The Dirty Truth About Your Lawn Care Struggles: How to Improve Soil Conditions in Northern Virginia

Written By: Todd Thomasson

Do you feel as though you’re doing all the right things but your lawn still isn’t looking and performing its best? Lawn care problems can be so frustrating, particularly when you can’t figure out what’s going on.

Well, there’s a dirty little secret about why your lawn might be struggling—and we mean that quite literally. The dirt, or more specifically “soil,” that your grass is growing in is at the heart of its success or failure. And fixing bad lawn soil can be a bit more involved than most people realize. In fact, a lot of lawn care companies don’t even look at the soil—they just keep treating the symptoms of the problem.

We don’t want you to get stuck in these never-ending frustrations of the same lawn problems occurring over and over again because you’re not getting to the “root” of the problem.

That’s why we’ll explain how soil impacts your lawn’s overall health and what can be done to address potential soil problems you might be having.

Why Does Soil Health Matter?

We know that it’s easy to be focused on the visible part of your lawn. But it’s what lies underneath that really matters. Healthy soil means a healthy lawn—but why?

It’s all about biology. The soil is what helps your plant material (grass) to digest nutrients. A naturally healthy soil that is full of beneficial microorganisms like fungi and bacteria. These microorganisms also strengthen your lawn against disease and pests.

While fungi and bacteria are the most well-known microorganisms, a healthy soil can have thousands and thousands of different species flourishing. It is this healthy blend of living organisms that helps create optimal growing conditions for the lawn.

How Do I Know if my Soil is Healthy?

The trouble is, most people don’t know whether their soil is healthy or not. If your lawn isn’t responding to lawn care treatments then it’s obviously a huge clue that there is a soil problem. However, you still want to get to the bottom of exactly what’s wrong.

grass with healthy soil

This is where lawn soil testing can make a huge difference. It’s not something that every lawn care company in Ashburn, Aldie, or Leesburg, VA performs but it’s part of all of Turf's Up lawn care programs.

We believe that in order to truly customize our lawn care programs, we need to know exactly what is going on at any given property. It allows us to make highly specific recommendations based on science. Otherwise, we’re just guessing.

We’ve gotten asked about whether all the soil in the neighborhood is the same. The answer is that it’s not. Your soil can be very different from your neighbors’—even someone right next door. You can’t be sure where your soil came from. When houses are built and the soil is filled back in, it’s definitely not all the same.

Fixing Bad Lawn Soil by Adding Nutrients and Bionutrition

While some people might assume they have to think about replacing lawn soil that isn’t working for them, the truth is, there are ways to fix it. Once you have the answers from lawn soil testing, any nutrients that need to be added in the form of soil amendments such as limestone, phosphorous, or potassium, can be taken care of. The nice thing about soil testing is that the data allows us to make precise decisions.

improving lawn soil

The introduction of additional micronutrients in the form of bionutritional products may also be performed. At Turf's Up, we apply bionutritional products at least once a year depending on the growing and weather conditions.

Of course, fertilization is also an important service that can have an impact on your overall lawn health. We perform five of our visits include fertilization, which provides your soil with essential nutrients.

Additional Steps to Fix Compacted Lawn Soil

One of the biggest problems with Northern Virginia soil is that it is heavy clay. That means that it’s much more likely to become compacted.

The problem is, compacted soil doesn't allow much room for water to filter through and penetrate to the roots where it’s needed. This can negatively impact the growth of the turf. You’ll see an overall decline in your lawn’s health as a result.

There are some important steps that can be taken to fix compacted lawn soil.

The most helpful steps that we can take to fix compacted lawn soil is to aerate, overseed, and then apply topdressing.  Let’s take a look at each.

Core Aeration

The process of core aeration helps break up your soil and allows it to breathe. It involves pulling small cores (approximately ½” in diameter, 2”-3” in depth ) throughout your lawn which reduces soil compaction and allows more fertilizer, oxygen, and water to penetrate down to the root system in your lawn.

aeration plugs in lawn

Lawn aeration also helps break up thatch, which is the naturally-occurring dead organic material that builds up on top of the soil.


It is important to perform seeding at the time of aeration as the seeds will fall into the holes that were created, giving them optimal seed-to-soil contact (which is best for growth).

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By overseeding, you’re helping to fill in those bare spots that might have been created while your lawn was struggling.


Topdressing is a lawn care practice that many homeowners are unaware of, but it has long been a standard service in the golf course industry. These days many more homeowners are using a topdressing service to achieve the lush green lawn they desire.

It involves spreading compost across the lawn, on top of those aeration holes that were created containing your new grass seeds. Topdressing is a great way to build a healthy balance in your soil by increasing healthy soil microorganisms, all while improving soil structure.

lawn van branding tech spraying crew

With topdressing, we’re putting organic matter right into the soil so it starts working more quickly than fertilizer (which is also important) that has to make its way through the soil to start working.

In fact, after topdressing, and really improving that top layer of your soil, you’ll see that your future fertilizer treatments are more effective as well. With improved soil structure, it will be easier for fertilizer to move its way through the soil.

The Benefits of a Program that Focuses on Soil Health

When you start utilizing a lawn care program that focuses on soil health, you’ll definitely start to see a significant difference. There are many benefits. Over time, a lawn care service that is focused on the biology of soil health will have fewer weeds and a thicker, greener lawn. It will also need less water.

In other words, it’s going to be naturally healthy.

Of course, you have to find a lawn care company that really does focus on soil health as not all of them do. In fact, it’s safe to say that most companies do not focus on soil health at all. Instead, they continually treat the symptoms, practicing reactionary lawn care. This could keep your lawn green since it will address problems as they arise, but you’ll be stuck in an endless cycle of treating symptoms rather than getting to the root of true lawn care health.

This is why it’s so important to choose a lawn care company that understands the biology behind lawn care. You want a company that is using soil testing to make lawn care decisions based on science—not one that is just guessing what’s best.

After, when you’re investing in professional lawn care, you deserve to get great results.

That’s exactly what will happen if you choose wisely. Take the time to do some research and find a company that has a program that is addressing soil health. The dirty truth about lawn care struggles is that the soil matters. By paying attention to this key fact, you’ll be on your way to a better lawn.

If you’re ready for a lawn care program that focuses on soil health at your Ashburn, Aldie, or Leesburg, VA home, talk to an expert, choose a solution, and then get stoked to finally have total satisfaction with your results.lawn care service comparison

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