Rainscaping Practices /

Soil Quality Restoration

What is soil quality restoration?

The key to a healthy lawn is healthy soil.

To achieve healthy soil on established lawns, soil quality restoration uses deep aeration (core aeration) and topdressing with compost (1/2 inch to 3/4 inch thick layer). For new lawns or new construction, there is another method that involves tilling in topsoil before seeding or laying sod.

The process of soil quality restoration reduces compaction, increases pore space in the soil, and improves organic matter content. This improves the heath and functionality of soils. Organic matter gives the landscape the ability to act like a sponge and absorb rain. Soils rich in organic matter also support entire ecosystems of beneficial organisms (microbes, worms, insects) that contribute to healthy lawns.

Soil quality restoration helps provides your lawn these key things:

  • Adds nutrients lawns need without additional fertilizers
  • Reduces compaction
  • Increases organic matter content
  • Enables your lawn to soak up and store more water

Why soil quality restoration?

In urban environments soils are usually very compacted and in poor condition. Construction and grading activities create compacted soils, topsoil is often removed, and there is little to no organic matter left (the good stuff plants need to grow that also helps to soak in water).  Yards with poor soil quality require more time, money, water, and fertilizer to stay green and maintain a lush appearance.

Types of problems soil quality restoration can help fix at home

  • Hard, clay soils, & compaction
  • Patchy & Dead Grass
  • Ponding & Drainage issues
  • Hard to mow wet lawns
  • Constant need for watering

The roots of grass struggle to get established in compacted soils which can stunt growth or lead to a thin looking lawn. Without the needed nutrients in the soil and access to water, grass is left looking pale green or brown and unhealthy. Aerating followed by compost application helps break up these hard and clay soils.

Compacted clay soils lead to drainage issues. When sod is laid over compacted soils, water can get trapped between the soil and sod leaving your lawn feeling squishy after rain making it difficult to mow. In other cases, you may observe water flowing between the soil and sod and into the street. Compost applied to your lawn will help to increase the organic matter content in your yard. Organic matter will help to absorb more water where it lands. This helps reduce potential ponding and drainage problems while also storing more water for your grass to drink.

Before: This home located in the Des Moines Metro suffered from compacted soils and high clay content which led to a dry, dead, and patchy grass.

After: Soil quality restoration reduced soil compaction and increased organic matter content helping the soil to absorb more water and gives the lawn access to nutrients it needs to be healthy.

Benefits to our community

In our cities, poor soils, compaction, and an abundance of impervious surfaces (roof tops, parking lots, roads) create excess stormwater that has nowhere to go except into city storm drains. During large rains, storm drain systems become overwhelmed leading to flooding problems. These storm drains empty into local creeks and lakes which can lead to flooding, massive stream bank erosion, and reduced water quality. Addressing flooding, erosion problems, and improving water quality is very costly and time intensive.

Each of our properties has a great potential to capture water. You can help stormwater naturally soak into the ground to help prevent these problems.

Soil quality restoration is a simple step you can take at home that benefits you and our community by reducing stormwater runoff.

Benefits to the Environment & Water Quality

Traditional lawn care methods use fertilizers with excess nitrogen and phosphorus that can negatively affect environmental health and water quality. Soil quality restoration is a way to jump start the health of your lawn without the need for additional fertilizers.

Stormwater runoff transports pollutants (trash, oils, grass clippings, leaves, etc.) into local waterways and can cause stream bank erosion. Soil quality restoration helps to reduce stormwater runoff which can limit the transfer of pollutants to waterways, and place less stress on stream banks that are easily eroded. When stormwater flows over hot surfaces like streets in summer, the water heats up. As this water enters streams and lakes, warmer temperatures can threaten fish and other aquatic life.

By using soil quality restoration to reduce stormwater runoff from your property, you can help reduce these problems and help create a cleaner and healthier waters.

Did you know it only takes 1 pound of phosphorus to produce 300-500 pounds of algae?

Funding is Available!

Across the Des Moines Metro, cities and watershed projects have funding available for you to implement soil quality restoration on your property. Available funding can help cover, on average, 50% of the cost or more!

THE RAIN CAMPAIGN

ENABLING PEOPLE TO PROTECT WATER

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