Growing a healthy, long-lasting lawn from seed is a process which starts well before you even open that bag of seed. It’s not as simple as just scattering seeds over some dirt and watching them grow. Preparing the area is a crucial part of successful lawn seed planting.
Before you go ahead and plant your lawn, here are the steps you need to take to ensure that your turf gets the best start in life.
Removing the existing plants
If there’s the a patch of weeds, an existing lawn, or remnants of an old garden in the place where your new turf is going to go, you’ve got to make sure that they’re completely killed before you start planting seeds. This reduces the likelihood of weeds and grasses sprouting in your new lawn.
Once everything is dead, which will usually take a few weeks, strip off any old turf. It’s important to do this rather than just hoeing, digging, and turning it into the soil. If you don’t remove the old turf it won’t break down evenly and it will cause air pockets in your soil and cause bumpiness. Instead, take off all of the old turf and store it in a bag. It will eventually rot and make great compost!
Raking out stones and debris
This is tedious, we know, but it is crucial to the success of your lawn. Pick up any large stones and rake out any little ones, making sure you’re only left with pure soil. The more thorough you are with this the higher quality your lawn will be. It’ll be worth it in the end!
Utilising your soil report
If you had the soil tested, now is the time to act on the results. Soil too acidic? Need to add lime? Whatever it is that you need to make your soil top notch, add it in now.
If you didn’t get a professional soil report done, never fear. All you really need to know is whether your soil is sandy or clay. The general wisdom is that the perfect soil for lawn should be 80 percent sand and 20 percent loam. If your soil is more clayey it’s a good idea to work in some gypsum clay breaker, and if it’s sandy you should add some organic fertiliser or loam topsoil.
The other thing to consider is soil depth. Even if your soil is perfect consistency, you may need to add more, purely so that your lawn has enough room to grow. You’ll need a soil depth of about 15cm, so add some sandy loam topsoil if your existing patch is not deep enough.
Turning up the soil
It’s time to get out the rotary hoe or the shovel. Dig about 15 – 20cm deep and turn up the soil. Break any big clods with a garden fork. It is best to repeat the process at least twice at right angles to make sure that every piece of soil has been broken up nicely. The consistency which you’re looking for is “friable” – neither clumpy with clay nor running-through-your-fingers sandy.
Adding a good quality lawn fertiliser at this stage is critical in giving your seeds the best start in life.
Raking, leveling, and treading
Grab the rake and go over your soil as many times as is needed to get the soil to be even. You’re aiming for no dips, lumps, or holes. An even soil bed will result in an even lawn. Also, the firmness of the soil is an important factor in lawn seeding success. A good rule of thumb is that you want any footprints in your soil to be no deeper than 1cm.
There is a good old fashioned trick called “treading” which will push out any air pockets and fill in holes to leave your soil at the right firmness. Simply walk over your lawn on your heels, taking small little steps until every inch of your area is covered. It’s dirty work but it’s the best way to prevent any sinking later on and to guarantee a firm, flat lawn.
The final touches…
Simply rake again and give the soil a good watering. In three days’ time (when the water and fertiliser has had a chance to sink in) you’ll be ready to move on to the seeding process!