Gardening Articles: Landscaping :: Lawns, Ground Cover, & Wildflowers

Lawns 101 (page 3 of 3)

by National Gardening Association Editors

The All-Important First Step

Nothing, repeat nothing, is more important to the successful growth of any plant than proper advance soil preparation. Skip this all-important first step, and you're asking for trouble. Abide by it, and you've taken a huge step in ensuring a thriving, easy-to-care-for lawn or garden.

Briefly stated, no matter what type of soil you find in your yard, from the sandiest sand to the heaviest clay, a liberal addition of organic matter works miracles. The organic matter can be anything form compost to well-rotted leaf mold, fine fir bark, or peat moss. Almost every area of the country lays claim to some indigenous, inexpensive organic material, readily available to homeowners for free, the material having been made from the leaves gathered by municipal crews in the fall.

The amount of organic matter you add should be equal to the depth that you intend to turn the soil. If you're preparing the soil to plant a lawn, whether from seed or sod, the minimum depth you should till is 6 inches; 8 or 12 is that much better. This may contradict some traditional advice, but experience has proved it to be very successful. If you intend to till the soil to a depth of 8 inches, then you should add 8 inches of organic material on top of the soil before you till to incorporate it to the full depth. This takes some doing, but it helps develop an extensive, healthy root system, resulting in a hardy, vigorous lawn that is able to withstand periods of drought and is more resistant to disease and pests.

Depending on the type of lawn you are planting and the characteristics of your native soil, you may want to add fertilizer and lime as you incorporate the organic matter. Explain your situation to your local nursery staff to find out if such additions are necessary.

After tilling the organic matter into the soil, rake the area smooth and sow the grass seed or roll out the sod. Keep the soil moist (but not wet) for a week or ten days. You'll be amazed at the growth the lawn puts on in such superior soil, even in the first year, not to mention its long-term vigor, in both good years and bad.

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