The Q&A Archives: desperate for a lush lawn

Question: Our backyard is the main play area for our children. It now has many small bare spots and we want to make it full and lush. How can I repair the damage and maintain it?

The following soil preparation steps are for any type of lawn (sod, seeds or plugs, although it was adapted from a chapter in ?Desert Landscaping for Beginners? from Arizona Master Gardener Press.

Remove all debris and large rocks.

Establish rough grade at one inch below the sprinkler heads by filling in low spots and leveling high spots.

Add soil amendments if needed. Ammonium phosphate fertilizer (16-20-0) can be added according to package instructions.

Till in the amendments at least 4 to 6 inches deep, but 6-8 is better. Don?t leave them in layers on top of the soil.

Rake and level the surface for planting.

You will need to decide if you are going to reseed, sod, or use plugs. I'd suggest you take a sample of your lawn (use a sharp knife or trowel to cut out a small wedge) to your Home Depot nursery to identify the variety.

The following info is compiled from an article on the National Gardening Association's website called "A Lawn in a Day" for laying sod. If you choose to seed or use plugs, send us another email and we can provide info.

Arrange for delivery of your sod only after you have fully prepared the soil and on a day when you'll have time to install it.

On delivery day, water the soil to make it moist and damp but not muddy. Sod should be put down no more than 24 hours after it has been cut at the farm, because the rolled sod will heat up and begin to biodegrade.

Inspect the sod before the delivery truck leaves. Shake it to make sure it doesn't fall apart. The sod should be green and the soil moist. If you don't like the appearance, send it back.

Suppliers usually transport sod on pallets carrying 50 to 75 square yards each. To avoid a lot of heavy lifting, ask the driver to place pallets in convenient places around your property (but don't let them drive over walkways or patios, because the combined weight of the truck and the sod can cause damage).

Start laying the sod along the longest straight line next to your lawn-usually a sidewalk or driveway. When preparing the soil, leave the soil level 3/4 to 1 inch below the level of that straight surface to make a neat, smooth transition from grass to pavement.

Butt and push the sod's edges and ends against each other tightly, without stretching. Stagger the joints in each row like bricks, and avoid gaps or overlaps. On slopes, place the turf pieces across the slope.

Use a large knife to trim the corners. Avoid leaving small strips at the outer edges, because they won't retain moisture.

To prevent indentations or air pockets, walk or kneel on the new sod as little as possible.

After installation, roll the entire area with a lawn roller one-third full of water to press the sod roots into the contact with the soil. (If the roller were full of water, it could become too heavy to move.) ?Desert Landscaping for Beginners? recommends rolling in 2 directions.

One common cause of problems is uneven (or insufficient) watering. Start watering within 30 minutes of installation, thoroughly wetting grass until it soaks through into underlying soil. To check penetration, lift a corner of the sod. If it isn't soaked, keep watering. Once the water begins to run off, turn sprinklers off to let water soak in. Then water again.

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