Home Improvement Expert Danny Lipford

Cracks in Dry Soil

By:

“I have a problem with deep cracks forming in my lawn soil, especially when it is dry. The cracks can be quite large, and I don’t know what to do. Please advise!”
-Naser

Large cracks form in soils that are high in clay. The clay particles act just like a sponge – they swell as they soak up water, and they shrink as they dry out. During a dry spell, the shrinkage can be so significant that large cracks can form. In severe cases, these soils (called “expansive soils”) can undermine the foundations of buildings because they swell and shrink so much.

Clay soil can be tricky because once it dries out in the heat, it can become hard as a rock – that’s why they make bricks and pottery out of this stuff! Simply adding water doesn’t solve the problem – you need to amend the soil in order to correct the texture. Before adding anything to your soil, you first need to have your soil tested. Take samples to your local agricultural extension service, or purchase a soil test kit that you can send to a lab, in order to determine the exact makeup of your soil.

If you indeed have clay soil, I’d suggest that you first try aerating your lawn, then top-dressing with compost. As the compost breaks down, it will actually improve the texture of your soil. You’ll have the added benefit of organic nutrition for your yard. You’ll probably need to do this more than once, and if your soil is heavy clay it may need to become part of your lawn care practice every few years.

If your soil test indicates that your clay soil is “sodic” or high in sodium, you can apply gypsum or lime. This replaces the sodium with calcium, which reduces the crusty texture of the soil. However, it only works if you have sodic soil.

The Arizona Geological Survey has a great resource with photos and information about expansive and problem soils.

Further Information

Hope this helps!

Julie



Please Leave a Comment

4 Comments on “Cracks in Dry Soil”

You can follow comments to this article by subscribing to the RSS news feed with your favorite feed reader.

  1. bobbi Says:
    January 24th, 2011 at 12:48 am

    thank you!! my yard has cracks that you can break a ankle in!! hubby keeps saying you don’t water enough! my water bill says otherwise, i will call and have the test done. thank you again!

  2. Rose Says:
    July 11th, 2013 at 9:12 pm

    We have a lot of clay around our house in Corinth. Our cracks are very wide and long. Since the house is on a slab the cracks near the foundation cause any problems with foundation. My husband removed some soil from foundation when it rains will the hole ruin the foundation and below slab.

  3. Misty Says:
    January 7th, 2014 at 3:34 am

    We have large cracks around our fence line, in our lawn and under our house. When you soak the lawn and fence line the cracks dont fill with water to a level where you cann see it. The dirt around the hole caves in and wash away down the cracks and they become very much larger. Lost at what to do.

  4. marcus Says:
    May 7th, 2014 at 7:19 pm

    Actually in Texas what we do for a perfect lawn with all this clay soil is lay a lot of sand onto the yard. The sand separates the clay and mixes in, stabilizes it and helps keeps the yard soft and workable.

We want to hear from you! In addition to posting comments on articles and videos, you can also send your comments and questions to us on our contact page or at (800) 946-4420. While we can't answer them all, we may use your question on our Today's Homeowner radio or TV show, or online at todayshomeowner.com.