The terrain of north central West Virginia is shallow topsoil with hardpan clay beneath. Like many clay soils, West Virginia soil is acidic in pH. West Virginia is in USDA hardiness zones 5 and 6, which is an area of transition for lawns. This means summer grasses such as Bermuda and zoysia grow well in West Virgina, but will go dormant once temperatures drop below 50 degrees F. You can overseed lawns in fall with cool-season grass such as ryegrass or Kentucky bluegrass for winter color, but these grasses may not survive West Virginia's warm summer season.
Take soil samples from up to 10 locations across your lawn by digging 1 quart of dirt from each location. The best time to do this is in fall when the soil is dry. Mix your soil samples in a bucket and allow the samples to dry completely. Measure 1 cup of soil into a plastic freezer bag and take it to your West Virginia County Extension service. An agent with the county extension service will send your soil sample to the West Virginia University soil testing facility for testing. Within three weeks you will be sent a West Virginia University Soil Test Report. The report will tell you the structure of your soil, its pH and which soil amendments to use to prepare your soil for planting a lawn.
Prepare your lawn for seeding or sodding by breaking up the soil with a rototiller to a depth of 12 inches. Spread soil amendments in a 4-inch layer over your soil based on recommendations by the West Virginia University Soil Test Report. Common soil amendments for north central West Virginia soils include gypsum to break up heavy clay, lime to raise the pH of acidic soil, and loamy organic amendments such as compost, peat moss and composted manure to improve the structure and nutrient content of the soil. Mix these amendments into the soil with the rototiller.
Smooth your soil and regrade the slope of your yard with a landscaping rake so the property slopes away from homes and other structures for drainage purposes.
Set up a portable sprinkler system and turn it on. Use a rain gauge to measure the amount of water you place on the soil. Water with 1 inch of water per 1 inch of soil. Allow the water to soak in for 24 hours before establishing your lawn.
Use a warm-season grass for year-round ground cover. Good grasses for north central West Virginia include zoysia or Bermudagrass. Sod is a good choice for instant ground cover and to prevent erosion that can occur while you wait for grass seed to become established. Lay this grass onto your soil as sod.
Lay sod into a uniform carpet starting at a straight edge such as a driveway and working your way outward. Cut sod strips to fit your lawn around odd shapes such as planting islands. Stagger your rows of sod so the edges do not form a uniform seam.
Roll over your sod with a sod roller to force the roots of the grass into contact with the soil. Water your sod to keep it damp until the roots become established in the soil. Use ¼ inch of water up to four times daily for up to 10 days. Then gradually reduce the amount of water you use until you water with no more than 1 inch of water every 10 days.