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Sandy Soil Tale of Woe

Discussion in 'Homeowner Assistance Forum' started by Jed1, Aug 16, 2007.

  1. Jed1

    Jed1 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 9

    I live in SE Wisconsin. The soil conditions at our new house are very poor: 4" of very poor quality dirt on top of pure, fine sand. Two attempts to grow grass have failed. The cost of excavating 4", bringing in good top soil, and seeding/fertilizing again will be very expensive. The grading precludes just putting topsoil on top of what I have now.

    I've found some info on the web about this situation. Suggestions are to work in organic material into the poor soil and look for a seed blend made for full sun/sandy soil (I suspect the landscaper just used his usual seed blend each time).

    I could give this one more try in the fall. Has anyone tackled a situation like this successfully without excavating?

  2. Newt*

    Newt* LawnSite Member
    Messages: 182

    Hi Jed,

    If I understand what you said, you did NOT incorporate the added topsoil but put it on top of the sandy soil. If that's the case I can understand why your lawn failed. I had a similar situation but with clay subsoil. I added 1" of sand and 4" of compost. When mixing it together into the clay subsoil, I missed a couple of spots in a flower bed. Two years later I was digging in that area because the flowers weren't doing well. In my case I discovered the sandy layer had hardened and created a wet spot below the compost where the water sat on top of the clay. I would think that in your case, if the soil is sitting on top of sand, the water would drain away too quickly and there would be few nutrients at the deeper level. The compost will improve the texture of the sand and add good microbes.

    I'm not sure what you've read, but this site has a wealth of info on improving the soil.

    I would suggest adding 3" to 4" of compost, mixing it in to a depth of 8" to 10" and then using a drought resistant grass. You should find this helpful.

    I also went to your state extension service site and clicked around.

    I clicked on 'Publications' on the left, then 'Lawn and Garden', 'Lawns and Turf', then on 'Care' and found this - 'Lawn Establishment and Renovation'.

    There's lots to see and you can click on the 'PDF' versions where offered and read what is there.

  3. Jed1

    Jed1 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 9

    Hi, Newt. What we had was a new house. The final grade was done in August 2006, and all they did was put back the poor quality topsoil that was excavated. Neighbors warned us that we should have good earth trucked in, but the builder insisted that all would be well as-is. Not!

    Thanks for the links, and I'll read them this weekend. I have a reliable landscaper coming next week to look at it; he's familiar with the soil conditions where I live. Just talking over the phone, he believes that using a drought resistent seed blend and following a fertilizer program will work, although it could take 2-3 growing seasons to look good. I'm not sure if the grading will permit incorporating much organic material, but I'll find out.
  4. NNL&LS

    NNL&LS Banned
    from zone 5
    Messages: 88

    Do you have a sprinkler system? If not, don't bother trying anything. If you're going to be cheap, you will get cheap. Any grass will grow in sand; If irrigated and fertilized, sand is an ideal growth medium.
  5. Newt*

    Newt* LawnSite Member
    Messages: 182

    Jed, you are very welcome! Consider core aeration in the fall with topdressing of 1/2" of compost. You can do this every fall if you like or every 2 or 3 years. Incorporating the organic matter will be helpful. If your landscaper uses synthetic fertilizers you will be feeding the grass but not the soil that supports and feeds the grass and you will need to continually feed it.

    Here's how to maintain your lawn organically.

  6. cross1933

    cross1933 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 165

    I wonder if our builders are related, my backyard is identical. My yard was planted in the first week of May this year, I would not need the mower if it were not for the areas that I planted and the weeds.I started with some Roundup 1 week ago. I will be bringing in some top soil and then replant with some seed and starter fertilizer,probably from Lesco.
  7. Jed1

    Jed1 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 9

    Good luck, Cross.

    NNL&LS: I don't think that a sprinkler system is the Holy Grail or that not having one makes this is a cheap, doomed to fail project.
  8. cross1933

    cross1933 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 165

    The problem here is so much rain,it has rained the last three days. The total for the month of August is 6.4", wettest August in 17 years.

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