Loose Soil

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Two years ago I relandscaped an area of my lawn (in Northern Indiana) that did not have grass. I added top soil from a local hardware. The soil looks really dark and loose.
Now two years later I am still having trouble keeping grass in the area. A few places the grass seems to be well rooted and healthy but a vast majority of the area is so loose that the grass comes up in clumps when ever I run a rake over it. Is this called erosion?
I notice however that other parts of my lawn where I planted grass and *didn't* put in top soil the grass seems to grow better. I thought I was doing a good thing by adding "top" soil but I am afraid I have created a hostile environment to the grass seed.
Can I add something to my soil to make it more hospitable for the grass? Or can I plant a special kind of grass that will root deeper.
The only other things to note are that it is on a very small incline (barely perceptable) and it is mostly shaded.
Thanks for your help, Dannie
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No, that is not erosion.
The soil has some sort of toxic property that prevents anything from growing it it. Take a sample to your local agricultural extension service to have it tested.

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You can look up the word "erosion" in any dictionary. Here's an online resource, in case you're at work and don't have one: http://www.m-w.com You'll need to explore other versions of the word to get the results you want.

Two things: 1) Most lawnmowers can have their cutting height adjusted. Where is yours set?
2) If you water the grass, describe exactly how you do it.
3) Grass in shade *can* be harder to grow. Its roots may be shallower, and it may not grow as thickly. All the *good* grass care habits you need for growing in sun must be even more closely followed in shade.
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Danimal wrote:

The name "top soil" has no meaning. What ever it is you added should have been tilled in.
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Travis in Shoreline (just North of Seattle) Washington
USDA Zone 8b
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Topsoil vs subsoil certainly does have meaning. Sand is not topsoil; clay is not topsoil; organic mucks of peat or manure are not topsoils, but mix them all together & you get topsoil. Topsoil is both manufactured by mixing the ingredients, or obtained by stripping. Stripping is sometimes done illegally, but usually developers will sell the trees & topsoil to different companies before building houses or roads, & topsoil stripping becomes a beneficial salvage operation.
Topsoil is defined as that layer of soil with the most organic matter, usually six or eight inches deep, the layer of maximum microorganism activity & plant root development. In eroded or recent construction sites or places where natural topsoil has been stripped for commercial resale there may be no topsoil whatsoever. Nature can take one to five centuries to create each inch of organically rich topsoil, & most of us can't wait that long.
In regional & national landscape associations topsoil with or without further ammendments is quite defined as comprising of humus, clay particles, & sand -- whoever sells a non-topsoil as a topsoil is not adhering to honest practices outlined by professional soil associations. Good topsoil would not have to be tilled in, though for good drainage it is nice to till a bit of the unrestored surface before adding topsoil, or water may literally flow to the bottom of the topsoil then move sideways without penetrating the subsoil (especially on slopes); roughing, discing, scarifying, or tilling a bit of the subsoil insures an immediate bond between subsoil & newly added topsoil.
Topsoil should already be a suitable growth medium for vegetation. Topsoil is easily distinguished from subsoil by its darker color, the subsoil lacking an organic component.
Of course not all soil providers adhere to any reasonable standard & what people purchase as topsoil sometimes turns out to be dirt (of sand and/or clay particles) with very little organic matter in it -- tilling that into more sand & clay wouldn't help much either, but some organic matter tilled into it could turn it into topsoil.
As for those portions of Dannie's lawn that were planted without topsoil, there is a bad landscape practice of starting instant-lawns on a newly laid medium of sand. I don't know how that practice got started but I think it was a cheap way to gussy up new construction to get a quick green turf going that only needed to last long enough to sell all the houses, as such lawns will very soon begin to look thin or matted with winter-end white fungus. The retroactive fix would be to use a mulch mower so as to not remove even more of the needed nutrients, & twice a year for the next several years sprinkle organic matter over the surface of the lawn then leave it to the worms to mix in, this in addition to all the other high-maintenence BS a lawn requires. Meadows of native grasses & wildflowers are preferable.
-paghat the ratgirl
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paghat wrote:

With that definition my topsoil may well be very different than your topsoil.
There is no definition of topsoil other than it is on top.

What standard? Who set it? Who enforces it?

