Soils underneath lawns can become hard for many reasons, most often it is simply due to the regular use of the lawn, and the soil becomes compacted. This is usually a simple fix with lawn coring being the most suitable solution.
Certain soil types are also more prone to becoming hard more quickly and more severely, and in these cases the solution may be somewhat more involved, or even costly depending on what the lawn owner wants to achieve as a long term solution.
Compacted Soil is the most common reason why a lawn may become hard, lawn compaction occurs over a long period of time as lawns continue to be used for their intended purpose, to have people walk on them, for children to play on them, and in some cases - when cars are driven on them.
Over time the soil keeps getting more and more squashed and compacted, until eventually it becomes more difficult for the lawn to set down roots into the soil, the problems continue when vital Oxygen can no longer penetrate the soil, and even water can no longer penetrate the soil effectively. The result is a very sick lawn.
Lawn Coring punches holes into the soil and removes plugs of soil. Coring the lawn will aerate the the soil considerably and is the first method to use. Lawn coring is best done in either Spring or Autumn, and is followed by an application of Wetting Agents and quality Lawn Fertiliser. Clay based soils should have an application of Gypsum Clay Breaker at this time also, this allows the Gypsum to get directly into the soil to break up the clay.
A Rotary Hoe can be used when the lawn is all but dead. A generous quantity of sand or sandy loam is applied to the surface of the soil, along with some Gypsum Clay Breaker, and the soil is tilled with the Rotary Hoe to create a new soil profile which is far more suitable to sustain healthy lawns.
Caring for hard soils should be an ongoing process which simply involves regular applications of Wetting Agents and Gypsum Clay Breaker, twice a year is generally sufficient, but can be repeated more often if desired.
The type of soil used under lawns is also a very important determining factor in whether they become hard, how often and to what severity. Clay based soils and other poor soil types will often become more frequently hardened with the lawn suffering as a result.
For these soil types, first solution would be to continue the processes of lawn coring, adding Gypsum and Wetting Agents, but doing it more frequently as required.
Longer term, albeit a more expensive solution would involve removing the poor soil where the lawn will be laid, and replacing to a depth of 10 - 20 cm with a quality lawn soil from the local garden supply centre. This will create a long term soil support system which will result in healthy lawns for years to come.