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Theres a spot in my front yard where the ground is extremely hard, everywhere else is soft and spongy. This spot is roughly 1 to 1.5' in diameter. No grass grows here.

What's the best way for a novice gardener to fix this?

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    Dig carefully and look for the manhole cover? – Ecnerwal May 11 '15 at 22:59
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Well, how about the old fashioned detective way as recommended by Ecnerwal?

Take a spade and start digging in the problem area. Grass needs six inches of good topsoil and drainage to do well. If the problem area is so distinct it sounds likely that rocks, concrete fill or an access cover are underneath. The best option is to remove whatever is preventing the grass from growing, add more soil and sod or seed.

If what is underneath cannot be moved then you need to disguise it:

  • some loose lay flagstone
  • a decorative element like a dry tree stump
  • sculpture like a gazing ball
  • a raised bed for shallow rooted plants like annuals
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