Will adding compost raise level of lawn?


Old 03-20-11, 09:54 AM
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Will adding compost raise level of lawn?

So, I finally had my clay soil tested yesterday (for pH). Fairly neutral, but even the guy at the nursery noted that I was pretty much all clay with little to no topsoil based on the 3 samples I had brought it.

Since my backyard is small (16'x16') and the grass is patchy and the soil stays damp for days after a rain (I am at the bottom of a slope from all of my neighbors in my row of townhomes so everything runs down to me and stops at my flat yard), I have been thinking of tilling in good compost to make the soil better. Unfortunately, since I am in a townhouse and surrounded by other property, I can't really grade the yard or raise its level significantly (if at all).

I understand that the compost will decompose, so if I tilled in 1 or 2 inches of compost over the whole yard, would it eventually settle back to the original grade as the compost decomposes? And would that really improve the soil in the long term, or once the compost has decomposed am I back to my clay soil again? I cold also till in some good topsoil, but not a lot since I can't really permanently change the grade of the yard.

Any thoughts appreciated since my yard is a marsh with patchy grass!

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Old 03-20-11, 03:50 PM
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Adding compost should improve your soil. It will provide nutrients for grass and help hold moisture during dry periods.

Tilling the existing soil without adding anything will raise it's level by several inches until it compacts back down. Adding compost will also increase the height of your lawn. Over time the compost will decompose and the lawn will slowly get lower in elevation but it will still be higher than before. You can't add something without it going somewhere.
Old 03-20-11, 04:07 PM
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For some reason...it seems sand should also be added to clay soil?
Old 03-21-11, 08:45 AM
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Hi Rockford33:

Adding compost would help improve your topsoil, but your real problem is the solving drainage issue.

My experience with damp, soggy lawn areas is that adding something on top of the soil just makes the mud deeper.

What has worked for me is to choose a part of the lawn away from the house and dig a dry well (or two). I've then used the dirt from the well hole to slightly change the slope to direct the water to the dry well. You can also direct the water to the dry well with several french drains.

I've never tried to do this in a 16 x 16 yard, but it should help dry out your soil quicker than your present situation. If using the dirt to change the slope wouldn't work, you might have to have it hauled away.
Old 03-21-11, 09:29 AM
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I meant to add this before...

My last house in VA had a deck all across the back and all around the perimeter would get soft and muddy during rains. There was a good slope about 5 ft off and a city drain at the back and all the neighbors yards were well maintained and graded to it...it was just around the deck that was the issue.

I tried mulch and gravel, but it just made a bigger mess. I think when it was built, they scraped it clean to the hard pan, then brought soil in for the landscape. Naturally they couldn't do anything under the deck, so all water just ran down and soaked the 2' around it.

I finally borrowed my neighbors gas auger with a 4" bit and drilled a series of 3' deep holes. Got below the 1 1/2' of clay, put in 2 1/2' lengths of corrugated, perforated drain pipe in the sleeve material, filled it with gravel, tied the sleeve in a knot on top, then backfilled the last 6" with soil. Never had any issues again. Just had to give the water a place to percolate underneath the clay.

I may be thinking of another thread where there was standing water, but renting an auger to drill some test holes might be worthwhile. CALL FOR UNDERGROUND UTILITY LINE CHECK before any work!
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