new lawn / no topsoil

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  #1  
Old 04-16-12, 08:36 AM
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new lawn / no topsoil

Hello,

I just purchased a new home in Maryland and am moving in in 3 weeks. The grass was planted in the fall and has come in ok, but it is thin / spotty and not growing that quickly. There appears to be no topsoil and the ground is hard clayey soil.

When I purchased the home a month ago, I tried to negotiate having the builder put some topsoil down but he refused. He said that they put back the topsoil that was stripped (which I doubt) and that he would have the lawn reseeded. It appears that they just threw some more seed and straw down on the hard ground and are not watering it that I can tell. So I'll be left battling with getting grass to grow in hard / topsoil barren ground for years to come during our miserably hot, dry summers.

I looked into getting some topsoil but for about .2 acres it is cost prohibitive for me right now. I don't really care that much about having an immaculate turfed yard but I would like to be able to have decent green coverage that I don't have to water constantly. What do you recommend as a relatively quick / inexpensive solution for this new lawn? Can it survive without topsoil?

Thanks!
 
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Old 04-16-12, 09:12 AM
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Not wanting to spend much money, not wanting to water much and starting late spring/early summer I say get used to the bare patches. Anything planted this late is going to require regular watering and care since it does not have time to get established before summer.

If you really want to plant something you could plant rye which will germinate and grow quickly. You will have to water it but it will die out in the summer heat so you watering time will be limited. Hopefully you can get it to grow enough to help prevent erosion until fall when you can properly address your lawn.

You can also start researching other ground covers. Clover can survive in very dry, poor quality soils and it puts nitrogen into the soil which could help your future lawn.
 
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Old 04-16-12, 12:35 PM
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Thanks Pilot Dane. I realize the new seed won't do well without water, I'm asking more long term for the grass that was planted last spring, do you think it has a chance to be healthy without topsoil? I will water and add fertilizer or whatever else is recommended but I'm wondering if I'm fighting a losing battle.
 
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Old 04-16-12, 01:35 PM
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If the existing grass was planted last spring it should be pretty well established and able to survive. After all, it's made this far without much care.

I would have someone independent take a look at your soil. If there are any landscape contractors working in the neighborhood see if you can get them to just take a peek at your soil. If that doesn't work out you can get a soil sample box from your local agricultural extension office. They have instructions on how to take the sample and you fill out what you want to grow. They test the soil and tell you what you need to do. In my county if I take the sample back to the extension office they will get it to the state lab for free. You can also take a shovel full of it to a local nursery and see what they think. You might get lucky and have reasonably good soil to work with.
 
  #5  
Old 04-16-12, 02:39 PM
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You can add compost by shovel almost any time you like. Throw it in an arc and cover the lawn. Over time that will turn into good topsoil. (IMO it smells good too, opinions differ) In the short term it will feed the lawn and help retain moisture. If your local municipality has a recycle program you should be able to get it at any garden center or direct from the recycle facility by the truckload.

I don't think compost will do anything to soil chemistry except improve it though testing should be done beforehand.

NOT composted manure or anything like that from a big box store.

The problem with many new homes is not the soil itself...but the fact it has become extremely compacted during construction. Throwing 2 inches of soil on top of compacted stuff doesn't really help.
 
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Old 04-17-12, 06:02 AM
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I'm with Vic on the compost and an annual core aeration is good with clay soils - I like to put the compost down immediately after an aeration in the fall and overseed at the same time.
 
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