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Ok, I hope this forum section gets enough visitors to get a good answer, but I'll give it a whirl.

I have a lawn at my personal residence that is Tall Fescue. It was sodded when new by the builder 3.5 years ago. Under the sod is, of course, hard pan clay subsoil. It's a sloped lot so much of it is pretty close to rock hard where they cut away the topsoil. Any areas that are in fill dirt are fine, but the parts of the lawn that are on the subsoil clay do not do well in summer.

I core aerate it well. I tilled a small section and amended it and it's ok, but nothing special. I could have used much more good soil material but lacked the ability to get it to the part of the lawn needed and mostly lacked the energy to deal with it. Other Unamended areas I converted from mulched beds that I attempted to just aerate and seed look like a parking lot after summer heat hits.

I killed myself tilling and amending just a thousand square feet. I'm wondering how someone w/o a top dressing machine can improve soil quality on about 5,000 ft of lawn.

I own an aerator and top seeder, but topdressers are too expensive and no rentals appear to be within easy range.

Before I put in the effort I have to ask. Would simply mowing low, aerating well, and shovel spreading a $$$$load of compost/soil mix on it so that hopefully the holes refill with that instead of clay that just recompacts do much good? I have to work it in with regular work so it's not like I can devote a full week or much more than a day at a time to doing this.

Is a top dressing machine rental going to be worth it?
 

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Bruce, since you are in Atlanta, I suggest that you vist Howard Brothers Hardware in Doraville (770-476-5651---770-476-3006) and rent their areovator. Take a soil sample and have tested. Apply any needed amendments and broadcast seed. Topdress with a good quality compost and then run over the lawn a couple of times with the areovator. I can promose you the areovator will do a much better job of areation than any core areator every would in your hard clays. You also have the added advantage of being able to work the compost and other soil amendments into the soil. 5000sqft shouldnt take you more than a couple of evenings after work. I could possibly do it in a couple of hrs without breaking a sweat, but I have the equipment to do it with, to bad your to far away for me to come do it.
 

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Would a tractor with a heavy cultivator fit? You did not mention if you wanted to save the existing lawn. You could wait till winter and hire a good sized tractor with a 5' cultivator and make quick work and then reseed for spring. 1 weekend to cutivate would be a good estimate for us, but I've done it before. Spreading a couple dumptrucks of compost and topsoil and reworking with the cultivator and smoothing with a harley rake would take maybe three days. Or you could spread the topsoil and compost and smooth it with a blade and then cultivate it into the existing soil all in one job. Then smooth with the rake and reseed. It's a little hard to suggest what to do unless you just want to start from scratch. Reworking and saving the existing turf is a whole different type of thing. Planning is probably the hardest thing to work out. Best of luck
 
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