How To Deal With Patchy Grass & Soil Compaction

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Below, Harold Enger, Spring-Green’s lawn care expert, responds to a question about patchy grass and soil compaction. He offers several different ways of dealing with these pesky and persistent problems.


“There is a spot in my back yard where the grass is patchy. I lime, fertilize, aerate. The dirt is compacted. I have no worms. Someone said to use compost. How? How do I get worms in the soil ? How do I de-compact?” Ms. Larouse, Thank you for sending in your question. The first thing I suggest you do is to take a soil sample to your local county extension service to determine the pH and nutrient levels of your soil and then add the correct materials to correct for deficiencies. There will be a fee involved, but you will receive a written report of the soil test results. The best way to relieve soil compaction is through the process of core aeration. You can rent a core aerator at many hardware stores, home improvement centers or rental agencies. Be sure the soil is moist before aerating so that the tines will penetrate the ground easily and deeply. After aerating, you can spread a good humus compost across the area of patchy grass. You can purchase these products via the Internet, but the shipping will be expensive. I went to the Home Depot website, searched for “compost” and found several products that could be used. Again, bagged products will be expensive. You can also look up compost suppliers in your town. The rate is generally 500 pounds of compost per 1,000 sq. ft. You will want to spread it across the area with a spreader or with a shovel and rake. It is not an easy process. You would be okay with just aerating the lawn. In regards to the worms, they will find their way back into your lawn, especially if you add the compost to the lawn. You can purchase earthworms via the Internet as well, but I would wait until you see what happens. Looking for additional help with patchy grass or soil compaction? Feel free to contact Harold with any other questions or lawn care tips by visiting his Ask the Expert blog.

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