Hard soil is what you get when the soil in your lawn becomes compacted and dry. It does not provide the ideal growing conditions for your grass and plants. On top of feeling it, one of the best ways to tell if you have hard soil is to look at any plants you have in your yard. They often become discolored because they are not getting the proper nutrients from the soil.
Having hard soil is not the end of the world, however. There are a few things you can do to add more air and moisture to your dry and compact soil. Additionally, there are things that can be done to prevent soil from compacting in the first place (or again, after you fix it!)
Aerate the Soil
As your lawn gets walked on, the soil gets so compact that oxygen and water can no longer penetrate it. Considering how vital those two things are, it is no wonder hard soil lawns are often unhealthy. By breaking up the soil a bit, you can allow those nutrients to infiltrate your soil once more.
If you have a small yard, this can be done with hand tools. There are even sandals you can wear with spikes in the bottom to help aerate your lawn. If you are using a metal garden fork, simply push it into the ground every few inches to allow air in. For the first pass, go in one direction.
Lawn coring is an appropriate option for larger yards. It is done by a machine that punches holes into the ground and then pulls up the dirt. This is a highly effective method, particularly in the spring and autumn. After the coring is complete, it is a good idea to fertilize your lawn. There may be additional steps to take, depending on the type of soil you have. For instance, there are things to add to clay-based soils in order to help prevent compacting in the future.
If your yard is pretty much dead, you may want to consider using a rotary ho. This is best done by a professional. They will add a great deal of sand to your yard, as well as Gypsum Clay Breaker. As the soil is tilled with the rotary ho, it will take on a whole new profile. As a result, it will be much easier to maintain a healthy lawn.
Preventing Compact Soil
To keep your soil from getting hard, the best thing you can do is prevent it from getting compact. You will need to determine the contributing factors that led to the condition of your soil. Most often, soil becomes compact in areas that are walked on heavily. Areas around a play-set for your children are especially susceptible. In this situation, you have a choice. You can continue to allow people to walk and play in these areas in hopes of saving the rest of your lawn. The other option is to try to re-route traffic while you fix the compacted soil areas.
Overworking soil is another way to make it compact. It is important to only till your soil one time before planting anything. Otherwise, the soil does not settle in little clumps that allow air pockets to form. Over-tilling your lawn and garden can create very compact soil.
You can purchase this from the store, or simply use food scraps and lawn clippings. These things will attract earthworms, which are great for aerating your soil.
If you are very concerned about your lawn being hard and compact, take a good look at your lawn mower. It may be worthwhile to purchase one with wider wheels that will place less pressure on your soil. You should try to avoid driving any other vehicles over your lawn to prevent compaction. If you have a poor quality lawn mower, investing in a new one doesn’t have to be expensive. You can quite easily pick up a great quality mower for under 300 dollars, for those of you with smaller yards there are even more inexpensive options available.
Unfortunately, if the soil under your lawn is clay-based, it will always be susceptible to becoming hard. An expensive, but very effective, solution would be replacing the soil with something better for your lawn. You would need to replace the poor soil to a depth of about 4-8 inches.
For more information on how to soften hard soil check out this guide.