How to Make Grass Grow in Red Clay Soil

Overview

Red clay soil is considered one of the most difficult soil types when planting anything, including grass. It is made up of small particles that cling to each other as well as to moisture. Red clay soil is wetter and heavier than other soil types. This makes it more difficult for grass roots to spread. Sprinkling grass seed over this medium is not going to be very successful. The key is to amend the soil to make it looser and drier, which is more conducive to growing grass. By increasing nutrients and improving drainage, you can assure a lush, green lawn.

Step 1

Remove debris from the yard. Grass seed needs to touch the ground directly in order to germinate. Get rid of weeds, sticks and stones.

Step 2

Till the top 4 to 6 inches of red clay soil. Work it into the dirt until it's no longer compacted. The looser the soil, the easier it will be for the roots to spread.

Step 3

Take care of dips and low-lying spots. These will allow water to pool, making it more difficult for grass seed to germinate. Put topsoil in these areas and rake until smooth.

Step 4

Boost the pH with hydrated lime. Apply 12 oz. of lime per square yard of red clay soil to make the clay more neutral and more conducive to growing grass.

Step 5

Spread 1 inch of sand and compost to the clay soil. These will counteract the moist nature of clay, improving drainage and loosening up the soil. The air pockets created will give the roots space to spread. Use the rototiller to mix the sand and compost into the clay evenly. Go over the area with a rake to smooth it.

Step 6

Fill a broadcast spreader with a starter seed fertilizer. The food will add nutrients to balance the red clay soil.

Step 7

Apply grass seed to the area, following the instructions on the label. The package will indicate how much land it covers. If you're planting a large area, then use a mechanical spreader. A hand spreader works best on small lawns.

Step 8

Set a sprinkler to the oscillating setting. Water the planting area for five to 10 minutes twice daily. Increase it to three times a day if it's especially hot outside. After two weeks, reduce watering. Keep the red clay soil moist. Up to 30 percent of the seed may die if you let it dry out.

Step 9

Wait until the grass reaches 3 inches tall before mowing. Set the mower to a height of 2 1/2 inches.

Things You'll Need

  • Rototiller
  • Rake
  • Topsoil
  • Hydrated lime
  • Sand
  • Compost
  • Fertilizer
  • Broadcast spreader
  • Grass seed
  • Mechanical or hand spreader
  • Water
  • Mower

References

  • This Old House: How to Seed a Lawn
  • Texas A&M University: Mowing
  • The Garden Helper: How to Test and Adjust Your Soil pH
  • All About Lawns: Getting to Know Your Lawn
Keywords: grow grass, red clay soil, grass in clay

About this Author

Kelly Shetsky has been a broadcast journalist for more than 10 years, researching, writing, producing and reporting daily on many topics. In addition, she writes for several websites, specializing in medical, health and fitness, arts and entertainment, travel and business. Shetsky has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Marist College.