Issue: March 11, 2000

Starting lawn in compacted soil


I plan to turn over the soil and plant a new lawn. The soil seems to be quite compacted. What should I add to loosen up the soil?


Addition of organic matter, in the form of well-decomposed compost, is a good way to open the soil when planting lawns or gardens. Manures may be used but may also cause a problem if the soil is high in salts. The manure will aggravate salt problems as it may also have a high salt content. Manures should be applied in the autumn before a moist winter which leaches the salts from the manure. Some winters, as we have recently experienced, may not provide sufficient moisture and even manure applied in the fall may cause problems. To determine the potential for problems by adding salt, submit a soil sample for soil testing. A soil test will report the level of salt currently present in your soil.

In New Mexico, one of the problems when establishing a new lawn is that the soil was compacted during construction of a home. During construction cement trucks, lumber trucks, pickup trucks, etc., were driven across and parked on the future lawn area. This compacted the soil, forcing out the air spaces which are important for root growth.

The first and most important soil amendment in this case is air which may be added to the soil by rototilling to loosen the soil. If the soil has a high clay content, addition of organic matter at this time is beneficial in helping improve the "structure" of the soil to help maintain good porosity of the soil. If the soil is sandy, compaction may or may not be as severe a problem, but the addition of organic matter is still beneficial, increasing the water-holding capacity of the soil.

For more detailed information regarding your area, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service office. They should have good information specifically for your area and can help you in collecting a soil sample so that you may have your soil tested.

Scale problems on weeping fig


I have a weeping fig tree, and I know it has scale. I have been treating it with rubbing alcohol wherever I see it. Now my plant has a sticky residue on its leaves. It even drops this stickiness on the floor. Is this the scale working or what is it?


What you have described is the accumulation of "honeydew", a syrupy material produced by the scale insect, and other insects, as a byproduct of consuming the sap of the infested plant. This is an indication that the problem persists in spite of your treatments. You may want to purchase an insecticide safe to use indoors but labeled to control scale insects. Consult your local nursery or local Cooperative Extension Service for an appropriate product. Perhaps you will choose to discard the plant to prevent the infestation from spreading to other houseplants.

Send your gardening questions to Yard and Garden, ATTN: Dr. Curtis Smith, NMSU Cooperative Extension Service, 9301 Indian School Road, NE, Suite 112, Albuquerque, NM 87112. Curtis W. Smith, Ph.D., is an Extension Horticulture Specialist with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. New Mexico State University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and educator.