The Q&A Archives: Backyard Disaster!

Question: I just started to get my backyard together after being in my new house for about 1 1/2 yrs. The previous owners did not take care of the lawn either. I now have a backyard that is weed infested, its unlevel, and misc items have been discovered in my efforts to rake up the soil. Will it be ok for planting new grass seeds and also should I put a weed control down before I put down grass seeds?

Answer: Turf is a plant like any other, and it needs healthy soil to grow a strong root system. It's essential that you prepare and level the soil before planting, or you'll always have trouble maintining an attractive lawn. Below are some basic steps to consider. Since I don't know what weeds you have, I can't recommend a control. I recommend you contact Wayne County Cooperative Extension office. They are at 640 Temple St., 6th floor, Detroit, MI 48201, 313-833-3412. They can tell you what soil amendments are most typically required for your area, the best grass types, typical weeds and how to control them. Good luck!

Soil Prep:

Remove all debris, large rocks, old turf and weeds.

Establish rough grade one inche below sprinkler heads. (If you are installing an irrigation system.)

Wet the soil to a depth of 6 to 9 inches. Let it dry for two days.

Add soil amendments. At least two inches of nitrified wood mulch or other organic matter. Ammonium phosphate (16-20-0) according to package instructions. Till in amendments to a depth of 4 to 6 inches, preferably 6 to 8.

Install sprinklers or check that existing sprinklers provide full coverage.

Water to settle everything in and build water reserves. Allow the soil to dry for one or two days so that it is workable. It should crumble easily.

Rake and level. Roll the area with a lawn roller half filled with water.

Plant seed or sod.

In the midst of summer, you'll need to monitor watering carefully because the grass will quickly die if it dries out because its root system hasn't established yet.

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