Improving terrible soil in a lawn?

I have a section of lawn in a shady area that seems to have become too miserable to keep grass growing thickly. The grass is sparse. Applying fertilizer and grass seed does not seem to have much effect. It is clay soil and well packed. I don't know if I need to apply something or simply give up and rototill in a load of horse manure? Any semi-expert opinions? Thanks.
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Shady area need less fertilization not more. That might be part of your problem.
I've had great success w/ Creeping Red Fescue in southern Ontario, Canada for shady areas. It never fills in like Bluegrass, but seems to take in very tough situations.
Peter H
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Not even a "semi" here - but I have clay, clay, and more clay - and the grass keeps growing - but for the most part it is very wet in the spring. There is a "clay buster" avaailable but the name is not coming to me right now. Somebody will come up with it - it's a common solution - and availble at most garden centers around here.
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Gypsum - that's the ticket !!

availble
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And what does it do to clay? Make it crumble easier?
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galt snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com (Dave) wrote:

Snake oil.
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Steveo wrote:

Do a google search. You'll find many credible references on the use of gypsum.
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Yes, as a calcium source. It does nothing to improve compacted clay soil.
Google gypsum myth.
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Steveo wrote:

That article talks about Arizona soil problems. And, it is concerned with sodium overload. The key quote from the article is: "In situations such as this, applications of gypsum can provide a dramatic improvement in returning the soil to its original condition. The calcium present in gypsum actually displaces the sodium and allows it to be leached deeper into the soil when accompanied by deep irrigation."
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Read on..
A persistent myth is that gypsum alleviates compaction. Landschoot states unequivocally that this is not the case. This misunderstanding may stem from the fact that gypsum is useful for displacing sodium in sodic soils. Sodium causes soil particles to disperse, hence destroying soil structure. However, this isn't really an issue in the Northeast or any other regions where rainfall is high enough to naturally leach the sodium out of the soil. Rather, compacted soils in such areas tend to result from the usual factors such as traffic and high clay content. Gypsum won't influence these things, so it can't substitute for practices that relieve compaction such as aeration.
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right
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right
Yes - I bought a bunch of bags at the end of the year for half price and used it in my garden area. It worked for me.
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I think you have the right idea. The best way to improve clay soil is by adding organic material. The organic material will encourage earth worm and beneficial microbe activity.
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First thing I'd check is if there are tree surface roots in the area. It's impossible to grow grass with species like Norway maples in the area. Trees like these have surface roots that take all the nutrients and choke off the grass.
I agree with adding organic material. I'd do it by renting a core aerator which will punch holes in the soil and help reduce the compaction. After aeration, spread the organic material, which will make it's way into the holes. If you get this done now, you can reseed with a good shade mix in the fall.
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Ya but...It's puzzling how folks spend so much time and concern on their lawn but show no interest what's above. If the tree is causing a significant part of the problem, why not prune it so it will provide more light? Arborists will recommend pruning at least every four or five years. When I was in a local garden club I was surprized that not one member had any tree work done until some storm blew the damned things over.

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