There are some unique challenges involved in growing grass in dense, clay soil. Clay is usually nutrient-rich and it is effective at holding water, but it’s more likely to compact, which prevents air circulation. This means that plant roots (including grasses) can rot and your lawn can become diseased or die. Today I’ll introduce you to what I consider to be the best grass for clay soil, and I’ll also provide tips and tricks to create a beautiful lawn, even if you have clay in your area.
Let’s get started!
So What are the Best Grasses for Clay Soil?
With the right care, most grasses can grow in clay soil, but if you’re planning to overseed your lawn, or have areas where you’re planning to till and start from scratch, why not use grass types that will thrive in clay?
Here are my 3 favorite grasses to use on lawns with heavy clay.
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If you want a lawn featuring the most striking shade of emerald green, think about planting Bermuda turf in your clay soil.
It tends to do well in this kind of environment. Traditional Bermuda grass doesn’t thrive in cooler temperatures, so stay away from it for your New England lawn or if you live elsewhere in a northern climate if that is where you live. However, there are certain new kinds of Bermuda grass that could be viable. These include “U-3” and “Midiron.”
A reason why Bermuda grass is able to grow beautifully in clay soils is the fact that it’s root system produces deep rhizomes.
Tall Fescue Grass
Tall fescue is an ideal grass for clay soil. It’s a cool-season variety of grass, so you’ll want to be careful or avoid it if you live somewhere with a great deal of hot weather (I’m looking at you, Texas).
You can plant tall fescue either in partial shade or full sun.
Tall fescue’s texture is quite coarse. There are some new types available now, though, and these tend to have finer blades. These varieties include dwarf turf-type and turf-type Fescue.
The roots of tall fescue grass reach deeper into the ground than other types of cool-season grass species, and this is one reason why it’s ideal for clay soils.
If you want the lawn you plant in clay soil to be especially tolerant of drought, you could consider going with buffalograss.
This is a warm-season grass. If you choose buffalograss, though, you’ll have to be ready for it to become dormant for the months of November through January. It will begin to get green again in around March or April. It’s buffalograss’s deep root system that lets it do well in clay soil.
With that said, if your lawn has a lot of shade, I recommend that you choose fescue, which tends to be more shade tolerant.
Tips for Watering Grass in Clay Soil
Many homeowners will find that there’s no need to water their grass if they have clay soil. Grass root systems can end up drowning in clay soil if there is too much water applied, and mother nature may be giving your grass just what it needs.
If you do have an irrigation system or simply want to keep the greenest grass in your neighborhood, you have to be meticulous to water grass planted in this type of soil in a very careful way. You should water less frequently than you would if you had a sandy type of soil.
Try to determine the moisture content of clay soil before you water. You can do by inserting a screwdriver into the turf, going down about six inches. If the screwdriver’s tip is dry when you pull it out, you can assume that the soil needs to be watered.
When you do determine that your clay soil has to be watered and go ahead with watering it, remember that it will take longer for the water to penetrate the soil. This is why you need to proceed slowly.
Stop watering when you see standing water anywhere on the lawn, and use a sprinkler that releases water more gradually if possible to give your lawn a long soak rather than a flood.
How Aeration Can Help
Lawn aeration is a process that involves creating tiny but quite deep holes in the soil. These holes allow important nutrients, air, and water to get to grass and plant roots.
Aerating also loosens compacted soil (you know how grass struggles to grow around pathways where people walk all the time? That soil is compacted from the foot traffic).
Aerating your lawn will help to alleviate the problems that can come with clay soil – especially the fact that clay soil is naturally compact and dense. Nutritional deficiencies and root diseases can arise as a result, which is why many lawns growing in clay soil struggle to thrive.
Ways to Aerate Your Clay Soil
- You can use an aerating fork to poke tiny holes on one of the edges of your lawn.
- You can wear lawn aerating shoes.
- Rent a professional core aerator every other year and give your entire lawn a breath of fresh air.
- Try a liquid treatment to loosen compacted clay soil.
- Or you can hire a landscaping company to do it for you.
Plant the Best Grass for Clay Soil and Enjoy Your Lawn
While you may feel frustrated with the challenges of growing a beautiful lawn in clay soil, remember that every lawn has its challenges.
Part of the satisfaction that comes in improving your lawn and creating a hospitable landscape for yourself and your family is found in overcoming those challenges. Embrace them, conquer them!
I hope the tips above will help you choose the best grass for clay soil and maintain a beautiful lawn on your property.
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