How to Prep Your Ground for a Healthy New Lawn

Low-maintenance lawn alternatives are growing in popularity, but many homeowners still love a little bit of turf grass — yards make great areas for entertaining; children can play along with pets can operate on them. However, what if you have to put in a new yard or start over if your current yard is past its prime? Is this a great DIY project for someone with average skills? As it happens, yes. However, just like the majority of things, a thriving yard starts with the ideal preparation.

Samuel H. Williamson Associates

Materials and tools:
Soil testSod cutterHoeTillerHard rakeSpreaderSoil amendmentsFertilizer

How to Prep for a New Lawn

1. Test your soil.
The only way to learn what’s on your soil (and what’s not) is to test it. For about $15, you can have a sample of your soil tested at your regional county extension office. There are fundamental kits available for you to conduct a test, but your extension office will have the ability to give you more extensive info about what’s going on with your own soil, so it is money well spent.

A good soil test will tell you what your soil pH is; what kind of soil texture you’ve got; the comparative quantities of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium; and quantities of other minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium and copper. Once you have this info, you can amend your soil properly to prepare it to your new yard.

Photo by Ryo Chijiiwa

Jocelyn H. Chilvers

2. Remove present grass weeds and plants. Starting out with a fresh slate is important — you don’t wish to spend time and money on a new yard if you are simply placing it on top of a weedy area. The way you eliminate this undesirable material is up to you, and largely depends on how big the area is and what kind of plant material you’re going to be removing. For small areas having old weeds and grass, a hoe will work nicely, but for larger areas consider renting a sod cutter (normally $70 per day). If you’ve got big plants (shrubs, woody perennials), remove them first and decide if you want to replant them in another area or transfer them into a compost pile.

3. Loosen the soil with a tiller. This is an optional step, since there are a couple of schools of thought concerning tilling your own soil. Some specialists believe tilling is required to completely combine old dirt with amendments; others think tilling simply disturbs weed seeds and produces a mess. My recommendation is that if you’ve got a place of very hard dirt, it might make sense to break it up to a thickness of 6 to 8 inches utilizing a rear-tine tiller (normally $55 daily to lease) before incorporating your soil amendments, but otherwise feel free to omit this step.

Photo by Flickr Commons user Topslakr


4. Add compost. All lands, regardless of the results of a soil test, can benefit from a 2- to 3-inch use of compost. This is sometimes compost taken from your pile or bought from a landscape supply yard. Use well-rotted mulch, as compost that is too new or “warm” won’t be broken down and won’t benefit your new yard. Good-quality compost costs about $30 to $50 per cubic yard, depending on the kind you purchase along with the area in which you live. Make sure you distinguish the landscape supply yard which you need it to set a new yard, since there are often different combinations for various backyard software.

You can also put in other soil adjustments, such as sand, to break up clay-like lands. Soil amendments tackle the soil’s physical state (feel, ability to drain), and are not to be confused with fertilizers, which tackle the nutrient amounts in the dirt.

Noelle Johnson Landscape Consulting

5. Add fertilizers and rake smooth. Based on the results of your soil test, you might elect to add some starter fertilizers to get your lawn off to a good start. Your soil test should make some recommendations on what to add to bring your particular soil up to healthful nutrient levels; search for a lawn starter fertilizer with those components. If you have any questions, make certain to ask your county extension office for clarification to avoid performing any unnecessary actions or steps.

Use a spreader to add the compost evenly, then use a hard rake to evenly smooth the surface of your soil. You’ll want the dirt to be approximately 1 inch below grade to permit for the elevation of the installed bud. Ensure that your soil surface is totally free of “hills and valleys,” which will make for a lumpy lawn along with a less-than-professional look.

Koch Architects, Inc.. Joanne Koch

Plant sod or spread grass seed as soon as possible after completing your prep work. The longer your unplanted soil is bare, the faster weeds will once again stake their own claim.

Special considerations:
Every geographic area has its dirt quirks — too much rock, sandy soil, clay dirt etc.. Get to know so that you can better tackle your gardening issues.Don’t skimp on soil planning when planning for a new yard — even though you won’t find the specific materials in the end, a healthy lawn will be your reward.Always use sod or grass seed that is suggested for your region and your website. More:
5 Great Grasses for a New Yard
Getting Along With Less Lawn
The situation for Losing the Traditional Lawn

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