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We recently bought a home in Salt Lake city. The parking strip has very hard soil and weeds mixed with grass. Should we till it under and start over or air-rate it, keep it watered and sprinkle some grass seed on it in the fall or spring? We planted a sycomore tree (Bloodgood London Plane) and I think we stressed it by overwatering. About 50% of the leaves look sun scorched, some very dry and other leaves are green, full and lush, will it snap out of it? Should I air-rate the ground with a pitch fork around it?
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To improve soil it is best to incorporate well aged compost, for the clay soils we have in Salt Lake City. For establishing grass you want to remove weeds, incorporate organic matter, and level your soil before sowing grass seeds. Use high quality grass seed, cheaper blends have a lot of annual rye, which germinates fast, but does not lend itself to establishing a long-term turf. For establishing grass, you can go to our USU Extension Salt Lake County website under Basic Turfgrass Care and Turfgrass Cultivars for Utah. Go to http://extension.usu.edu/saltlake/htm/horticulture/lawn-care .
For proper watering of trees, may I recommend USU Publication on Efficient Irrigation of Trees and Shrubs, click on this link http://wcwcd.state.ut.us/Conservation/Efficient%20Irrigation%20of%20Trees%20&%20Shrubs.pdf It's important to remember that half of good soil structure is pore space for air and water, and if you are overwatering, all the pore space is occupied by water, and no air is in the soil which is required for proper functioning of roots.
Pitch fork is not recommended because you will destroy and disturb roots, more than improve aeration. It would be better to put organic mulch, that is bark nuggets or shredded bark on top of the soil over the roots. That helps moderate moisture levels and temperature levels and as organic mulch breaks down, more organisms like microbes and earthworms can help improve soil structure.
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