I have heard that adding sand to compacted soils will help with drainage. My ag agent told me that if I do the mixture will make the soil worse. I dont know anymore. Has anyone had experience doing this? Aerating the area has not solved the problem.
It all depends on the reason why you have poor soil conditions, clay and sand won't work you need gypsum for this problem. If your soils are black dirt based then sand can help but you need to get a lot of it worked in to the ground before it will help. For football fields we figure about 1 cu. yd. per 300 sq. ft. tilled into the soil 6"-8" deep.
Soil tests will help you figure out what you need.
The fellow down the street from me has a beautiful lawn. About 3 years ago his brother, who does all natural landscaping, put down about 8 yards of sand over the entire lawn. You could barely even see the grass. He did this in the fall. By spring time, the sand was all gone and the lawn looked great!
Lannelle was right about the clay. As far as adding sand in should be to a richer, darker soil. As you probobly know sand does not compact (AT ALL, NO MATTER HOW HARD YOU TRY!!!! I PROMISE!!) Thats how me mess with the new guys, we tell them to lay 12" of sand in a drainaige ditch we have on the side of the shop and don't come in until you can't see footprints in it. By the end of the day they are ready to cry!!
But back on track, since the sand doesn't compact it gets in between the soil and keeps the soil in smaller layers that "give" a bit instead of packing as much as they normally would.
If you are dealing with a loam soil (black dirt), you might want to core aerate, and then go back and sand over the empty plug holes in the ground. This will help to improve drainage and root growth... it will also help to prevent soil layering.
If you simply dump a load of sand over the existing soil, it causes soil layering, and can actually hender drainage more than it will help.
If runoff, grading is first choice, then tiling or drywell. If you are trying to improve percolation through soil, you must determine the soil profile. A good place to start is with your county soil survey. Soil types will be indicated and defined. You can determine roughly from the survey if the problem is shallow or deep.
Also must be aware that any interface between two soil types will cause percolation problems: everyone knows that a sandy surface layer will not percolate well into a lower clay layer, but a surface clay layer will often not drain well into a lower sand layer. I have even seen two different sand types layered, and water would not move well through the interface. Have found lawns that require some work 6-8 feet deep in order to accomplish percolation, and have gone to 10' on one without any success - that one is a hill of clay: great runoff, no percolation.