My awful lawn

Hello everyone, I'm a bit new to this computer stuff as well as t
gardening. The extent of my gardening knowledge runs to mowing th lawn. Yup that's it i'm afraid. So I need some advice. Under my patchy uneven rough looking lawn ther seems to be nothing but a very sticky gloopy clay like earth tha doesn't like to drain and it loves to have the water sit on it al winter long until the sun arrives to evaporate it. I want to sort it out this year but I'm not sure where to start. My father in law says the best thing to do is throw bucket loads o sharp sand over the top so I have a good covering and then rotovate th entire thing, roll flat, rake, roll flat, level off and re-seed. Does this sound like the best course of action to you guys?
-- gary foster
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On 4/3/06 6:49 AM, in article snipped-for-privacy@gardenbanter.co.uk, "gary
gibberish...

I've got the same type of lawn and my plans are to run a core aerator (pulls little plugs out and makes holes) all over it then seed.. The problem with our type of soil is that when you mow the lawn, you're back to where you started as far a the perc value of the ground.
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spewed forth this

The core Aerator is a good idea. Go over and over the lawn. Punch lots of little holes...
Then, get a substantial amount of peat moss or good topsoil and rake into the lawn. It'll sift down into the holes and will improve the soil.
Of course, it'll take several of these treatments to fix a clay lawn.
It might be just as easy to do it once by tilling in a couple of inches of compost and sand. At least you could do it once and be done with it.
KB
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How many square feet is it, Gary?
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What is your location Gary?>

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Gary. I inherited a lawn full of weed, running grasses, bald patches, moss, hummocks and dips. My dad said I should simply rotovate it, level and reseed. That seemed a lot of work at the time but it would have been easier than what I did do to get the lawn in good nick - weed, dig and level, re-seed, lime, scarify etc. I was lucky that the soil was good however. You ca either do the hard work now or do it over a process of time throu aerating, top dressing, re-seeding patches etc etc. If the basic soil is shit you may very well have to rotovate some organic matter (animal crap & compost) in anyway. I am quite pleased with the job I have done with the (mainly) existing lawn and have learnt so much playing with it rather than simple put a new one in.
If time is not essential to you, you could try renovating with some of the ideas suggested by other posters such as aeration, top dressing (I have had a 70% sand 30% top soil mix suggested to me) and adding minerals (lime or gypsum). Other people have discussed aerating and top dressing so I won't go into that.
Lime raises the ph in a acidic soil and gypsum also sweetens the soil however I have most often seen it used on clay soils to make them more friable (some chemical exchange occurs). Before applying lime however check your soil ph. If it is around 6.5, or thereabouts, the ph level is ok for growing grass and will not need lime. If well below that liming will be beneficial. Lime/gypsum also helps to develop humus in the soil. This is a layer of nearly decomposed organic matter just below the soil line where microbal acvitity, bacteria, fungi and worms feed and live. In good soil humus is a dark brown layer below the soil cover. Humus helps to retain moisture when it is needed in dry weather but dispells water efficently in wet periods.
So you can improve the drainage by aerating and top dressing with sand/soil and apply lime or gypsum but you would be wise to practise methods which build you your humus. For instance, don't use certain high sal based fertilisers like potash, urea or potassium nitrate. These can actually stall the development of humus over a period of time. My fertiliser of choice is blood and bone (try 2 reasonable feeds in spring and 2 in autumn as a starter) which actively builds the humus.
A rough method of determining whether you have the prescence of good humus is a worm count. Dig a sod out of your lawn a spade length deep and square and count the worms in it. 13-20 worms indicates good soil, under 5 indicates your soil is shit. Improve the humus and you improve the home for the worms and you should find after a year or so your worm count increases nicely. Worms will help aerate your soil and increase its drainage capacity. Even, if you are really keen, seed your lawn with worms from the word go, even as you add lime or organic fertiliser. A generation or 2 of worms may sacrifice themselves for the sake of getting your soil working. You can either buy them or, if you know someone who has a good compost system/worm farm going, harvest them from the compost/wormfarm.
There is a bit of work there over 2-3 years eh. It takes probably around 4 years to get a soil working well. The emphasis on the soil though, and stating the argument a little simplistically perhaps, is that is the key to good grass growth. You can either feed the grass directly and degrade the soil or you can get the soil right and the grass does well as a result.
One last matter. If your lawn looks patchy you could try scalping it over a spring or winter and encouraging it to clump up. By that I mean cutting it really low, I went down as far as number 2, for a few cuts and then slowly lift the level of the blade up. This encourages grass to leaf outward at the base rather than up all the time. Be sure however to have the grass at a good height for any dry season so it can survive. The lawn will look shit for a while as it is cut short but will look better after a few scalps.
Overall, there are no magic keys, just some time and patience and experimentation. If all that sounds like too much effort your dad in law has the answer.
rob
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wrote:

Rob,
Very nice report..
I'll use the PH measurement for checking out my yard..
In lovely Louisville Ky..
--- GO DERBY!! --
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re-reading what I said I have got a few things a little wrong, eg lime and gypsum may not actually build humus but provide an environment to encourage its build. Humus needs organic matter. Too much humus can be bad for soils. Some laboratories will test for humus and report it in verious ways along with diagnostic tools for a home analysis. Also, the best time to scalp your lawn based on my observation is autumn. My front lawn is looking really good now after a period of recent rain. I threw on some blood and bone, let that water in and then cut it down at number 2. It is thick and lush. The really bad patches where I culled the running grasses have all but regrassed (a turf rye variety I think) by themselves and there are very few weeds (I can ahd weed them easily now). I have not detected any moss and the paspalum type grasses are gone. The back lawn is not quite so flash. There is still some moss and I have made to resow in a couple of shady places after I scarified with a rake. The dogs also enjoy digging the turf and killing the grass with crap. Even said however, it looks a lot better than when I frist got it. Even the old man said it is looking nice. Long run effort can pay off IF the existing lawn and soil is salvagable. Moine was however each person has to be the judge of that.
rob
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http://axp.ipm.ucdavis.edu/TOOLS/TURF / http://www.ucanr.org/findinformation.cfm?findinfosub=6
I notice that you're in the UK. While the weather is different, the basics on how to fix your lawn are the same. HTH

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