The Q&A Archives: starting a virgin lawn

Question: I will be planting a first time lawn in the spring. The ground is clay is there anything I can add now to

Answer: Lime will help sweeten the soil and should be applied in the fall because it takes several months to work its magic. Begin in the spring by breaking up the soil with a tiller. Tillers (also called rototillers) can be rented from your local rental center. Spread a starter fertilizer over the now-loosened soil. This type of fertilizer is high in phosphorus, the middle number in the NPK sequence on a fertilizer bag. Also spread a soil conditioner over the soil. "Soil conditioner" is often what it's called at the store, but if you have a good supply of compost at home, it will serve just as well as a soil amendment. Again using the tiller, till the starter fertilizer and soil conditioner (or equivalent) into the soil. I know this seems like a lot of work, but good soil preparation is one key in seeding lawns successfully. Now rake the soil to begin to level it out, removing any rocks and debris that you find. To avoid problems with excess water-runoff, make sure that any site grading you do allows water to flow away from your house. This step requires a roller. Rollers, like tillers, can be rented from your local rental center. Fill the roller's drum with water, then use the roller to finish leveling the soil. Water the soil lightly. For this step you'll need a seed spreader. Following the recommended seeding rate, spread 1/4 of the seed over the entire lawn area. Then repeat times, each time using 1/4 of the seed. However, each of the 4 times you distribute a load of seed, push the spreader in a different direction, to encourage even dispersal. Rake lightly, so as to cover the seed with a thin layer of soil. For this step you'll use the roller again. But first you'll empty out the water from the drum, because you want it lighter this time. Now roll the lawn surface. You're done seeding the lawn, but you're not done working! The seeds must be watered properly, in order to germinate. Use just a fine spray, as you don't want to create a flood! The soil should be kept evenly moist, which may mean several waterings per day (depending on the weather). After the grass blades sprout, you'll still need to water a couple of times per day. Good luck with your new lawn!

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