--

Travis in Shoreline (just North of Seattle) Washington
USDA Zone 8b
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It's a well-known term throughout Europe, meaning the fertile layer above subsoil. When people here buy/sell a lorry-load of soil for horticultural use, it's normal to specify topsoil.
Janet.
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Here we go again.
"Top soil" is ANYTHING that makes up the surface layer of the soil and does not have any specific chemical or biological composition. It can be good for growing plants or it could be toxic. Buying "top soil" is buying a "pig in a poke". You may not only be wasting your money but you can actually be doing damage to your garden by using it.
If you instead buy "humus", "loam" or "peat", you know exactly what you are getting and how to use it.
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In the hands of a beginner, actual "peat" can produce results ranging from "hmmm...." to "disaster". By "beginner", I'm referring to the ever-increasing legions of people who don't seem to know what a library is, and how to plan far enough ahead to have time to read a book or two, or (heaven forbid) locate a real garden center run by grizzled old people who actually know what they're talking about.
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I am not recommending tha anyone use peat nor any other soil additive. My point is that when you purchase peat you know exactly what you are getting.
If you are foolish enough to buy "top soil", you could be getting anything under the sun, including something toxic that could do actual damage to your garden!!!
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You know what's funny? Actually, you *do* know this: In 30 years of gardening, in 4 different locations, every time I've loosened the existing soil with a pitch fork, and applied generous amounts of mulch (usually chopped leaves, lawn clippings, and/or straw), 3 months later, I have soil I'm happy with. I'll qualify this by saying that I've never had to deal with really awful clay soil. But still....sometimes it doesn't take much, other than a little patience. Unfortunately, many people want to pay their money and have instant results.
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Actually, I didn't know I'd ever say this, but after having gardened on Long Island for most of my life, it seemed this Texas clay would be awful. Now that I've been gardening in clay for 12 years I can honestly say it is superior to sandy soils, has far better structure and overall texture after it is moistened, loosened and amended with organic matter. A nice thick layer of mulch helps preserve the organic matter till you develop your own OM in the form of worm castings, and other microbial activity.
So, I'll say it, I much prefer my clay soil over the sandy soil I had on Long Island.
opined:

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Meanwhile, the best garden I ever had was in Aquabogue (out near Riverhead), about 2 blocks from the water. Pure sand. But, the owner of my rented house was constantly stopping by with fresh fish and nagging me to bury the parts we didn't eat. I had corn 350 feet high, and that is no exaggeration. We had to charter a helicopter to harvest it. The pumpkin vines abducted several neighborhood children.
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Cereus-validus..... wrote:

Please define humus and loam. Who sets the standard for them and who enforces that standard?
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Travis in Shoreline (just North of Seattle) Washington
USDA Zone 8b
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My very loose definition: Put some soil in a tray in the sun for two hours. If, after that time, it's completely dried out and you can blow it away like dust, it's neither humus nor loam. If it still smells alive, it *is* one or both of those two. IMHO, of course. Your nose enforces this definition.
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Humus is (relatively recently) decayed living material such as plant/bacterial/animal material, the stuff you get out of a compost heap or find on the floor surface of woodland, made of decayed leaves, decayed animal corpses and faeces etc.
Loam is a variable combination of humus plus particles of geological elements. Geological elements are stuff like sands, chalk, clay, grits; their origin is far more ancient than humus.
Janet.
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Do you know how to do a Google search, Travis?
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Cereus-validus..... wrote:

Of course I do. The definitions people are throwing about have no meaning. If I said I liked cake how much does that tell you?
Your friend Janet Baraclough gave these defanitions:
" Humus is (relatively recently) decayed living material such as plant/bacterial/animal material, the stuff you get out of a compost heap or find on the floor surface of woodland, made of decayed leaves, decayed animal corpses and faeces etc.
Loam is a variable combination of humus plus particles of geological elements. Geological elements are stuff like sands, chalk, clay, grits; their origin is far more ancient than humus. "
How precise is that? About as precise as the definition of "topsoil" given here in this group.
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Travis in Shoreline (just North of Seattle) Washington
USDA Zone 8b
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Travis wrote:

If you're looking for some government standard, like how much fruit juice has to be in a liquid for it to be marketed as "juice", or the maximum amount of fat that can be in "lean ground beef", there is none.
However, those are more precise than the definition of "topsoil".
"Topsoil" is literally the soil from the top. Not the top soil for your needs, as in "you're the top", or the best. Nor do we know what the topsoil was on top of. However many people are likely to misunderstand "top" to mean best, and others may assume that the topsoil in their area is the natural soil that is on top of otherwise undisturbed land.
Despite those unrealistic expectations, there are some realistic expectations that we should have for topsoil. For example, it should be free of rocks, and it should be relatively loamy. It shouldn't have things like perlite or vermiculite, and it isn't fortified with any synthetic fertilizer. It should be a medium that we could grow common plants in, though not necessarily the best medium for it.
The buyer, however, should exercise due diligence in inspecting the "topsoil" before accepting it. If it's in branded bags, the buyer has the right to expect some consistency. And if it's being bought by the truckload, a representative sample should be provided.
I don't even know if the suppliers I've dealt with even have something called "topsoil". They have a number of different mixes, readily available descriptions of what's in those mixes, and are fairly consistent when they put together the mixes. If someone wants "topsoil", I'm sure there's something they might be directed to based on their intended use, and their budget.
I know that there are plenty of suppliers out there that will deliver just about anything to someone who specifies nothing more than "topsoil". And I would hope that anyone who's hung-out in any gardening forum would know enough to ask for something more specific than "topsoil", no matter what they do or don't expect from "topsoil".
And the same goes for "Potting Soil", "Garden Soil", "Lawn Soil", or any other soil available. Unless you already know the supplier, and know what to expect from that particular mix, ask. Check it out. Don't assume that "Potting Soil" is interchangeable between suppliers, either.
You don't go to a paint store, and just ask for red paint. Don't go to a soil supplier and just ask for "topsoil" (unless you're willing to accept just about anything.) Descriptive terms have meaning. They may or may not be regulated standards, and usually aren't.
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Warren H.

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The definitions people are "throwing about" certainly do have meaning. You just don't know what they are.
Janet's daffynitions will suffice.
Eat all the cake you want. We will keep the bread for ourselves!
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