Soil compaction

hi. I need help. I have a small yard with a large maple tree. When I moved in there was grass and then I killed it. Now each year i have to start over with soil amendments and grass seed and tender loving care.  I grew grass this year but now once again it is dead. It requires so much water and when I go away for vacation it doesn't get watered regularly and dies. Is there a trick to this or should I  get professional help and if so who can help me?  Please help I hate looking at my yard and my neighbor has the best

Looking lawn In town. My front yard is not so bad. Thanks!


When you go away, depending upon size of the lawn, set up as many sprinklers as are needed to cover the entire area.  Connect hoses to an electronic controller*, which you can program as to how often it should come on, and how long it should allow water to flow.

* = the electronic controller is battery powered.  It is available at Home Depot:

Single hose abt $35, Two hoses abt $40, and 4 hoses abt $50

For a newly seeded lawn, probably every other day, for at least 1/2 hour (ideally before dawn).


Does your yard lawn receive sufficient sun for the cultivar(s) you select to grow successfully? And why did you title this discussion Soil Compaction?


Hi. Thanks for your comments. Sorry I was not clear. It is grass that I am trying to grow and it seems impossible


If you have full shade you can possibly grow grass, but it will be difficult to do and anything you do manage to grow will be so delicate that you will basically have to rope it off and treat it like it was in a museum, no foot traffic at all.  Even then the odds are against you, doesn't matter what "dense shade" variety of grass seed you buy.  Unfortunately I speak from experience, and many, many, failed attempts at growing grass underneath a maple tree.


Does your neighbor with the good lawn have a big maple too?  They are very thirsty trees with a lot of shallow roots, not to mention the shade.  Would it be a good place for some mulch and hosta, or wild ginger, or [name(s) of plant(s)] instead of grass, or do you need to walk there?

Alternatively, your neighbor with the good lawn could be an excellent source of advice if s/he's dealing with the same sort of soil/light/etc. situation as yours.

OR, since it's a small yard and your stated problem is getting new grass established, how about starting with sod?

Any new planting is likely to need consistent watering the first summer, though, so a timer (or neighbor kid) would be helpful when you're out of town.



mjc said:

Does your neighbor with the good lawn have a big maple too?  They are very thirsty trees with a lot of shallow roots, not to mention the shade.  Would it be a good place for some mulch and hosta, or wild ginger, or [name(s) of plant(s)] instead of grass, or do you need to walk there?

This is what my mother did, she planted pachysandra underneath her maple tree.  



tomcat said:

When you go away, depending upon size of the lawn, set up as many sprinklers as are needed to cover the entire area.  Connect hoses to an electronic controller*, which you can program as to how often it should come on, and how long it should allow water to flow.

* = the electronic controller is battery powered.  It is available at Home Depot:

Single hose abt $35, Two hoses abt $40, and 4 hoses abt $50

For a newly seeded lawn, probably every other day, for at least 1/2 hour (ideally before dawn).

Buy a different brand online.  The timers sold at Home Depot are absolute garbage.  Go to raindepot.com or another irrigation site.


I can empathize with your situation, we redid our entire backyard last fall and have some similar issues. I was never a lawn guy, but have been doing a lot of research to see if i can save our yard from thinning and death. 

What i learned is that while shade is hard, it typically isn't why the grass has a hard time. Its the tree systems taking away nutrients and water. I have begun using a weekly mix of liquid homemade fertilizer which seems to be working. 1cup ammonia/1 cup regular dish detergent/1 beer

I spray the yard before watering.

the other issue is that the grass never seems to dry, or ventilate, which encourages fungus growth and thatch. the beer is supposed to catalyze micorganisms to decompose those clippings and thatch acting as a barrier.

I don't know if any of this is accurate but it seems to be working. at the end of the day, i will have to reseed this year to fill in. We will aerate, and spread gypsum pellets along with the seed to promote better soil and root growth. There are a couple of studies from Ag schools in the midwest that show some improvement in clay rich soil with gypsum amendments. You can buy 50lb bags of it at the farm supply store.

hope this helps. i think many of us are in the same lot with the soil and light issues in our tree friendly town.


Sounds like my life. Last summer I worked incredibly hard on our back yard tilling, adding draining pipes to eroded areas, adding compost peat moss and topsoil, seeding with dense shade mix, watering two or three times daily. I never wanted to touch a piece of lawn equipment again in my life, but for a brief glorious few months the back yard looked good. 

But since then it's gotten thinner and thinner, with more and more bare spots. I've added additional seed, more peat moss, more water -- and no progress. I've even told my lawn guy to stop mowing back there; his riding mower was doing more harm than good. Maybe if the grass gets long enough we can go for a lawn comb-over.


For compaction, core aeration will help a lot.  Google it.  I can recommend someone.  PM me.



rowerg said:



What i learned is that while shade is hard, it typically isn't why the grass has a hard time. Its the tree systems taking away nutrients and water. I have begun using a weekly mix of liquid homemade fertilizer which seems to be working. 1cup ammonia/1 cup regular dish detergent/1 beer

This recipe is vaguely reminiscent of George Thorogood's One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer. Credit is due, I understand, to Rudy Toombs (though I thought it was John Lee Hooker).


cats said:

For compaction, core aeration will help a lot.  Google it.  I can recommend someone.  PM me.

Who mentioned compaction? Or excessive porosity?



dickf3 said:



rowerg said:



What i learned is that while shade is hard, it typically isn't why the grass has a hard time. Its the tree systems taking away nutrients and water. I have begun using a weekly mix of liquid homemade fertilizer which seems to be working. 1cup ammonia/1 cup regular dish detergent/1 beer

This recipe is vaguely reminiscent of George Thorogood's One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer. Credit is due, I understand, to Rudy Toombs (though I thought it was John Lee Hooker).



cats said:

For compaction, core aeration will help a lot.  Google it.  I can recommend someone.  PM me.

Who mentioned compaction? Or excessive porosity?

The OP



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