Do you have a lawn that tends to flood? Is your lawn hard, compacted, and you are finding it exceedingly difficult to grow grass? Are there bare spots in places that should have healthy grass growing there? The answers to these questions may be that your lawn is made of mostly clay. Clay is the hard stuff that retains water and nutrients but is so dense that roots cannot break through it, so the plant can establish itself properly.

What is Clay Soil?

There are three types of soil:

  • Clay
  • Sand
  • Silt

A nice, healthy topsoil needs to have at least two of the three to be viable for optimal plant growth. Most lawns are going to have a mixture of clay and sand in the United States. There are some regions, like in the Southwest, where the lands are mostly sand and silt. If your property is near a river, lake, pond, or even a dried-up riverbed or lake, you will find your soil to be very silty

You will need to know exactly what percentage of clay, sand, and silt you have in your soil. You will also have to consider that your soil will also have a certain percentage or organic matter, such as leaves, sticks, and other debris. The easiest way to do this is by putting a few cups of your lawn’s soil into a mason jar with a lid, adding water until it reaches to the top, and then shaking it enough to mix the soil in with the water. Then, simply let it sit for a while. You will notice that the soil will start to separate.

From bottom to top, you will find a layer of sand, then a layer of silt, followed by clay. You will also see above the clay heavy organic matter, then water with smaller, lighter particles floating around, and at the top you will see light organic matter. To figure out the percentage, follow this formula:

Height of layer / overall height of all layer’s x 100

That will give you the exact percentage of each layer you have. If you find that the soil is not separating properly, try to add saltwater instead of fresh water.

How to Get Better Soil

Depending on your situation, you will need to add another mineral to the mix to try and balance out your soil type. The ideal soil for any lawn is:

  • 20% Clay
  • 40% Silt
  • 40% Sand

This solution creates a nice, loamy soil that any type of plant can thrive in.

Really, the only way to fix a lawn with a ton of clay in it is to add sand and silt slowly over the course of months, and even years. Spreading a very thin layer of sand and silt over the top of your soil will not hurt your existing grass at all. During rainfall, the sand will begin to slide deeper into the clay soil and will successfully mix in with the clay. In most towns, there is usually a place that offers several types of soil, sand, rock, and other minerals by the truckload. If you have the space to store a pile of sand and silt, that would be ideal to use to spread around your yard.If you are really that serious about fixing your lawn, and you want it done right now, then you can have a company dig up the first couple of feet of your yard, or you can rent a machine to do it, and then you can spread out sand and silt so give your lawn the perfect mix. Obviously, doing this is going to destroy your lawn. Depending on the size of your lawn, you can get everything done in one or two days. After you level everything out, which this would be a perfect time to introduce more dirt if you need to level things out, spread some grass seed, set up a sprinkler, and watch the grass grow.

Call your local landscaping company to get sound advice on what you should do. Most will offer free advice.