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(HIT) - "The beauty is in the blades, but the 'action' is in the roots," is a good adage to remember when installing a new lawn. Proper site preparation and soil improvement, before any planting takes place, will make it easier for the grass roots to penetrate deeply and evenly. Deep roots will make the lawn more drought resistant, a more efficient water and nutrient user and more dense as new grass plant shoots emerge. A dense, healthy lawn crowds out weeds and resists insects and disease. Follow these steps for a beautiful, healthy and trouble-free lawn:
Clear the site of all building materials (wood, cement, bricks, etc.), as well as any buried stumps, rocks, stones or other debris larger than 2-3 inches (4-5 cm) in diameter.
Rough grade the entire area to eliminate any drainage problems. This would include sloping the grade away from building foundations, eliminating or reducing severe slopes and filling low-lying areas. Use a tractor-mounted box blade for rough grading large areas. Use hand tools for small areas. Rough grading may uncover more debris to be removed.
Initial tilling, to a depth of at least 2 inches (5 cm), should be completed prior to adding any topsoil or soil amendments. This will control most annual weeds, alleviate subsoil compaction; permit a bonding of the topsoil to the subsoil; and improve root penetration and water movement.
Add topsoil to achieve a total topsoil depth of 4-6 inches (10-15 cm) after firming. The soil type should be loamy sand, sandy loam, clay loam, loam, silt loam, sandy clay loam or other soil suitable for the area. To the extent possible, practical, affordable and available, incorporate humus (fully decomposed organic matter) into the topsoil.
Conduct a soil test. The test results will give you a report on the nutrient levels, cation exchange capacity (CEC) and pH along with recommendations on correcting any deficiencies. Following the recommendations may include correcting acid or alkalinity levels, adding soil amendments and/or adjusting fertility. If amendments and fertilizer are added, work them into the top 3-4 inches (7 to 10 cm) of the soil.
Finish grade the entire site, maintaining the rough grading contours and slopes, using a tractor-mounted box blade on large areas or heavy-duty rake on smaller areas.
Roll the area with a lawn roller one third full of water to firm and settle the surface and reveal any low spots that should be filled to match the surrounding grade surface. If time permits, allow the area to settle further with rainfall or by applying irrigation water.
The site is now ready for installation of the seed, sod, plugs or sprigs. Follow the post-installation procedures and develop a long-term maintenance program to insure your new lawn will be a beautiful, useful investment for years to come.