How to Prepare the Soil for Grass Seed


Soil preparation is key to starting a lawn or repairing problem areas with fresh grass seed. By offering the most fertile and stable home for the new seed, the lawn has the best opportunity for survival. The nutrients grass needs to grow comes from properly prepared soil underneath, making the first step in grass seeding the most important: soil preparation.

Step 1

Remove existing dead grass and debris from the lawn. Rake dead grass away from the soil and discard onto a tarp for easy disposal. Dig large rocks and debris out of the lawn with a pointed shovel. A fiberglass handle will prevent injuries to the hands and eliminate splintering during removal. Dispose of all debris.

Step 2

Kill any weeds throughout the lawn. Apply a weed control product such as Ortho Weed B Gon, following the package directions. Rake away dead leaves, removing them from the lawn.

Step 3

Roto-till the entire area with the rotary tiller. Loosen the soil until it is free of large clumps. Add soil amendments to enrich and encourage excellent growth. Apply 1 inch of sand to the area, shoveling it onto the lawn and raking until even. Work the sand into the soil with the rotary tiller. Add 1 inch of compost to the lawn, filling a walk-behind spreader with compost. Walk in paths across the lawn until the entire area has been covered in compost. Roto-till the compost into the soil.

Step 4

Apply 1 inch of lime to the soil, using a walk-behind spreader. Fill the spreader with lime and continue in paths across the lawn until the entire surface area has been covered in lime. Roto-till into the soil. Follow the lime application with fertilizer. Choose a starter fertilizer with an 18-24-6 nutrient formula for best results. Work the fertilizer into the soil with a metal rake. Apply grass seed according to the package instructions.

Tips and Warnings

  • Wear a dust mask when applying lime to the lawn.

Things You'll Need

  • Pointed shovel
  • Metal rake
  • Tarp
  • Weed control product
  • Rotary tiller
  • Walk-behind spreader
  • Sand
  • Compost
  • Lime
  • Fertilizer


  • University of Rhode Island: Installing a Sod Lawn
  • University of California: Establishing a Lawn from Seed
  • Scotts Miracle Gro Company: Feed New Grass
  • University of Illinois: Site Preparation
  • This Old House: How to Seed a Lawn
Keywords: lawn seed, soil preparation, lawn soil prep

About this Author

Christina Wheeler has been a professional freelance writer since 2007. She lends her expertise in animal care, gardening and home improvement to online publications such as Garden Guides and eHow. Wheeler studied business management at Ohio University.