There is no better time to enhance lawn's ultimate beauty
and success than by improving the soil before any planting
Benefits of Proper and Complete Soil Preparation
* Improved Uniformity
* Increased Density
* Faster recovery from wear
* Reduced Use of water, fertilizer, & chemicals
* Reduced Maintenance
Quick Fact: Why Is Good Soil Important?
For optimum growth, turfgrass needs just four things (in
the proper balance) to grow...sunlight, air, water and nutrients.
Reduce any of these, or provide too much of any one, and the
grass may die or simply suffer. In the right proportions,
the grass will flourish, providing not only beauty to the
landscape, but also a clean and safe place to play and many
benefits to the environment.
Grass obtains three of these four essential factors (air,
water and nutrients) from the soil, but many soils are less
than ideal for growing grass. Some soils contain too much
clay and may be very compacted... great for roads, bad for
grass, because air and water aren't available to the roots
and the roots can't grow. Other soils may have too much sand...
beautiful on a beach, but difficult to grow grass because
water and nutrients won't stay in the root zone long enough
for the plant to use. Another frequently observed problem
with many soils is that its pH (the degree of acidity or alkalinity)
is too high or two low for optimum grass growth.
Quick Fact:What Is The Best Soil For Turfgrass?
Loams, sandy loams and loamy sands, with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0
are the very best soils for producing a beautiful, high-use,
low-maintenance lawn. Unfortunately, this idea soil mixture
is seldom found on any property after construction.
Quick Fact: How Deep Should the Soil Be For Turfgrass?
The absolute minimum quality soil depth for a care-free lawn
is 10 cm (4 inches); however, for deeper root penetration
and the benefits that brings, the accepted standard is 15
cm (6 inches).
Quick Fact: Can Soils Be Improved?
Practically without exception, not only can most soils be
improved, they usually need to be improved to get the maximum
results with only a minimum of other on-going effort.
The knowledge of what's necessary, the amount and availability
of materials and the immediate costs of time and money are
the factors that typically deter people from taking the steps
necessary to improving the soil. While some people do not
fully understand the importance of good soils for grass, many
also believe they can save time and money by ignoring the
need to improve their lawn's soil.
The fact is that failing to improve the soil before planting
is only inviting a much greater and continual investment of
both time and money, that will never return its value as fully
as preparing the soil properly before planting any grass.
Site Preparation Steps
"The beauty is in the blades, but the 'action' is in
the roots," is a good adage to remember when growing
grass. Thus, the value of proper site preparation and soil
improvement, before any planting takes place, is that it will
be easier for the grass roots to penetrate deeply and evenly.
Deep roots will make the lawn more drought resistant, a more
efficient water and nutrient user and more dense as new grass
plant shoots emerge. A dense lawn crowds out weeds and better
resists insects and disease.
Follow these steps for a beautiful, healthy and trouble-free
- Clear the site of all building materials (wood, cement,
bricks, etc.), as well as any buried stumps, rocks , stones
or other debris that is larger than 4-5 cm (2-3 inches)
- Rough grade the entire area to eliminate any drainage
problems on the property. This would include sloping the
grade away from building foundations, eliminating or reducing
severe slopes and filling low-lying areas. A tractor-mounted
blade and/or box are most often used for rough grading,
but if the area is smaller, it can be done with hand tools.
The rough grading will probably uncover more debris that
should be removed and not buried.
- Initial tilling, to a depth of at least 5 cm (2 inches),
should be completed prior to adding any topsoil or soil
amendments. This will control most annual weeds, alleviate
subsoil compaction and permit a bonding of the topsoil to
the subsoil and improve root penetration and water movement.
- Add topsoil to achieve a total topsoil depth of 10-15
cm (4-6 inches), after firming. The topsoil should be a
loamy sand, sandy loam, clay loam, loam, silt loam, sandy
clay loam or other soil suitable for the area. To the extent
possible, practical, affordable and available, incorporate
humus (fully decomposed organic matter) into the topsoil.
- Test the soil pH with a chemical soil test to determine
if any pH correction materials are required. Acidic soils
(pH of 6 and below) can be improved with the addition of
lime. The type (or source) and total amount of applied lime
will be determined by the level of acidity and should be
based on the recommendations of a reliable garden center
or turf professional.
Alkaline soils (pH of 7.5 and higher) can be improved with
the addition of sulfur or gypsum. As with acidic soil correction
materials, the type and total amount of materials will be
determined by the level of alkalinity and should be based
on professional recommendations.
- Apply "starter fertilizer" that is high in phosphate
(P, or the middle number on a bag of fertilizer), at a rate
recommended for the particular product. To prevent root
injury to newly installed turfgrass sod, this fertilizer
should be worked into the top 7 to 10 cm (3-4 inches).
Finish grade the entire site, maintaining the rough grading
contours and slopes, with a tractor-mounted box blade on
large areas or heavy-duty rake on smaller sites.
- Roll the area with a lawn roller one third full of water
to firm and settle the surface and reveal any low spots
that should be filled to match the surrounding grade surface.
If time permits, allow the area to settle further with rainfall
or by applying irrigation water.
This site is now ready for turfgrass sod. With this degree
of careful and thoughtful soil preparation, the resultant
lawn will be absolutely beautiful and require less maintenance,
smaller quantities of applied water, fertilizer and pesticides,
as it maintains a high degree of density and uniformity and
recovers much more rapidly from wear. For years to come, your
investment in soil preparations will yield a high return.