Dry Spots. When localized dry spots occur on your lawn, a soil surfactant (also called a soil wetting agent) may help. The main reason dry spots occur is inadequate coverage from your irrigation system. The second reason for localized dry spots is soil composition such as heavy clay, which promotes poor root development of your lawn in that area. Another factor could be an environmental situation such as a reflective building with the lawn on the north side causing double sun exposure, toasting your lawn. I have also seen chunks of sodded over cement in new housing developments.
Soil Compaction. Houses built in the last 20 years have heavier soil compaction because of bulldozers, backhoes and big lifts used in the construction process. Good soil is now more expensive. In new construction, the lawn is graded (all soil scraped and taken away) then covered again with 1 or 2 inches of soil. If you live on a property like this, add compost annually and aerate your lawn twice a year then rake fine compost into the aeration holes. Over time this will change your soil profile. Most newly-constructed properties have little or no soil preparation.
Rototilling. Another mistake many people make is rototilling existing lawns and then trying to grade it. Wow what a mistake! Talk about labor intensive! Rototilling creates a huge tangled mess of dirt clods and grass. Then when you rototill your new topsoil into the mess that’s left, it takes hours to get it graded and there’s always a chunk of your old lawn on top.
Plus if you do get it graded that old sod will be decomposing and your newly established yard will end up with many bumps and dips. So use a sod cutter first then the rototiller. With rototilling you never know what a previous owner has buried, so make a place to put unwanted dug up items.
Soil Testing. Before paying for an extensive soil renovation it makes sense to consult with a soil and plant lab. Harris Laboratories in Lincoln Nebraska has a good reputation. Their soil test will tell you about:
- organic material in your lawn
- cation exchange capability
- soil fertility
- pH levels
- a complete scientific readout.
This is a road map for your soils’ future. The tests show what your current soil conditions are and tell you what changes to make to achieve the highest results. Before starting a yard project you should call 1-888-CALL-GRASSHOPPER to get your underground lines marked for free. This is usually completed within a couple of days. Please note they may use temporary paint on your sidewalk.
Grass and Evergreen Trees. Evergreen trees kill lawn grasses. The needles of the trees contain high amounts of acidity. If you must grow grass underneath these trees, use a bagging mower and replant four times a year with perennial rye grass. Don’t forget to water regularly, because the tree may restrict natural rainfall. Remember that the tree adds value to your property, so don’t just remove it on a whim. Trees also absorb noise from nearby traffic.
Lime. There are three different types of lime: calopril, dolomite and gypsum. Gypsum helps break up clay and adds calcium but does not adjust soil pH. Dolomite costs more and has extra magnesium, which most lawns don’t require.