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Best strategy and tools for a heavily compacted lawn

I'm wanting to improve my lawn and it's clear that compaction is a significant issue.  I've tried spiking with a garden fork but that only penetrates the surface by a tiny amount.  So, I bought a heavy hollow-tine tool, thinking that with its weight plus my own 13 stone I would be able to improve things but no, the tines barely penetrate either.  The soil generally is a heavy clay so I suspect that is part of the issue.

So, my question is this.  I'm wanting something that will open things up a bit so I can apply top dressing.  Will hiring a powered scarifier be any good as a starting point for improving the soil?  Or will it simply deal with the thatch and moss?  Would a slitter be more appropriate?  And are they likely to be heavy enough to penetrate into the soil?

I had wondered about contacting Green Thumb but having read so many dreadful reviews I'm not going to go near them, so any advice would be appreciated.


  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 34,563
    Unless it's a big area, I'd consider getting rid of it altogether and starting again.
    Turf lifter, followed by mulching , followed by heavy duty  rotovator.
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 53,973
    Is it solid because it's still very dry Shoogles? It's easier to get a fork in once it's properly dampened, so you might need to wait if that's the case. Once you get some holes into the ground you can add some coarse grit into them, but it's a process that you need to keep doing regularly to make any real difference. It depends just how much time, money and effort you have to spend on it, and how perfect you want it to look.
    If you want it pristine, you may need to go with Hosta's advice to get a good tilth under turf. 

    Sometimes, it's about achieving a bit of a balance too. If the ground's difficult, and clay can be exactly that, you may have to accept that the grass will never be brilliant. 
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 34,563
    I had a client once who said to me " the road to the perfect lawn is the self same road as that to bankruptcy" He most certainly had a very valid point.
  • Thank you Hostafan and Fairygirl for your sage advices.  I see the advantage in starting over but I would really rather not do that.  I think you may be right that with a bit more moisture around, things might get easier.  I've just spent a good hour hand raking it and then standing on the garden fork and wiggling it about a bit.  I realise that the points go in about 2 inches in places so maybe it's not quite as bad as I was initially thinking.  

    I guess perseverance and tolerance may be the wisest route!
  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 34,563
    "I guess perseverance and tolerance may be the wisest route!"
    This is true of so much in gardening. ;) 
  • Dave HumbyDave Humby Posts: 1,145
    edited September 2018
    Hire a hollow-time aerator. Also scarify it. Now is a good time to do both although you may want to wait till the ground softens up. If you want to improve the soil then sweep in some sharp sand but if compaction is the main issue I would just leave them to self-heal. 

    A solid-tine (fork) will help aeration but not compaction unless you are able to lever-up sections as you are just displacing the soil elsewhere in the same volume. 
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