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Home, Garden & Yard Question: Grass issues! Clay!!

I figured I would just post and see what kind of responses I can get. These forums have great, friendly people with awesome responses, suggestions, and advice. Here goes nothing!

I live in South East, Michigan. We just moved into a newly built home about a year ago. My house has a sprinkler system that runs every morning at 7am and again at 8pm regularly.

I am having issues with my grass. Considering that my yard is getting watered regularly, it seems that my grass stays brown and dried out. I think the culprit could be the clay in the soil.

The ground is very hard, and dries quickly. The grass can't seem to grow decently. I've planted large trees in my yard, and I discovered dense clay when digging at every dig site.

Does anyone have any suggestons or advice on how to get my grass to grow healthy & lush? Seems all the watering in the world can't compete against this stubborn, hard soil, and it's clay.

All Computers Are Junk

Utica, MI
Well, all I can tell you is what I would try:

I'd use 100% natural fertilize and apply it more often, like once a month. If you have someone fertilizing your lawn, I'd think about switching to Natural Way or the like. The natural fertilizers will help promote good microbe growth that will break down organic matter (grass clippings and such) that will help to loosen the clay.

As far as watering goes, I'd only water every two to three days buy make sure it's a heavy watering. Watering less frequent but heavier each time will help the roots of the lawn penetrate deeper and will make it more hardy.

This is pretty much based on my own experience and I'm no expert, so take it for what it's worth!
"I've learned that depression is merely anger without enthusiasm."


Grosse Pointe, MI
reply to TruSm0ke
SE Michigan has sodium- and potassium-rich clays (is it greyish, really heavy, and sticky when moist- holds like the shovel shape if you dig out a chunk? Yep- that's michigan subsoil!). The way to improve the soil is (in reverse order of hassle, cost, and effectiveness):

Apply gypsum. This is CaSO4 and will chemically react with the clay to make a more plant-friendly soil. You _really_ have to do this around here. Sometimes iron is sorely lacking; usually the pH is alkaline as well, locking up most of the nutrients. You'll want to do this regardless of anything else- just follow the directions on the bag from e.g. home depot or a real garden supply place.

Get your soil tested- look up the county's agricultural extension service- even Wayne County has one. They can do it for a reasonable fee and then give you advice that probably differs from what I suggest because it'll be based on what is really present or absent in your yard.

After gypsum, apply a couple inches of good topsoil to your lawn, and then apply more sod or seed. This is generally required because building houses on new land almost always includes stripping and raping the land by carting away the topsoil that had supported whatever was growing there before the construction started. After all, topsoil is not cheap, so its a free couple hundred extra bucks for the developer.

Go whole hog- rip out the lawn (or plow it under), and add a couple inches each of sand and good compost, and rototill it all together to about 6" deep. Even the commercial compost they sell made out of municipal garden and tree waste is fine- mostly you want the organic matter and bacteria- and you get some organic fertilization for free. This kinda/almost recreates ~6" of topsoil to replace what was taken away but you also get improved overall drainage and soil characteristics (actually, this makes "loam"- a generally desirable type of soil having equal amounts of sand/fine rocks, clay, and organic matter- or in the detroit area, there's a place that sells it pre-mixed and you can just dump it on your lawn- but you'll probably need more than just layering on some real topsoil).

And when you're done- do the soil test thing again. -(advice I haven't taken!!)

Good luck-

Michael on the East Side