The Q&A Archives: Gray

Question: I have a back yard that has been taken over by weeds with very little grass left. I've been thinking of tilling the soil with a tiller, throwing the loose weeds in a trash bag and putting down sod. The problem is that we have a dog who we let out in the yard and don't want to use any chemicals that might harm the dog. If we go through the expense of this, should we get any loose dirt, peat moss, etc to put down on the tilled soil to give the sod the best chance to get started. What is the best sod for our area? Also once the sod is down what is the best way to help it get established and to maintain it? How do we keep the weeds from taking over again?

Answer: The effort that you put forth now to prepare the lawn area will determine the quality of your lawn for years to come. It will also make a major difference in the amount of upkeep and maintainance you will have to perform in the future. The condition and type of the soil under the grass is the most important element to the overall health of your lawn. In situations where you are putting in a new lawn you will have ample opportunity to prepare the soil before the grass is planted. It is a good idea to have the soil tested before establishing your new lawn. The soil test report gives the type and amount of fertilizer to apply for your lawn. This fertilizer (and lime, if required) should be worked into the top four to six inches of your soil. Once your lawn is established it is hard to do much to improve the soil at the root level. Proper preparation of the soil is the first step in attaining a healthy lawn.

Note that if the area is shaded, it will be difficult to establish a lawn, so you may want to consider other options, such as mulch or a shade-tolerant ground cover.

After you've tilled, the soil is now ready to be raked smooth, filling low spots and removing the humps and breaking up the larger clumps as you go. After you've prepared the soil, you can install sod. A thick, healthy lawn will crowd out most weed seedlings so be sure to water and feed your new lawn on a regular basis. Enjoy your new lawn!

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