Cracks in Dry Soil

“I have a problem with deep cracks forming in my lawn soil, especially when it is dry. The cracks can be quite large, and I don’t know what to do. Please advise!”

Large cracks form in soils that are high in clay. The clay particles act just like a sponge – they swell as they soak up water, and they shrink as they dry out. During a dry spell, the shrinkage can be so significant that large cracks can form. In severe cases, these soils (called “expansive soils”) can undermine the foundations of buildings because they swell and shrink so much.

Clay soil can be tricky because once it dries out in the heat, it can become hard as a rock – that’s why they make bricks and pottery out of this stuff! Simply adding water doesn’t solve the problem – you need to amend the soil in order to correct the texture. Before adding anything to your soil, you first need to have your soil tested. Take samples to your local agricultural extension service, or purchase a soil test kit that you can send to a lab, in order to determine the exact makeup of your soil.

If you indeed have clay soil, I’d suggest that you first try aerating your lawn, then top-dressing with compost. As the compost breaks down, it will actually improve the texture of your soil. You’ll have the added benefit of organic nutrition for your yard. You’ll probably need to do this more than once, and if your soil is heavy clay it may need to become part of your lawn care practice every few years.

If your soil test indicates that your clay soil is “sodic” or high in sodium, you can apply gypsum or lime. This replaces the sodium with calcium, which reduces the crusty texture of the soil. However, it only works if you have sodic soil.

The Arizona Geological Survey has a great resource with photos and information about expansive and problem soils.

Further Information

Hope this helps!


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Backed by his 40-year remodeling career, Danny served as the home improvement expert for CBS’s The Early Show and The Weather Channel for more than a decade. His extensive hands-on experience and understanding of the industry make him the go-to source for all things having to do with the home – from advice on simple repairs, to complete remodels, to helping homeowners prepare their homes for extreme weather and seasons.


  1. thank you!! my yard has cracks that you can break a ankle in!! hubby keeps saying you don’t water enough! my water bill says otherwise, i will call and have the test done. thank you again!

  2. We have a lot of clay around our house in Corinth. Our cracks are very wide and long. Since the house is on a slab the cracks near the foundation cause any problems with foundation. My husband removed some soil from foundation when it rains will the hole ruin the foundation and below slab.

  3. We have large cracks around our fence line, in our lawn and under our house. When you soak the lawn and fence line the cracks dont fill with water to a level where you cann see it. The dirt around the hole caves in and wash away down the cracks and they become very much larger. Lost at what to do.

  4. Actually in Texas what we do for a perfect lawn with all this clay soil is lay a lot of sand onto the yard. The sand separates the clay and mixes in, stabilizes it and helps keeps the yard soft and workable.

  5. its good yo know that you can change the cracking soil , but my concern is in the. soil that fills in the foundation of a building how do i treat it to make it safe free from cracks.

  6. I have a crack in my lawn soil. I live in Maryland. don’t know what to do. I think this a very good page of resources.

  7. We recently noticed pretty large holes around our foundation, is correcting this issue with the suggestions above pretty expensive?

  8. I have cracks in my back yard. I live in Elgin Texas. Should I sod cut the area because the grass has turned brown and cracks are forming? Please help

  9. My soIL is very dry and cracked every where. I know that I have clay a foot and a half down. During my quite time in morning, I could here a cracking sound and discovered that the sound was coming from the floor, below the laminate floor covering. We do have settling cracks in our walls and foundation dose slope at one end of the house. Should I be concerned. Thank you for your time.

  10. Hi my yard dirt is cracking and seem to be endless. I say this because it never seems to be able to fill them up with water from the hose.
    I know I have clay for fact, learned this when house was being built 2012. Cracks are everywhere. I live in San Antonio TX where we have droughts. My concern is safety and sink holes. I’m extremely alarmed for my family and me. Please advise.

  11. Hi my yard dirt is cracking and seem to be endless. I say this because it never seems to be able to fill them up with water from the hose.
    I do not what type of soil is in the yard. Deep cracks are all along my fence line. I live in Little Elm TX.. My concern is safety and sink holes. I’m extremely alarmed for my family and me. Please advise.

  12. I have large cracks in my soil. In patches with no grass. I am on disability so need to see if this is anything to worry about and if there is an easy fix.

    • Hi, Bonnie!
      Some things you can only determine in person (and this is one of ’em)! We suggest contacting your local Master Gardeners association for a quick visit. Master gardeners train on a range of topics so they can provide advice, at no charge, for people in their area.
      Thanks for your question, and good luck!


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