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Lawn care, dry spots, and soil compaction in the Seattle, Bothell, and Mill Creek areas

Dry spots. When localized dry spots occur on your lawn, a soil surfactant (also called a soil wetting agent) can help. The main reason dry spots occur is inadequate coverage of your irrigation system. The second reason for localized dry spots is the composition of the soil, such as heavy clay, which promotes poor root development of your lawn in that area. Another factor could be an environmental situation, such as a reflective building with grass on the north side causing double exposure to the sun, browning your lawn. I have also seen chunks of cement on cement in new housing developments.

Soil compaction. Homes built in the last 20 years have heavier soil compaction due to the excavators, backhoes, and large elevators used in the construction process. Good soil is now more expensive. In a new construction, the lawn is leveled (all dirt is scraped off) and then covered again with 1 to 2 inches of soil. If you live on a property like this, add compost annually and aerate your lawn twice a year, then rake fine compost into the aeration holes. Over time, this will change the profile of your soil. Most newly built properties have little or no soil preparation.

Rototilling. Another mistake many people make is rotating the existing lawn and then trying to level it. Wow, what a mistake! Talk about labor intensive! Clearing creates a huge tangle of clods of earth and grass. Then when you till your new topsoil in the mess that remains, it takes hours to level it out and there’s always a chunk of your old grass on top.

Also, if you sort it out, the old grass will decompose and your newly established garden will end up with lots of bumps and falls. Therefore, use a lawn mower first and then the rototiller. With clearing you never know what a previous owner has buried, so create a place to put unwanted unearthed items.

Soil tests. Before paying for an extensive soil renovation, it makes sense to consult with a soil and plant lab. Harris Laboratories in Lincoln Nebraska has a good reputation. Your soil test will inform you of:

  • organic material on your lawn
  • cation exchange capacity
  • soil fertility
  • pH levels
  • a complete scientific reading.

This is a roadmap for the future of your floors. The tests show what the current conditions are in your soil and tell you what changes to make to achieve the best results. Before starting a garden project, you should call 1-800-424-5555 to dial your underground lines for free. Usually this is completed in a couple of days. Be aware that they can use temporary paint on your sidewalk.

Grass and evergreens. Evergreens kill fat grass. Tree needles contain high amounts of acidity. If you must grow grass under these trees, use a bag trimmer and replant four times a year with perennial rye grass. Don’t forget to water regularly, because the tree can restrict natural rainfall. Remember that the tree adds value to your property, so don’t remove it on a whim. Trees also absorb noise from nearby traffic.

Lime. There are three different types of lime: calopril, dolomite, and gypsum. Gypsum helps break down clay and adds calcium, but does not adjust the pH of the soil. Dolomite costs more and has more magnesium, which most lawns do not require in western Washington. Calopril adjusts the pH of the soil, which makes the nutrients in the soil available to the grass.

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