the base saturations. You want the Ca to be @ 68% and Mag to be @ 12%. If you can get soil in these ranges, the soil structure will improve, and will reduce compaction.


LawnSite Senior Member
:) :) :)
This post reminds me of a story our local composting giant tells. Several years ago three of the local high schools came to him to buy compost for their football fields. This was a first - no school had ever bought compost from him before. Well, the school turf managers were very impressed with the lush growth and especially the reduction in irrigation required. At the end of the football season, all three of these schools went on to state finals. So the moral of the story is use compost if you want your team to win!
:D :D :D

trying 2b organic

LawnSite Senior Member
The huge debate i am running into with clay is whether to add a sand mix as topdressing. One group says sand plus clay = cement. The other says sand will amend clay to become a better soil.

btw mtd I have been busting a nut looking for best topdressing formula and am looking at a mix 50-50 mix of lawn sand and fish compost. (fish compost might be a local thing since i live on an island) I still havnt bought a compost spreader and to the group remember we are looking for a small push spreader for small residintial lawns no tow behinds etc. :)


LawnSite Member
Awe Clay!
Around here it is a given...(a valley in southern oregon, back in the day, the bottom of the sea.)

When we aerate we put down pellitized gypsum.
Although this takes many applications and time throughout the years, and is not a quick fix, I like it because of the beneficial calcium, and it's cheap!

From what I understand, gypsum causes the clay to clump together allowing roots and air to penetrate...in time.
As far as the amending-sand-debate.

Sand: The coarses particle & Clay: The finest particle

I don't think I would, waste of time and money. You could not put down enough sand to even begin to amend the clay. And if you're just using the sand as a top dressing for a lawn with a clay base, the water will shoot through the sand, hit the clay and run off. Or, shoot through the sand and sit there on top of the clay causing a fungus-amoung-us...
Lesson #1 everyone learns around here is to not plant IN the clay.
The easiest way to avoid a sticky situation, is to get up out of the clay...mound all plant material and in time the roots will tap down in to that sticky stuff to stay cool in the summer. But don't give the plant/turf the ultimatum to try and grow in a bowl of water.

As far as lawns go... organic fert program, lots of aerating and lots of gypsum until they become a little more self sustaining on their own. ( I know a lot of die hard organic people will say you don't need to aerate if you are on an organic fert program, well soybean meal and cottonseed meal take time...so in the meantime, I aerate.)
I look at our clay, like job security, you gotta go organic if you want a healthy lawn...or "clay based grass area."

creek chub

LawnSite Member
Salem, VA
Ditto to Erik,

I used gypsum in my clayey vegetable garden and what a difference. However, I tilled the gypsum in. It is night and day difference from last year.

Creek Chub