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I have several areas in my yard that are turning brown. After my irrigation system runs the appropriate time, I tried to stick a 6" screw driver into the ground. I had no issues around my lawn, besides these brown areas were I could only get the screwdriver in 2-4". I aerated in the fall and spring this year due to the lawn being so compact, but yet this is still happening. It seems like I can't get the soil to properly moisten 6" down without just letting the hose soak in those areas. My sprinklers seem to be providing proper coverage. That is why I am assuming it is the soil that isn't allowing the water to soak in. Does anyone have any solutions to this problem?

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  • How's the mycorrhizal life in your yard? What does the grass look like at that depth? – black thumb Jun 13 at 21:37
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    Do you know how the soil was prepared, before seeding the lawn? To me it seems that is was not prepared in deep, and maybe with bad dirt (often constructors are lazy and they put much of broken construction material there (cement, piece of bricks, which change the structure and pH of soil (and it could be very compact)). Try on brown spots and few over spot to make a small hole, to check soil difference. [Note you have two types of greens, and the brown] – Giacomo Catenazzi Jun 14 at 8:31
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I'm with Giacomo on this - the likeliest explanation is detritus beneath the lawn causing these problems - it could be layers of aggregated stone clumped together in hard soil, or larger rubble like bricks or broken slabs. It could even be old large roots, though that's less likely, it's solid objects that usually cause this problem.

If you had a contractor lay the lawn fairly recently, then get them back to sort it out; otherwise, carefully cut out squares of turf and stack them to one side then dig around underneath to see what you can find/get out before replacing the turf you have removed. You may need to top up the soil prior to replacing turf to get it level with the rest of the lawn if you take out a fair bit of rubble...

  • I’m not sure how the lawn was prepped before the lawn was put in. It was probably around 20yrs ago and we weren’t living here. We moved in 4yrs ago. Once I check the soil, what is the next step? Will aeration not help since it doesn’t seem to have helped so far? – junta Jun 14 at 16:44
  • If you can't shove a screwdriver past a certain depth, an aerator probably won't be able to penetrate that either. Not to mention, I don't think many aerators go more than 3 inches down anyway. So I don't think aerating will help in this case. – Silt Loam Aug 16 at 20:56
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I understand that the best way is to add compost over the entire area. Over some time, the soil gets healthier. Compaction means there is no air in it, so things like water cannot penetrate.

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