Claude’s Gardening & Landscaping Forum

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Dear Claude,

Dealing with a bumpy lawn. We have a well-established lawn (20 Years) on a clay soil. The lot is about 12,500sq feet (minus the house and driveway). We would prefer not to tear up the lawn to start over. Over the years, the lawn is getting more rough to walk on and mow, and I was wondering if you could provide some suggestions as to how to smooth out the topography. Spring rolling does not help on clay soil.

From Ruff and Tumble

You’re right, rolling does not work on a clay soil. As a matter of fact, it compacts an already compacted soil, making things worse. The good news is you don’t have to tear up your existing lawn, but you will have to put in some time to remedy the problem. 

You can use a 50/50 mixture of sand and topsoil or compost to fill in the low spots in the spring, once the weather warms up. This is where the time comes in! The idea is to gradually fill in the low spots by adding not more than 1 to 2 inches of the mixture, spreading with the hard side of a rake, so that the grass can grow through. You will need to repeat every few weeks until your lawn is level, so it may take some time depending on how rough your lawn is.

You could also aerate your soil first, using a plug aerator which removes a core, or plug, of grass and soil from your lawn. This would benefit your lawn as a whole before trying to level it.

Talking about lawns, please wait until your lawn has dried up before you do any raking in the spring. Beneficial insects are just waking up, so waiting until the weather has been consistently warm for a week will give them a chance to emerge from the soil and leaf debris. If you’re thinking of over-seeding your lawn, the best time is when soil temperature reaches around 10 degrees Celsius and air temperature around 18 degrees Celsius. The seed needs to have good contact with the soil to germinate.

Did you know that the Kemptville Campus Greenhouse is open to the public every weekday morning from 9:30 to 12? We’re happy to answer your gardening and landscaping questions. You can also check our Facebook page for upcoming workshops and plants for sale.

contact [email protected] for any questions

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