How many of you have ever dealt with the subject of compaction on your lawn? We will bet very few since it may involve shovels and rakes and machinery and some hard work. Many of you may not be aware that your soil may be compacting each year right under your nose.
First, let’s look at your soil. Quality soil is required to grow many plants including your lawn. Quality soil will infiltrate water, store water for the plant to use it, hold nutrients for plant to utilize, have some organic matter and air spaces, limit erosion and have an abundance of soil microbes. As we see more agricultural land turned into residential and commercial developments the soil suffers. Historically farm land was regularly tilled by horse and plow or tractors. The soil was maintained with a level of friability desirable to grow crops. As more homes are built with foundations that require stable land and construction equipment to build a house, the area around the home including landscape beds and lawn areas can become very compact and hard to grow grass successfully.
How about the area between the sidewalk and the street, constantly being walked on by dogs, kids, salt spray from ice melt, rainfall with poor drainage, this area rarely gets a break. What about the fenced in areas for the dog or children’s playground areas, do they always have a carpet of grass to play on, no! Poor drainage, human activities, dog traffic, lawn mowers and clay soils are main causes for compaction. Can you imagine how much this can add up over the years? Have you noticed that weeds tend to thrive in compacted soil much better than your desirable lawn grasses? You can live without food for 15 or more days, you can live without water for 5 or more days but you cannot live without oxygen for more than 8 minutes. The same goes for your lawn!
How do we reduce these compact areas? Avoid foot traffic in muddy areas. Rotate the kids and dog playing areas as best you can (send them to the neighbor’s yard!). Fix any poorly drained areas since standing water only leads to harder compaction. If you can aerate your lawn a few inches deep and then add some organic matter such as compost that is great. However, only a few of you may put in the sweat and tears or hire a professional to do this. Renting an aerating machine with a few neighbors to share the costs is not so bad and it will do wonders for your lawn soil.
Starting the New American Lawn program that includes organic fertilizers is a wonderful way to relieve compaction over time. Soils are alive and contain a wide array of bacteria, fungi, mycorrhiza, organic matter and earthworms. Our new Love Your Lawn-Love Your Soil Organic Fertilizer stimulates soil microbial activity which helps to create better soil quality. While the microbes and earthworms are stimulated by the organic fertilizers the soil particles allow better water and air penetration deeper into the soil.
There has been a lot of talk about using gypsum to reduce salt damage from the many storms. Gypsum can also be used to reduce compaction in clay soils. Gypsum or “calcium sulfate” comes in anhydrate and dihydrate forms. The dihydrate form is found in Love Your Lawn-Love Your Soil and is much more soluble and works better to break the chemical bonds between soil particles. Theses gypsum-type products work well when applied after aeration to get the material down to the root systems but aeration is not always practical. It may take a few months to see noticeable results with gypsum and you may have to repeat these applications each spring and fall for a few years to achieve the quality soil you desire.
If you love your lawn you should love your soil and treat it with some tender loving care. Do not spend all of your time on the lawn trying to find a way to only green-up the grass with fertilizer applications, look below the surface. You need a healthy soil foundation to grow a great lawn. To learn more about growing The New American Lawn visit www.NewAmericanLawn.com and download your free New American Lawn guide.