Aerating heavy clay soil

ljbrandt(8)June 25, 2010

Living in central Alabama, I've come to realize that my lawn has a foundation of heavy red clay soil which is extremely susceptible to compaction - even without much traffic. I've tried the weed-hound step aerator with little success, as the clay soil kept getting lodged in the spoons. I'd like to try mechanical core aeration, however I'm on a budget and spending $60 on a rental machine sounds kinda high (I could re-sod the compacted areas for that much). I currently have a emerald zoysia lawn and am fertilizing twice yearly with organic grains and applying a light monthly application of cornmeal to prevent fungus - which is working very well! It's just the thin/bare patches of grass that are staying thin/bare because the soil is rock hard and zoysia is a slow grower to begin with. Please let me know if there are any good alternatives, thanks!

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Is it in an area where you could cover it with 3-4" of compost and let it sit a while (Like maybe through the season and uncover it next spring?) Worms will dig holes all through the stuff and loosen it up while you sleep....

If that isn't fast enough, you could always get out the drain spade and turn some compost and sand into it....



    Bookmark   June 25, 2010 at 11:13PM
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Thanks John!

I'll try the compost in addition to breaking up the compacted soil first. Since I don't have a compost bin, would home depot or lowes have bags of this stuff...and would coffee grounds also be a good supplement?

Thanks again

    Bookmark   June 26, 2010 at 1:21PM
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There really is no no real good substitute for core aeration, especially in heavy clay soils. If you do aerate you really need to follow up with top dressing using a very coarse sand like masonry or sharp sand.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2010 at 2:09PM
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Thanks TW!

Should the top-dress be 100% coarse sand, or some combination of sand and soil?

Also, a friend of mine has a roto-tiller I can use...I wonder if I should go that route since there isn't much grass left on the compacted areas.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2010 at 4:29PM
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I use sand only, but if you want to add a bit of compost to the mix is fine. Just do not use anything with fine grains.

I do not recommend that you till, it causes more problems than it solves.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2010 at 12:00AM
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This guy is saying that adding sand after aeration to clay soil will turn it into cement?! Is that true?

    Bookmark   July 10, 2010 at 4:47PM
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How do you know it's clay?

It sounds like a dumb question, but by and large -- most of the "Clay" in the deep south is actually some sort of Loam -- Mostly Silt + Sand + a little Clay..... The lady at the USDA told me "A little clay goes a long way"

Now it is time to do the Soil Structure Test -- where you dump a couple inches of your dirt into a mayonnaise jar and fill almost full with water.

Shake it up good... for 5+ minutes, then sit it down on a shelf.

Check it at 2-minutes. Mark the line where it settled... This is Sand.

Check it at 4-hours. Mark this line -- This is Silt.

Check it after 2-days. Note the layer of sludge on top of the Silt.... This is clay.

I found out that my "Red Clay" was really "Sandy Loam" -- 5% clay and the balance and even mix of Sand + Silt.... though you would SWEAR it was Clay!

Adding Sand to actual Clay makes Sandy Clay.... Adding some Silt makes it Loam.... If you TRULY have solid CLAY... which most people DON'T.... Adding sand and organic material helps drainage...



    Bookmark   July 10, 2010 at 5:26PM
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I live in Nebraska. Is there a soil structure test for our soil? The soil on top is very fine, the deeper you go the moister it is. I have an acreage and need to start a lawn what do i do?


    Bookmark   May 2, 2011 at 12:10AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Linda, look on the Organic Lawn forum for posts by kimmsr. He is always posting about soil structure tests.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2011 at 8:03PM
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