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wet, shady lawn

 
              
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Hi- sorry if this has been covered before, but I live in Massachusetts and have a back yard that is shady (large trees at either end) and muddy.  The grass is sparse, and the previous owner was a dedicated follower of the Scotts lawn plan.  When it rains, the yard is almost swampy, when it dries for a while it's more like hard packed mud.  With all the melting snow now, every step is a big squish sound.  I'm planning on getting some Ringers, and am considering renting something to aerate it with.  Good so far?  Not sure what kind of grass is there.
Thanks!
 
paul wheaton
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No, no roots showing in a noticable way- I can mow right up to the trees.  I do have a mulching mower, by the way, and mow pretty high.
 
paul wheaton
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It sounds like you have a lot of clay in your soil and could benefit from a drainage solution.  To do this right, I don't know of a way that is cheap or easy.  But the first step would be to confirm if this is the issue. 

Do you know if your soil has a lot of clay?

What is your soil like if you try to dig a hole a foot deep?

 
              
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Could be- I did dig a hole for a plant and had, if I remember, a fair amount of clay and a lot of rocks.  We're told that the area had been swampy before the neighborhood was built, pre 1930.  The front yard, by the way, has pretty thick grass (not nearly as shady).
 
paul wheaton
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Let's set aside the idea of drainage for now and see if we can make a cheap and lazy improvement ....

What kinds of trees?  Confier?  Broadleaf?
 
              
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One end of the yard is a very large (over 50 ft.) Norway Maple, and the other end is a Japanese Maple, about 30 ft. tall.  Along the back is a row of Forsythia.
 
paul wheaton
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bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
 
              
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We raked many, many bags for the compost truck.  Don't really have much space for composting that amount ourselves....
 
paul wheaton
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I've always said that I think overseeding is pointless, but I wonder if this might be a case that could be an exception. 

Tall Fescue is pretty drought tolerant. 

I wonder if you were to put some seed out later this year, if it might get a good start since the existing grass is so sparse. 

 
              
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Thanks- I'll give it a try!  Any particular brand or source for seed that you'd recommend?
 
paul wheaton
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Nope. 

But!  For a home yard ...  and since you have some time ...  I would suggest that you find "endophyte enhanced" if you can. 

 
              
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Thanks again!
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