Soil preparation is the most important aspect of establishing a new turf lawn. The soil requires a good structure, high-quality organic matter and the nutrients required to ensure the lawn grows quickly with a dense coverage. Soil preparation is hard work, but when done properly it saves time on fixing problems endemic with an unhealthy turf.
Kill existing weeds and prevent them from propagating to properly prepare soil for turf. Perennial grassy weeds, says Purdue University, require control in the late summer. Avoid preemergent controls for weeds such as crabgrass if you are applying herbicide at the same time as the seeding of the soil. Spot pulling of weeds is effective, although roots of the weed left behind may sprout new leaves. Apply herbicides according to the label instructions.
Perform a soil test to ensure that topsoil is in place for the establishment of turf. Some renovated lawns, especially in new homes, says the Virginia Cooperative Extension, have had the topsoil layer of the lawn removed. Topsoil is required at a depth of 4 inches spread uniformly across the soil area. A soil test reads the soil pH, as well as the nutrient makeup of the soil. Add nutrients to the soil, as well as amendments, according to the results of the soil test.
Add 3 to 5 cubic yards of organic matter during soil preparation. Work manure or compost into the top 4 to 6 inches of the lawn for every 1,000 square feet, says Green Industries of Colorado. Organic matter adds nutrients to the soil and improves the soil structure. Use a tilling device to work the material into the soil during the fall before a spring planting to allow the organic material time to break down.
Apply a starter fertilizer on top of the soil just before planting and water it in. You'll need 1.5 lbs. of high-phosphorous fertilizer for every 1,000 square feet for new turf for a lawn renovation. Spread fertilizer using a drop spreader and moisten to activate.
Spread seed over the prepared area to establish turf. Lightly rake to cover the seeds and ensure good contact with the soil. A 2- to 3-inch layer of straw will further protect the grass seeds from birds and small animals. Water the seeds three to four times a day to encourage germination. Water less frequently once seeds have germinated, but apply more water to a greater soil depth. You can mow once the grass reaches a height of 2 to 3 inches.