What Is the Best Grass for Clay Soil?

Last Updated on April 14, 2022 by Grow with Bovees

When it comes to planting grass seed in different soil, you might ask yourself, can I plant grass seed in clay soil?

Even though the soil structure of this type of soil is quite different, and the drainage is not great, clay soil retains water really well, and it is great to plant grass seed in once amended.

Overall, growing healthy grass and maintaining a green lawn on clay soil isn’t difficult when you nail these factors, so here we are with our best grass for clay soil guide.

Firstly, to make clay soil suitable for planting in, you’ll need different soil preparation, watering habits and the right grass seed.

Planting grass seed while growing and maintaining healthy, beautiful grass on clay soil requires different methods and measures of lawn care than in typical, sandy soil.

In terms of the best grass seed for clay soil, these are the best grasses that will grow lush, healthy and thrive throughout the year:

  • Tall fescue 
  • Creeping red fescue
  • Bermuda grass.
  • Buffalo grass.
  • Perennial ryegrass.
  • Zoysia grass
  • Kentucky bluegrass
image of dried clay soil

Stay with us. We’ll tell you more details about care, characteristics and the growing basics of several grass types in clay soil to help you. These include cool season grasses as well as warm season grasses.

grass with a deep root system is best in clay soil

The Best Grass Seed for Clay Soil

Thanks to extensive plant development, we have plenty of choices of grass varieties to pick from to grow grass in clay soil. One can even now purchase mixed bags of seeds that are made to be planted in clay soils.

After in-depth research, we found that four grass types perfectly flourish in clay soil, as well as what you need to do in order to maintain a beautiful lawn after planting the seed in clay soil.

Tall Fescue Grass

Tall fescue grass type is arguably the most popular of fescue grasses and it happens to grow well in clay soil. In particular, tall fescue offers excellent tolerance to drought, hot weather, cold and shade.

These factors make tall fescue a versatile grass to provide superb durability and flexibility to most homeowners.

If you live in a northern area, tall fescue is one of the best cool-season grass species. Tall fescue grows and flourishes most in the early spring and fall months, shooting its deep root systems through the ground to take anchor in the clay soil.

Care

While being one of the most robust cool-season grass varieties out there, lawn care and maintenance is easy.

This grass type requires a solid watering or lawn irrigation system in place to thrive all year round. One thing to note is that it prefers deep watering, so its robust root system can stay moist for longer. As the grass grows, roots penetrate deep, absorbing as many nutrients and organic material from the clay soil as possible.

Also, it’s a good idea to overseed it a few times a year to sustain density.

How to Plant

To have a lush, green and dense tall fescue, plant or reseed it in the spring or fall when it grows most vigorously.

The great thing about tall fescue is that it doesn’t require much fertilizer to maintain its growth and color.It also grows perfectly in various soils, including clay soils with a pH of 5.5 to 7.5.

Bermuda Grass

Bermuda grass is the best grass to grow in warm-season climates and it is clay tolerant. Common bermuda grass is considered a warm season grass and it is often seen growing on golf courses and has a high tolerance to drought, warm climates, shade and traffic, it’s very popular in the southern United States.

What’s even better is it’s the fastest-growing grass amongst all warm-season grass types and can recover very fast.

But, with a rapid growth rate, it requires more frequent care, so it is important to have an effective lawn fertilizer schedule to keep it in the best condition.

This type of grass develops grass roots with deep rhizomes.

Care

Bermuda grass requires more maintenance than the other warm-season grasses. In summer, when it reaches its peak growth, mowing twice a week is required.

To keep a lush and dense appearance, mow it to 1 to 1.5 inches for home lawns.

Also, when in peak growth, you need to apply fertilizer once a month. Adding organic matter to this type of grass will aid in a dense and lush lawn.

How to Plant

Like all warm-season grasses, Bermuda grass comes out of dormancy in spring after the last frost. It’s best to plant it or overseed it at this time as it’s now in the main growth state.

Bermuda grass seeds tolerate alkaline soil, meaning it flourishes well in clay soil.

Keep in mind that it has the best growth performance in clay soil with a pH between 5.8 and 7.0 but tolerates higher numbers if needed.

During the cooler months of the year, overseeding warm season grasses is a great way to keep your lawn looking healthy and lush.

Buffalo Grass

Buffalo grass is another warm-season grass, drought-tolerant grass that survives perfectly and grows well in clay soil with only 1.5 inches of rainfall per month. Once established, this type of grass requires minimal irrigation to grow well.

Much like other varieties of grasses, buffalo grass has the ability to grow well in clay soil due to its deep root system.

It originates in North America and became a very popular drought-tolerant type of lawn grass in the 1980s.It’s a low-maintenance, blue-green or grey-green soft grass seed used widely as lawn grass and in pastures.

Care

Maintenance is simple and hassle-free.

Fertilize it right after you sow and repeat the fertilization once a month after that. The important thing to remember is not to over-fertilize it, as it will stop its vigorous growth.

It also requires moist clay soil until it’s established. Afterward, Buffalo grass seed thrives with minimal water—1.5 inches per month.

How to Plant

The best time to seed buffalo grass seeds in clay soil  is between April and May.

You can either choose seed or sod for planting. Generally, seeds will have both male and female plants, whereas sods will only have females.

But, there are plenty of buffalo grass cultivars, and if you want to use it on your lawn, then look for male seed plants, as it won’t have seedheads.

