Tree Roots, Compacted Soil, Lotsa Pebbles--Shampoo remedy?
First off, thanks to all the folks who post here and answer all our questions! I've been following with great interest the discussions here and elsewhere about using baby shampoo to make soil more permeable to water.
My south-facing CT backyard has become progressively shadier over time, and keeping the lawn growing is complicated by the extensive shallow roots of an ancient Norway Maple right smack in the middle, and a slope away from the house that becomes steeper at the lower level. I don't know what kind of grass I now have, as it's been a mixture of seed for sun and shade, and deep shade, scattered over the years. I'm allowing the lower section to go completely to moss (for a moss garden) which does well--(sorry--but it looks fantastic!)
But back to the lawn--In last summer's severe heat/drought I was unable to get enough water to the grass in the upper section (I have been shallow watering--a no-no, I understand--but have been getting approximately an inch a week to the grass there.) Portions of the grass completely dried out and died, so this spring I decided to apply a top dressing of what was supposed to be good topsoil and seeded with a shade mixture, to fix the dead areas, and also to even out and attempt to cover the gnarled tree roots that had begun to stick up. The soil must not have been screened, as what I now have in areas where the grass never germinated despite being kept constantly moist is akin to Pebble Beach. It actually crunches like a pebble walkway. The pebbles seem to have risen to the surface over the summer, and are so numerous that I can sweep them up with a broom, and in some areas they seem to have covered the surface of the now very hard soil--no wonder the grass never grew! I'm guessing the seed couldn't come into contact with any soil! (I didn't apply any fertilizer--seemed like it would be a waste of good money this year.)
So my questions are--will core aeration help? Should I attempt to sweep up all the pebbles first? Then try the shampoo method? Then apply a thin layer of compost and re-seed? If I don't sweep up all the pebbles, will they again rise through the top dressing of compost? Don't even bother with core aeration? Will the advancing tree roots mean give up on grass totally? What should I try first? Sorry for the long-winded plaint and the many questions, but for the first time, I'm at a complete loss as to how to proceed. Thanks for any advice/opinions/help!!