Soil Preparation

Getting Your Soil Ready
  • Add one inch of well-rotted horse manure (cattle manure tends to compact too much) and wood shavings. Thoroughly work this material deeply into the soil (8-10 inches). Then add another 1-2 inches of wood shavings or peat moss and work this in. Weathered wood shavings are preferred. Caution: Higher rates of pine shavings could cause an accumulation of turpentine.
  • Attention to soil preparation before seeding or sodding a lawn will help assure satisfactory results and help reduce your water bill. Before establishing a lawn, remove all debris such as rocks and building materials. The top 8 to 12 inches of soil should be free of any large debris.
  • Avoid walking on the new lawn as much as possible. Keep footprints to a minimum by temporarily laying boards across the lawn to support all foot traffic. Mow the new lawn when the grass reaches a height of 2 to 2.5 inches. Avoid the use of herbicides until after mowing two, and preferably three times.
  • Check the soil before laying the sod. If it is dry, sprinkle it lightly. Lay the first strip of sod in a straight line and the next strip as tightly against the previous strip as possible. Think of it as laying bricks for a wall. Roll the sod after first using a light roller to help firm and smooth the surface.
  • For heavier soils, it's good to add 2-5 inches of sand. Sand should be washed to remove salt and silt. Sand needs to be round particles, not crushed, as round won't compact as easily. All fill material should be selected for cleanliness and absence of alkali and salt. During soil preparation, work 5-10 pounds of available phosphate per 1,000 square feet into the soil. This will help supply phosphorus to the deeper growing turf grass roots. Soils prepared in this manner require less water and are healthier.
  • Frequent, light watering, as many as three or four a day, is necessary during warmer periods, until the seed germinates. This may take two weeks or longer depending on the weather.
  • Grade the lawn area so it slopes away from the house. Thoroughly soak excavated areas such as around sewer and water lines and over septic systems to settle the fill dirt. After the fill areas are settled, add topsoil. Make sure all topsoil is free from salt or alkali. Repeat soaking and tilling until the surface is level.
  • If the decision has been made to sod the lawn, remember that sod is perishable. Sod should not be left rolled or folded for more than a day in warm weather.
  • If the lawn is to be seeded, use a drop type or broadcast spreader. Seeding in two directions reduces the likelihood of skips.
  • One problem when laying sod is the inability of the grass roots to penetrate the soil. To avoid this, make sure that the soil beneath the sod is of a lighter texture than the soil in the sod. Numerous cases exist where the roots from the sod, after several years, have still not penetrated the base soil.
  • Quality is the prime consideration in buying seed or sod. Planting cheap seed mixtures or cut-rate sod often results in a poor lawn. Although varieties of Kentucky Bluegrass would work fine in some areas of the county, it's not very hardy in areas with a high salt content or in drier climates. For alkali or salty areas use Tall Fescue, Red Fescue and perennial Rye grass varieties. These varieties are more drought and salt tolerant and very good for dry rocky soils, yet still develop a very attractive lawn. Lawn mixes that contain large amounts of annual rye grass should be avoided.
  • Soak the sod as soon as possible after laying. Turn back a few corners to make sure water has penetrated the sod. Water to keep the new sod damp, but not wet.
  • Watering a day or so before finishing the soil preparation will help eliminate large, hard clods. Soil should be well worked and left firm, but not packed, prior to turf establishment. If walking over the lawn site leaves footprints greater than 1" deep, firm the soil with a roller.