If you mix male and female seeds into your lawn, you’ll have many white seed heads that don’t look great and draw insects.

Perennial Ryegrass

This perennial grass is widely used in cooler climates among the United States, though it originates in Europe and Asia.

It has great tolerance to cold weather and maintains a lush and green color throughout the winter, making it one of the popular cool-season grasses.

Although it’s mainly a cool season grass, it flourishes well in moderate-heat summer climates as well. It can also withstand light shading.It’s best known for its fast germination and rapid establishment. Fast germination lets you reseed erosion or pets’ spots quickly and re-establish a beautiful lush lawn promptly.

Care

If you want to keep your lawn dense and lush, keep perennial ryegrass mowing height between 1.5 and 2.5 inches. This might sound too high, but it performs the best at this range.

Perennial rye grass requires more water and fertilization compared to other cool-season grasses on our list. It’s advisable to increase watering above the regular amount In cold winters and droughts, if you’d like to keep a lush and green lawn.

How to Plant

Perennial ryegrass grows perfectly in a wide range of soils, including both alkaline and acidic .

Clay soil has an optimum pH range of 5.5 to 7.5, making it more of an acidic soil and a perfect host for perennial ryegrass, which flourishes between pH levels of 5.5 to 7.5.

If you’re unsure of your clay soil’s pH level, use a simple soil tester.The best time to seed perennial rye grass is in the early fall. Its fast-germinating property creates a fine-blade lawn come winter in preparation for the summer heat. Perennial rye grass is also a good stabilizer and can help to stabilize soil on a sloping site.

How Do You Prepare Clay Soil for Grass Seed?

Take your time amending clay soil before seeding your lawn to grow the best grass in clay soil.

The good news is that there are plenty of organic options to improve clay soil without costing much time or money:

  • Leaves: If you have a handheld leaf picker upper, spread a generous amount of green and brown leaves onto your clay soil to improve decomposition. Leaves help useful microbes to proliferate and keep the soil moist.
  • Grass clippings: Great for both new grass and an existing lawn. Spreading them over your bare clay soil naturally provides more nitrogen and potassium. Both of these nutrients are essential for green, lush growth and lasting protection.
  • Compost: Homemade compost is already rich in nutrients needed for a healthy lawn. Also, it improves drainage and protects clay soil from drying out.

Starter fertilizer: Applying a starter fertilizer is recommended to improve the quality of growing new grass.

After you’ve done applying organic matter to your clay soil, it’s a good idea to finish it with topsoil.

Cover the area with 2 to 5 inches of high-quality topsoil. This will significantly improve the grass’ growing speed and ensure it gets all essential nutrients to stay healthy and germinate.

How Aeration Can Help Your Clay Soil Grass

Heavy clay soil gets very compact, so aeration is essential and required for every clay soil.

Aeration reduces clay soil’s compactness and improves grass growth.

To have a lush, green and dense lawn, its roots need good air circulation, nutrients and water. Compacted clay soils prevent this, reducing a grass’ growth.

Clay soil lawn owners should aerate the lawn every year to avoid the above-listed problems.

Ways To Aerate Clay Soils

Aeration is a simple, yet effective process for improving the quality of clay soil. Follow these easy methods:

  • Spike aerator: A multi spike aerator is great for small lawns and doesn’t cost much. It leaves deep-enough holes to let the air, water and fertilizer flow.
  • Slicing aerator: Similar to a spike aerator but has a spinning blade with spikes that cut through the grass and thatch soil.
  • Aeration shoes: Simple and fun way to aerate your lawn. Spikes are located on the sole for you to aerate your lawn as you walk around.
  • Liquid aeration: This is an aeration method that involves a liquid solution. When this solution is added to the clay soil, it helps to loosen it up making room for the penetration of nutrients and water.
  • Core aeration: This method is similar to liquid aeration, but in this case you will physically remove sections — or cores — of grass from your turf. This way clay soil clumps are broken apart, but without using a liquid.

Recommended Method for Watering Grass in Clay Soil

Watering grass seed in clay soil requires a different approach than in sandy soil. Clay tends to keep moisture longer than sand and quite often can become a dense area.

When grass seeds soak in too much moisture for a long time, they’ll rot and slowly die.

To combat this, the best way of watering your lawn is through an irrigation system or grass sprinklers.

You can easily regulate the amount of water for the grass and clay soil with both methods, ensuring it spreads evenly. Efficient water distribution is essential for avoiding standing water.

for a beautiful lawn, spread a thin layer of organic matter onto the dense soil

Establish a Perfect Lawn With the Right Grass for Clay Soil

Growing grass in your clay soil isn’t that frustrating when you know which is the best grass seed and how to prepare the soil.We suggest picking the perennial ryegrass if you live in a more chilly-season climate. It’s a robust and fast-germinating type of grass for clay soil.

Although it requires more maintenance than others, it provides jaw-dropping lush and green grass.

If you live in warmer climates, go with buffalo grass. It’s drought and heat-tolerant, and is possibly the best grass for clay soil that requires minimal maintenance when established.

In order to grow the perfect lawn in a compact soil type such as clay soil, remember to amend it correctly first. Make sure that it contains enough air pockets, the right amount of moisture and of course a decent amount of nutrients.

Then choose the correct type of seed suited for clay soil as well as the climate that you live in.

Plant the seed and care for it accordingly and you will soon have a beautiful lawn that is worth bragging about!

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