Grass on clay


LifeTime Supporter
Jun 13, 2007
Mt. Vernon, Illinois
They had to build my yard up quite a bit when they put in my pool and it seems that I have very little topsoil, then clay on top of gravel around my pool. I have put approx 140 pounds of ky bluegrass seed down and it takes off after a few weeks only to die after 10 -15 days. I'm assuming it's due to the pool soil and the fact that the water drains right down thru the dirt to the rocks. Can anyone recommend a grass that will grow on tough clay soil? I live in the country so I don't have much landscaping, pretty plain so I'm not so concerned with curb appeal but I do need something other than wet muddy clay!!!


TFP Expert
Apr 15, 2007
Ft Lauderdale, Florida
St Augustine will just about grow on cement...provided there's a good layer of soil below. It's fairly drought tolerant and grows pretty hardy.
In most parts of the country, it's called weeds. In Florida, it's the lawn of choice!


LifeTime Supporter
Mar 29, 2007
SE Louisiana
St. Aug is a warm season grass. Your choices are the cool season grasses: bluegrass, fescue, and rye are about the only ones I can think of. Those grasses will only grow really well in the Spring and Fall.


Mod Squad
TFP Expert
Apr 4, 2007
SW Indiana
Usually you'll need to add lime and some organics to dirt like that to get anywhere growing grass. I usually dump a couple of loads of manure on top, a few scoops of lime (the pelleted stuff is faster acting) and till it in lightly. Grass struggles to put out a good root system in that hard soil, so it needs daily watering for a long time to do well.


LifeTime Supporter
Jun 7, 2007
Raceland, Kentucky
I'm no expert on getting grass to grow, at least not where it's wanted, but I'd say the clay may be less of a problem for the grass than the gravel underneath it. My yard is clay in places and fescue grows well once I manage to get it started. Successfully starting it requires watering often enough to keep it from drying out, during which time it develops long roots (several feet long). I'm sure not all grass has such long roots, but all the kinds that do well around here do. I don't know if that gravel might be a problem for the roots.


Well-known member
Apr 2, 2007
It's definitely the gravel, I live on about 100 feet of clay, grass grows pretty well all around, but areas that drain well die off quick - my raised septic bed (drains well due to sand/gravel) dies off immediately to leave me with grey dormant grass, it does come back every good rainfall (for a day or two) just to go dormant again.
The rest of my property (clay) all does very well, even during extremely dry periods!

Oh, Kentucky blue doe quite well and is one of the prettiest.


LifeTime Supporter
Jun 13, 2007
Mt. Vernon, Illinois
so not much can be done then? I don't mind watering the area while it is germinating but I can't water the whole yard after the grass takes off.
I had hoped that there would be a drought resistent grass that would look decent

The Mermaid Queen

TFP Expert
LifeTime Supporter
Mar 28, 2007
Northern KY
Depending on the area to be covered and your budget, have you considered some of the new high-tech faux lawns? Turf Tech is one I have heard good things about from a lady on a dog forum...


LifeTime Supporter
Apr 5, 2007
Joliet, Il.
One problem with Kentucky Blue Grass mixes is that they usually have a mix of various Kentucky grasses with other grasses such as rye. The reason is because many Kentucky grasses take up to one month to germinate. This can be an extremely long time to keep the soil and seeds damp (remember...with seed if you let the seed dry's dead. There is no second chance. Once the seed is dead your watering for nothing.) So you'll have many Kentucky blends use a fast germinating grass like various rye grasses. These will start to come up in 7-10 days.

What you gain by having the rye come up early is get a nice quick lawn to look at. Waiting over a month can be a long time to look at dirt. Another advantage you get from the rye coming in fast is protection against soil erosion during heavy rains or excessive/aggressive watering. Last is that the rye offers protection for the Kentucky seed from the sun and it also helps retain moisture.

But...if you stop watering once you see that the rye has grown your likely to neglect and kill the remaining Kentucky grass seed. Now if your seed blend is an annual rye and Kentucky varieties the rye grass that you have this year won't be back next year.

You need to look at what type of seed is in your blend and treat the lawn for all of them.

good luck,