The Q&A Archives: starting a new lawn

Question: We just closed on out new constructed home. They do not do lawn or trees, shrubs, etc. I am having a party end September and would like to have a nicely started yard. I am also new to Virginia area. I have been told that Virginia has red clay and no

Answer: Seeding is less expensive than sod, but sod is the closest you can get to an instant lawn, so many landscapes are started with "sod out front, seed in the back." Both plantings require regular watering until they become well established and whether you opt to seed the new lawn or use sod, you will still need to thoroughly prepare the soil ahead of time.

The heat of mid August is probably the worst time of year to try to start a lawn, but September is the best time of year to start a new lawn. The cooler temperatures and typically rainy fall weather provide good growing conditions for the lawn grass.

Either way, too, a new lawn will not withstand heavy traffic, so you may want to plan on having the party on your deck or patio or in the driveway to protect the delicate new grass.

Initial soil preparation begins with eliminating any existing weeds or vegetation. Clay soils then generally benefit from generous additions of organic matter such as compost worked into the top six inches of soil. In some areas, depending on the local soil, coarse sand or fine grit is also added. At the same time, you would also add fertilizer and possibly limestone to adjust the pH into the optimal range for lawn grass. Then you would level the lawn and do fine grading, then finally rake the surface smooth. At that point you can lay out the sod or spread the seed.

I would suggest you begin by running some basic soil tests to check fertility and pH. Use the test results to determine how much fertilizer to use and if you need to add lime or not. Also locate a source for the compost as you will need a large quantity of it delivered. Your local county extension should be able to help you with the soil testing and interpreting the results, with which grass types grow best in your local area and soil under your expected maintenance program, and can also help you with developing your establishment and maintenance routine.

In the meantime, you may find the following lawn care publications helpful. You may need to cut and paste the complete url into your browser to make it work correctly.

Enjoy your new home!

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