Tips on renovation of hard pan clay lawn

Discussion in 'Turf Renovation' started by brucec32, Jul 3, 2007.

  1. brucec32

    brucec32 LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,403

    I've been doing this a while, but I've never renovated a tall fescue lawn that was on really hard soil. It's my own lawn, and I'm lazy enough not to want to spend any time I don't have to.

    I really don't want to be manhandling a tiller and hauling dumptruck loads of soil around, which is probably what it really needs. Any tips on a quicker way to fix a lawn that does fine in cool temps, but the hard areas (80% of lawn) fry in the summer?

    I was thinking a good thorough core aeration on a wet day, then some sort of soil amendment to try to get into the cored areas to prevent it from just re-compacting. Sand? Compost? topsoil? Short of tossing it around with a shovel, how would I get it down?

    Also, are slit seeders worth the cost/time?

    For 8,000 ft, what am I looking at in time if I need to till, rake and add topsoil?
  2. jeffinsgf

    jeffinsgf LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 641

    I would start with one of the "clay buster" type products. Google "Natures Lawn" and take a look at theirs. I think they call it a liquid aerator. You can probably find the clay buster brand at HD or Lowes. Nature's Lawn is more expensive, but more effective and has other benefits besides breaking down the clay.

    Don't stop there, though. Do a thorough core aeration and top dress with compost. There was a thread not too long ago that had some dandy manual top dressers linked -- search for it and check them out. It is something you will always benefit from, so I would make the commitment and get the tool.

    Timing for the core aeration depends on your turf type. If it is a warm season grass -- zoysia, bermuda, st augustine, etc -- now is just fine. If it is a cool season grass -- fescue, blue grass, etc -- wait until it cools off in the fall.

    Oh, one more thing. Nothing turns a hard pan yard into a real yard easier and faster than irrigation.
  3. LawnSolutionsCP

    LawnSolutionsCP Sponsor
    Messages: 907


    I personally have done 250+ renovations in the past 3-4 years and this is why my company developed the Turf Revitalizer. Check out the above link from our website showing a renovation / power rake video clip. There is nothing as compact and powerful for renovation work than our Revitalizer.

    The video clip shows our 6-hp model, but our 9-hp model can break up clay 1.5-2" deep all day long. It would make very short work of your 8,000 sqft. It has been compaired to the Dingo with a harley rake attachment.

    I could till up your 8,000 sqft in 2-3 hours of easy work. The hydraulics on the machine does all the work with finger tip controls. These machines really are as easy to operate as shown in the video. Just ask around. There are lots of people on lawnsite with units already.


  4. LawnSolutionsCP

    LawnSolutionsCP Sponsor
    Messages: 907

    One more thing, turn up the volume on the video. Our machine not only breaks up hard clay, but rocks are no match as well. You can hear the blades running over rocks without any dents, chips, or damage of any kind to the blades. Our machine will actually cut through rocks like a diamond tipped concrete saw.

    The fact that we have the only full, 11 gauge, high carbon spring steel blade in the industry in only part of what make are blades different. We also anneal and temper each one to ensure it is the hardest and most durable blade in the industry.

    Rental stores, who replace blades as often as every 5-6 rentals in some parts of the country due to rocky soil, reports our blades lasting 30-40 rentals and their amazed they have yet to break a blade like they do all the time with their old machines. They also are amazed that they can change our blades in 15 minutes compaired to 3+ hrs with their old machine.

    Sorry for the long post, but if your looking to break up ground for a renovation, check our the Turf Revitalizer. You will be impressed.
  5. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    I am sitting on top of about 2 feet of solid red clay here in cool season grass country. The lawn was established in the woods so there was organic matter to work with, other than that little has been done to keep it alive.
    Slow soak it up over the period of a couple of days if necessary then let it dry out, but not to the point of concrete. Clay with too much water looses too much air. Keep any cover you have including weeds till fall, then reseed.
    If you want the high maintainance look right now, you are going to have to work for it. If you are patiently lazy in building the turf, your grass will survive anything in the clay. Worms aerate better than anything so put the clippings back.
  6. DiyDave

    DiyDave LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,695

    Try a shattertine aerator like an aerway or bannerman. They can go as deep as 8" under the right conditions. They also improve drainage and support water conservation, because the rain you get runs off less.
  7. john_incircuit

    john_incircuit LawnSite Senior Member
    from NC
    Messages: 311

    I roto tilled plenty of NC clay, just to find out that weeks later, I have again a dense hunk of clay. Maybe I don't understand your machine correctly, but I don't get how slitting the soil two inches deep will do much good in the long run. The soil will not retain more moisture or have more nutrients or a different chemistry.
  8. muddstopper

    muddstopper LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,345

    You can till or areate your lawn all you want and it will just go back to the hard packed clay it already is unless you change the soils chemistry. Dont waste your money on those liquid lawn treatments that are supposed to relief compaction. Pull a soil sample and add all the correct nutrients, including organic matter, in the correct amounts, till them in to at least a 6 inch depth, rake smooth and plant yor seed.

    Lawnsolutions, I like your power rake. I'll post a picture of the one I am currently building in a week or two. I am taking it a few steps further in that I am adding a seed box and cultipacker and sprayer to mine. And it will do 6ft at a pass. Cant walk behind it though, you need a little more horse power.
  9. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 18,335

    Ditto. They are also know as vertical mowers & dethatchers.

    If you don't want to start from scratch, then core and top dress with a high quality compost once or twice a year. Over seed in the fall after you core, before you top dress. If there is thatch (determine by taking a close look at your cores), then a good vertical mow/power rake/dethatch is in order.
  10. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    If you are going to add stuff to your lawn, add in something with a courser texture such as sand with the compost.
    Be sure the ground is reasonably dry when running over it with a riding lawn mower. Heavy anything, on wet clay just undid your aeration. The grass roots themselves keep the ground in shape if they are not pressed into wet clay.

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