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I Want to Grow Grass in a Hard Soil Lawn

Lawn grass is one of the most common groundcovers in residential landscapes, as well as parks and sporting fields. Although this ordinary variety of plant appears just about everywhere you look, it tends to resist growing in heavy, hard soils. Compacted, dense soil requires special preparation to provide the necessary elements for establishing a successful lawn.
  1. Analysis

    • Taking the time to test the soil in your intended lawn area can make all the difference between growing an attractive lawn that enhances your entire landscape or having to tear it out and start over. Although hard soil generally reflects a problem with porosity, it can also have an unsuitable pH level and may contain insufficient nutrients. Obtain a soil test kit from a hardware store, gardening center or extension office. Some test kits offer extensive test results that cover everything from soil density to chemical analysis, while others simply measure the pH level of your existing soil. Follow the instructions on the test results to correct any adverse nutritional levels in your yard prior to planting your lawn grass.


    • Hard soil generally tends to have a high clay content, causing it to resist air and water flow, resulting in dense compaction. Unless your soil test results advise against using your soil for growing lawn grass, you won’t need to haul in new topsoil. Amending your hard soil and planting the correct type of lawn grass allows you to establish a healthy lawn. Adding thoroughly composted materials to your existing soil will help loosen the soil and increase permeability, allowing air and water to penetrate to the roots of your grass.


    • The amount of compost your new lawn site requires depends on your particular soil composition. The general rule of thumb is to till enough compost into the top 6 to 8 inches of soil to create a medium that holds its shape when squeezed, but falls apart easily when you rub it between your thumb and forefinger.


    • After amending your hard soil, you are ready to plant your new grass. Select a grass variety known for growing well in hard, compacted soils, such as Bermuda grass or buffalo grass. A grass blend that contains more than one type of seed generally offers the best chances at establishing an attractive lawn. Plant your new lawn in the spring or fall, rather than during the heat of summer. Monitor the moisture levels frequently during the establishment period to ensure that the soil stays slightly cool and moist at the level of the roots. Difficult soils in substandard sites often require follow-up soil testing every year to keep the soil healthy for growing grass.