Clay soil consists of tiny mineral rocks with little to no organic material. The lack of organic materials in the soil composition makes it hard for plants like grass on your lawn to thrive. Couple this with the fact that clay is highly alkaline and you get one of the worst soils to grow turf on.
Clay also holds a lot of water that could suffocate most strains of grass even under regular irrigation efforts.
Is Clay Good for Growing Grass?
Even though clay soil isn’t good for growing grass, you can set up a covetable lawn on this soil if you prepare it well. You will have to introduce some organic material and change its pH level before attempting to lay turf.
It can take up to two months of preparing the soil before you can actually plant your grass.
How to Prepare Clay Soil for Grass
The first step is to categorize your clay soil. This will help you determine how much organic compost you need to salvage your yard.
Here is how to run the test:
- Get a handful of soil from the ground where you want to plant the grass
- Add some water to the soil, just enough to make it pliable
- Knead the soil into a ball
- Use your index finger and thumb to flatten the soil into a ribbon
- Clay-loam soils will break up between 1 and 2 inches while heavy clay can form a ribbon longer than 2 inches
If your yard is made of clay-loam soil, you will need to spread 6 inches of organic compost while heavy clay soil needs around 8 inches.
Use a tiller to mix up the organic compost with the clay soil and let it rest for around 2 months.
After this, you can test your soil again. Ideally, it shouldn’t form a ribbon that is longer than an inch. If the soil passes the test, you can go ahead and lay your turf. If it doesn’t, add some more compost to your soil and let it lie.
Fixing Your Lawn’s pH
Get a simple soil pH testing kit from Amazon and use it to get the pH readings on different spots of your lawn. The optimal reading is 6.5
If the pH is above this (alkaline) you need to spread granulated sulfur to lower the pH. Aim to spread around 10 pounds for each 1000 sq feet. This should drop your pH by 0.5
You will have to apply twice as much if you want to drop a who 1 rating. Wait for 8 weeks before you test your pH again and retreat if necessary.
What If I Already Had Grass Growing?
If you already have a lawn, you will either have to repair it or replace it. Homeowners who want to keep their grass should dethatch first. Go over the working area with a good dethatcher to get the job done.
Homeowners who want to replace their grass can dethatch just once and till over the lawn before going on to add the organic compost.
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What Grass Grows Best in Clay Soil?
Even after improving the quality of your clay soil, you will get better results if you plant grass that is tolerant of clay soil. Here are the best types of grass to try out:
- Tall Fescue
- Bermuda Grass
- Buffalo Grass
How Do You Lay a New Lawn in Clay Soil?
Once the soil is ready, you can follow the normal procedure of planting grass in your lawn without overseeding. You can either roll out a pre-grown tuff or sow seeds to grow a better turf from scratch. Don’t mix up grass types as this could mess the appearance of your turf or cause unnecessary competition.