Q: Our yard is basically hard pack clay and gravel with very little top soil. We also have outdoor pets. We have been having problems with bare spots. What would be the best approach to solve our problem; both, in the short term and the long term? C.S. Tennessee

Long term clay soil improvement means adding organic matter continuously to the lawn. The easiest way to do that is don't bag your lawn clippings when mowing. However, this will take a long time to make much of a difference. Next, aerate your lawn (using a plug aerator) several times a year (spring/fall). Remove the plugs by raking them into a plastic sheet and dispose of them. After aerating, put on a top-dressing mix of quality peatmoss (not sphagnum) and sand thoroughly mixed together before spreading. Instead of peatmoss, you could also use well-rotted compost. It's a slow process, but over time, you'll start seeing a difference.

For a garden, I would recommend just having a truckload of quality well-rotted compost delivered.

Now for the dogs and the bare spots. If the bare spots are from heavy foot traffic, there's not much that can be done unless you change the traffic pattern. The aeration treatments will help improve your lawns viability. Overseeding with a tough grass such as a fescue, after each aeration. Also, start your lawn on a regular fertilization program.