WASHINGTON -- If any part of your lawn -- or another section of the garden -- stays under water or feels soggy for hours following a heavy-duty rainstorm, you need to spike the soil to let the water drain.
Waterlogged soil can be as dangerous to plants as soil that is bone-dry. Roots need air and can drown in wet ground. However, trampling on heavy, clay-dominated soil here shortly after the rain stops would only make it even more packed.
Make a mental note of the wettest spots, and make no move until the surface of the soil is no longer soggy but still feels a little moist. Then sink the sturdy tines of your spading fork into the soil every four or five inches and move the fork back and forth a little to enlarge the holes.
Moss indicates poor drainage and soil compaction. The moss needs to be removed and the soil aerated and improved before reseeding the spots.
An even-better tool for the purpose is the hollow-tined aerator, praised by some lawn enthusiasts who aerate their favorite domain every two to three years regardless of the moisture level, especially those parts that receive heavy traffic.
Drive the tool into the soil vertically and then pull it out. Shake out the cores extracted by the hollow tines, dump them in a bucket and add them to the compost pile.
Later, spread a top-dressing to keep the upper levels of the lawn open and light. You can use a shovel to pile and spread the mix or, on bigger areas, a garden rake.
You can buy the amendment already mixed or blend it yourself: one part compost, five parts sharp or medium sand and two parts topsoil.
Such a loose, rich and particulate top-dressing will slowly find its way into drainage channels created by the fork or aerator and seep into the rest of the soil, making its texture more porous and friable. The best time to top-dress is right after mowing and not too far into October. Fall is the prime season for root growth, and the top-dressing will encourage that growth critical for plants.
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