Lawn and soil
Our house in the Two Rivers development in Odenton was built 3 years ago. We found out that the site is a former quarry. The clay that they used to fill in the quarry is horrible. It is a challenge to dig the soil in order to plant things and then get them to grow. Because the clay is so dense, it holds water, so plants that don’t like wet feet are not going to make it here. Sod for the lawn was laid right on top of this clay and is struggling. Right now, the developer is in the process of digging around the foundation of the house down to drain tiles and will be water proofing the foundation along with adding soil that will drain and not push against the foundation. In the process of doing this, there is a muddy path (road) where heavy equipment has rolled over. Parts of the lawn will be resodded. We read about a product Aerify Plus that can be sprayed on the clay to break it up. It sounds like it might be something that would help, but we would like to know if the Extension Service has an opinion about this product. Also, what recommendations would you have in order to establish a lawn that will grow. New sod will be laid. Anything we can do to the soil before this? Also, any recommendations as to how to go about remedying the rest of lawn—it is in bad shape.
It is difficult to turn a lawn around that was initially planted in poor soil but it is possible. It will take time but you should see improvement. The first step is doing a soil test. This should be accomplished before the new sod is laid.
Please see the following information on our website, http://extension.umd.edu/hgic/soils/soil-testing
Important information like the pH and nutrient levels are good to know. If the soil pH is low lime can be added while the soil is being prepped for the sod.
The way to improve the soil is to till compost or organic matter into it. You can order something called LeafGro from topsoil dealers. I should be tilled 4-6 inches into the soil before the sod is laid. When the sod is ordered make sure it is tall fescue sod. It is available in Maryland. We have not seen any research using Aerify Plus so, therefore, cannot comment on it. The gold standard recommendation for improving soil is the compost. The rest of the lawn can be overseeded. Overseeding in the fall for the next few years will improve your grass but it is a commitment. Also following proper lawn care practices (including fertilizing will help). The following is our turfgrass maintenance calendar.