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How to Grow Grass on a Clay-Based Yard

By Kelly Shetsky ; Updated September 21, 2017
Alter clay-based yards to grow grass.

Growing grass in a clay-based yard can be challenging because of clay's properties. It is made of tiny particles that stick together, clinging to moisture. This makes the clay very heavy and compacted, which limits root spread for grass and other plants. Amending the soil is necessary to grow grass. By preparing the site, you can boost the nutrients and improve drainage, ensuring a lush, green lawn.

Rake the area where you will be planting grass. Pull up weeds and remove sticks and stones. The grass seed needs to be in direct contact with the ground to germinate.

Run a rototiller over the planting area several times. Let the machine loosen up the compacted clay soil. Clay is very heavy, which is not conducive to planting grass seed. Work to a depth of at least 4 inches. This will help the roots spread.

Add topsoil to the low-lying dips to prevent the pooling of water. Rake until the ground is level.

Boost the soil pH with hydrated lime. Apply 12 ounces of lime per square yard of clay. Test the yard with a pH test kit, obtained at a nursery, to determine if it's level. Grass fares better in a more neutral environment.

Spread 1 inch of compost and 1 inch of sand to the clay-based yard. This will help with water drainage, dry out the clay and add some air pockets for the roots to use as they spread. Rototill the nutrients into the soil until well combined. Rake until smooth.

Fill a broadcast spreader with starter seed fertilizer. This will give the lawn everything it needs to grow well. Follow the instructions on the packaging.

Spread the grass seed evenly across the clay-based yard. The package will denote how much lawn the box will create. Use a mechanical spreader for large areas and a hand spreader if you're working on a small lawn.

Water the newly planted seed twice a day for five to 10 minutes. If you live in a hot climate, water three times a day. After two weeks, reduce watering to once a day. Keep the clay dirt moist. If it dries out, seed will die.

Mow the grass when it is 3-inches tall. Cut it to a height of 2 1/2 inches.


Things You Will Need

  • Rototiller
  • Rake
  • Top soil
  • Hydrated lime
  • Sand
  • Compost
  • Fertilizer
  • Broadcast spreader
  • Mechanical or hand spreader


  • Choose a grass seed that grows well in the amount of sunlight you have in your yard.
  • Lay grass seed during dry weather.


  • Do not allow water to pool because it will wash away the grass seed.

About the Author


Based in New York State, Kelly Shetsky started writing in 1999. She is a broadcast journalist-turned Director of Marketing and Public Relations and has experience researching, writing, producing and reporting. She writes for several websites, specializing in gardening, medical, health and fitness, entertainment and travel. Shetsky has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Marist College.