I recently bought a house in yucaipa ca. The soil is clay and hard, I can force a shovel about 5" into the lawn and there is no grass roots below the first 2" and the water doesn't percolate into the ground very much. Because of the way the house is graded i would have to haul away dirt to replace with topsoil. So I am thinking that the best thing to do is to grow earthworms and let them make soil. i am going to spread some compost on top to attract worms but i will probably need to buy some worms as well. What kind and how many should I buy and should i add worms at intervals?
It sounds like your soil is heavily compacted as well as being clay.
One of the key problems that leads to shallow roots is compaction that stops water, air and nutrients from getting into the soil. If the soil is pretty squashed they will stay around the surface so you need to aerate the lawn before you do anything else (including worms - who won't won't to hang around in really tough soil).
As it sounds pretty severe, you may want to get yourself a drum aerator that pulls small cores up out of the soil and both breaks it up and also encourages better root growth. You will end up with thin plugs of earth on the surface but these will break up quite quickly and help to decompose any organic matter on the lawns surface over time.
You may need to do this once or twice over a few months depending on the soil and then overseed and water and feed to get the lawn recovering. Once on the road, keep it aerated by using something like lawn aerator shoes so you get a constant but lower level of care every time you mow or just fancy a walk!
Good luck! Jack.
Joined: Jul 11, 2011
Thanks for your input Jack. I rented a mechanical aerator that pulls plugs from the lawn and worked it over pretty good. The ground was so hard in places I had to add weight to get it to penetrate. I examined a bunch of plugs and found no roots after the first inch. I will water pretty heavily for the next few days and then seed some worms.
Joined: Aug 31, 2011
Look into incorporating Gypsum and/or possibly Lime. Get a soil analysis if you have not already and this will give you an indication of where you need to go. There are also some liquid spray on organic products that I have heard good things about. If your not talking about a very large area this may be a quicker solution to your problem.
Joined: Apr 21, 2010
Location: New York
Add lots and lots of organic material, compost, mulched leaves and the like. Some organic fertilizer to get things going may not be all that bad either.
I had the same problem with lack of topsoil and found that adding the organic material will allow worms to come in on their own and start taking up residence. You may also want to incorporate Paul's worm pits. I did that too and it seemed better than aerating. The key is to get the soil to hold moisture and only organic material can do that well enough to establish a soil that is capable of supporting microbial and offer forms of life. Your soil has to be alive for it to work as intended. It will then feed the grass and lower the incidence of weeds. Clover should not be considered a weed as it brings nitrogen to your soil from the air.
This whole process may take a few years to get going, but it will be worth it. I did enough last year that I did not add anything this year. Only mulched the grass on the lawn. Another important point is to mow high. At least three inches, and more if you can. I leave the mower set at its highest setting, about three and a half inches for the season, then cut it short for the winter.
Since it is fall here, I am going to mulch the fallen leaves and maybe add a little compost. Do the last mow at about an inch and a half, and then leave it till spring. If it comes up like it did this year, I will be happy.
I also live in Yucaipa and I am in need of true clay soil for a cob oven project. My yard seems to only have hard-packed silt and sand. If you're still willing to part with some of your clay soil, let me know.