Having just a thin layer of topsoil with heavy clay beneath could be a real problem in establishing and maintaining a lawn. Roots may not penetrate deeply enough to support a healthy turf.

Considering the amount of rain, snow, and cold we had this winter, along with the poor soil conditions, I think this is the more likely cause of your lawn problems.

A laboratory test for organic matter, pH (acidity), and nutrients would be a good start on reviving the area. The laboratory will tell you how to take a sample and provide recommendations on any additions. Soil organic matter at around 5% is ideal.

There are a number of laboratory alternatives in this Extension Service publication: Analytical Laboratories Serving Oregon. Testing should take just a few days. Results can be available on the web, by fax, by email, or by postal mail.

I also recommend a review of two Oregon State Extension publications below for an in depth look at getting a great lawn in Washington County.

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