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10 Steps to Prepare Your Soil for Sodding a New Lawn

Fall is a great time to sod lawns. Follow these tips for healthier grass.

Did you know fall is the prime time to plant new perennials, trees, shrubs, and install new lawns? Because of our mild fall temperatures and increased rainfall, fall is the very best time to plant just about anything, including putting down new sod. You’ll water less through fall and winter and lawn roots will have a good eight to nine months to expand before the intense summer heat sets in.

The future health of your grass depends on the current health of your soil.

Starting with healthy soil will ensure your new lawn takes root and grows properly. Taking the time to prep the soil first will pay off big in the long run. Here are some basic steps to prep your soil for new lawn sod:

  1. Having a soil test done will tell you what nutrients your soil is lacking (or heavy on). You’ll know exactly what to add to balance soil nutrients and pH. Investing in the health of your soil first will help protect your investment in the new lawn. Details on soil tests HERE.
  2. Clear out any debris (rocks, wood, builder debris) and remove any buried stumps.
  3. Kill off existing weeds and unwanted grass prior to sodding. There are many natural ways to kill off weeds including spraying with 20% vinegar or other labeled organic herbicide. You can also naturally kill off existing weeds by covering the area with newspaper, cardboard and a heavy tarp for a week or two. Or, spray with a synthetic herbicide.
  4. Do a rough grading of the entire area to be sodded. Slope the grade away from your building foundation, reduce severe slopes and fill in any dips or low areas to prevent drainage issues. If the area you’re grading is small you can often accomplish a rough grade with hand tools. If you are preparing an expansive area, you may want to hire a professional to perform proper grading.
  5. While we don’t recommend deep tilling of the soil, we do recommend roughing up the top two-inches of your soil after grading. If you do use a mechanical tiller, be sure you only score the top two-inches of the soil surface, but don’t till any deeper. This will help reduce some compaction, provide aeration, plus encourage the topsoil and subsoil to bond to improve root growth and water retention.
  6. Work in a few inches of quality topsoil and organic compost. Be sure to use a quality top soil and a fine screened compost. Again, don’t deep till, but work amendments into the top few inches of the soil.
  7. Apply an organic lawn starter fertilizer to the area and water. If you had a soil test performed, you’ll be better able to choose the right type of fertilizer and supplements to put down.
  8. Make any adjustments to the finished grade after adding the soil amendments. Then roll the entire area with a lawn roller. This will even out the surface and let you know where you need to fill in with additional soil.
  9. If you have time, allow the area to settle for a time before you install the sod. You can aid the settling by apply irrigation water or rainfall if it’s in the forecast.
  10. Install the new sod. Take note that you’ll have to water new sod more frequently to get it established. New sod pieces can quickly dry out and die before they’ve had a chance to root in if you don’t pay close attention to your new lawn over the first month or so. Be sure to check with your city to address watering restrictions or necessary watering exemption permits for new lawns

Always choose the right grass variety for your landscape environment and lifestyle. Whether you are choosing Zoysia, St. Augustine, Bermuda, Buffalo grass or any of the other grass choices suitable for our area, good soil prep will give your new sod the best chance for success.

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Soils Alive is an active member of the Agronomy Society of America (ASA), Soil Science Society of America (SSSA), and Crop Science Society of America (CSSA).

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Garland, TX 75041
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