Some green and well-maintained grass in your lawn is always very welcoming, and it can be very effective in improving the overall appeal of your home. But, how do you get this perfect grass if you have clay soil? Clay soil is heavy and hard to work with, and this is more so in the dry summer months when it becomes as hard as a rock due to compaction.
As challenging as clay soil might be for gardening and planting a lawn, it is still possible to get some very healthy grass growing. Although it will take a little extra effort, it is still possible to plant in clay soil, even grow grass in clay soil. In fact, if you do things right clay can create a better lawn than most other soil types.
It is easy to tell whether your soil is clay or not just by looking at it, but it is still important to determine the density. Testing for the density should always be the first step when you want to plant grass in clay. And although taking a sample for professional testing provides the best results, you can still get reliable information by doing a simple test on your own.
When checking the density of the earth, you should scoop about half a cup of the soil, put it in your hand and add a few drops of water. Add just enough water to be able to form a small ball. You should then press the ball with your index finger and thumb to form a ribbon. If it breaks when it is 1 to 2 inches long, the soil is clay-loam but if you can make a soil ribbon that is longer than 2 inches the soil is heavier clay.
Once you determine the density of the clay soil the next step is to modify it so that it becomes ideal for planting grass. For this, you will need to spread some organic compost throughout the area that you intend to plant.
If your soil does not have a lot of clay, you should till in the compost to about 6 inches, but you should go up to 8 inches for heavy clay soils.
It is important to use an yard machine rototiller to work in the compost into the ground because this also helps to break up the compacted clay soil. You should then leave it to rest for a minimum of 8 weeks.
Two months after amending the soil with the organic compound you should do the "ball test" again. If the organic matter was successful in improving the quality of the earth, it should not form a long ribbon.
If you still find that the ribbon is more than an inch long, you will need to spread another layer of the organic compound, but it does not have to be as deep as the first one. After this, you should allow for another waiting period before you repeat the test.
It is important always to measure the area that you intend to plant the grass since it lets you determine the number of plugs or amount of seeds that you will need. But, you will not need more or fewer plugs/seeds to grow grass in clay soil than other soil types.
Although some people prefer to make estimates, this will in most instances lead to wastage or shortage of seeds, and so it is always a good idea to use a tape measure to know the exact area of the plot.
If you prefer to use seeds, the first step should be to portion your seeds into two. You should then use a broadcast spreader to spread one portion of the seeds over the ground in a vertical path.
For the second seed part, you should follow a perpendicular direction so as to ensure you get an even spread.
The last step is to roll the area with a lawn roller full of water and finish with a layer of mulch over the top.
When planting grass plugs on the clay ground, you should dig holes that are 6 inches apart. You should then sprinkle each hole with a small amount of water to moisten it.
Plant one plug per hole and make sure that it is at the same level with the ground. The final step is to roll the plugs with a roller that is half full.
The last step when planting grass on clay soil is wetting the area with at least a quarter inch of water. You should use a sprinkler to apply water to the newly planted grass once or twice every day but make sure that the soil is not oversaturated.
One way to ensures this is to have a small can on the ground to measure the amount of water that your sprinklers are applying.
Now that you know how to plant grass in clay soil the other important thing is to choose the best grass seeds for clay soil. Not all grass seeds/plugs will do well on clay even if you plant them well. For maximum success, you should plant the following types.
If your aim is also to plant a drought-tolerant grass in the clay soil buffalograss is a perfect choice. The deep root system in this grass makes it tolerant to clay soil and it goes dormant during the cold winter months but greens up when the weather starts warming up.
Bermuda grass is the carpet-type grass that you will see in public parks and most golf courses. This grass does very well on clay and its ability to tolerate clay is due to a root system that produces deep rhizomes.
Clay soil might seem hard to work with when you need to plant grass. Everything from cultivating it to watering always appears more tedious than other soils but if you follow the easy steps above you should not have any trouble growing grass that will withstand all seasons. But just remember to mow the grass frequently if they has grown to 3 inches, and be sure to keep your mower blade sharp.
Also, making sure that you choose the right grass will make things easier for you because just like any other soil, not all types will do well in clay.