Many gardeners have to cope with the worst planting medium there is--red dirt. Clay soil is difficult to work with because it's especially heavy and wet. It is made of tons of tiny particles that cling to each other and attract moisture. There are virtually no air pockets in the red dirt, which makes it challenging for the roots of any plant, including grass, to grow and spread. It's like the roots hit up against a brick wall and have no where to go. There is good news, however. With the right kind of site preparation, you can amend red dirt to make it conducive to planting grass.
Pull out weeds and remove debris such as stones and sticks. These will prevent the grass from rooting because seed needs direct contact with the ground to germinate. Rake the area to smooth it out.
Add topsoil to low-lying dips in the yard. A level surface is essential because any drastic variations will cause the pooling of water, which can wash away grass seed. The red dirt has enough drainage issues without these sections.
Loosen up at least the top 4 inches of soil. Run a rototiller over it until the red dirt is churned up and loosened.
Boost the soil pH to make it more neutral. Add 12 oz. of hydrated lime per square yard of red dirt. Test the new pH level with a test kit obtained at a nursery. Continue to amend the red dirt until it's neutral and conducive to growing grass.
Improve drainage and make the soil drier by adding compost and sand. Spread 1 inch of each material and combine it with the local dirt using a rototiller. Rake until smooth.
Balance nutrients in the clay with a starter seed fertilizer. If you're working on a large space, use a broadcast spreader.
Disperse the grass seed evenly across the planting area. Use a hand spreader on small yards and a mechanical spreader for a large spaces. Even distribution is important. Too many seeds cause competition and too few cause gaps.
Water the seed thoroughly with a sprinkler for the first two weeks. Apply water for five to 10 minutes twice a day. In hot climates, water three times daily. Decrease watering after the two-week period. Keep the amended red dirt moist to promote grass root growth.
Mow the lawn when it's 3 inches tall. Cut it down to 2 1/2 inches.