Preparing the soil for a new lawn
The importance of preparing the soil for a new lawn cannot be stressed
strongly enough. This process creates the foundation for your new
lawn and directly affects its ability to take up nutrients and water.
If you put the hard work in now then you shouldn’t have to
spend the time and effort later trying to correct the flaws that
will be later be visible in the lawn if the soil is not prepared
correctly. This soil preparation guide is applicable when sowing
a lawn from seed and and when laying a lawn from turf.
The time taken to prepare the soil can vary greatly depending on
the size of the new lawn, the previous use of the lawn site and
the soil type.
The first step in preparing the soil is to remove any large objects
that are on the soil surface, this includes old paving stones, bricks,
stones, tin cans etc. If there is a layer of concrete or heavy paving
stones that need removing you may consider hiring some stone breaking
machinery (either machines or hand operated).
After this is complete you should inspect the lawn area for perennial
weeds such as the ever common nettles, thistles and dock leaves
and other nuisances such a brambles. Depending on your findings
you can either dig our the weeds by their tap root or if the ground
is covered in them you may want to use a chemical weed killer such
as 2-4-D. For more information see lawn weeds and lawn weedkiller.
If you do use a weedkiller then make sure to double check the manufacturers
instructions regarding amounts to use per x ft square before application.
If not using weedkiller then do not just cut the weeds, dig them
out by getting the tap root so they are permanently removed and
don’t re-appear after a few months. Once you have removed
the weeds add them to a pile and then burn them once all have been
If your lawn site already contains an old lawn or other vegetation
trim the vegetation down so that it is near ground level. Machines
can be hired / bought that will remove a thin layer of turf from
existing old lawns. Alternatively old grass can be removed by removing
turves with a spade. You can then stack these old turfs upside down
and the old grass will decompose and form compost.
Now that the lawn site is clear of debris and vegetation is is
necessary to get rid of any tree and shrub stumps / major roots
that remain in the ground. If there is a shrub or young tree you
wish to keep then dig it up and relocate it to a non-lawn area.
Roots of trees and large shrubs can seriously damage the quality
of a lawn as they will often compete, and win in the battle for
sunlight, water and soil nutrients. The grass will become weakened,
yellowed and patchy as a result.
You are now ready to dig the soil over and add any necessary soil
conditioning materials (such as coarse sand, organic matter such
as well rotted compost, bonemeal etc). These soil conditioning materials
will help improve the texture of the soil, soil drainage, soil moisture
retention properties as well as obtain a more preferable nutrient
content and pH (acidity / alkaline balance).
Digging the soil should take place about 2 or 3 months before you
want to sow or turf the lawn so that the soil has time to settle
after being loosened. If you do not let the soil firm and settle
after digging then you will find that the soil will settle after
the lawn developed and dips and bumps will appear in the lawn.
Rake the soil level with a soil rake. If you are going to manually
firm the soil (you can do this by treading the soil for small lawns
or using a garden roller for larger lawn sites) then make sure that
you only do this when the soil surface is dry. If you firm the soil
when the soil surface is not dry then you will degrade the soil
structure which will result in a weaker lawn.