How to Lay Turf on Clay Soil


The best type of soil to establish turf on is sandy loam. Clay soil is poorly drained in spring, and dries to a rock-hard consistency in summer that can stunt the root development of grass. In order to maintain a lush, healthy lawn, you should start by amending the heavy clay soil so that it has better drainage and more nutrients. You should also select a turf grass that grows well in a wide range of soils. Good turf grasses include zoysia and Bermuda grass in warm climates, and fescue in cooler climates.

Step 1

Break up your soil to a depth of 12 inches with a rototiller. Remove rocks, sticks and debris from the soil bed.

Step 2

Spread an organic soil amendment such as peat moss or compost over your soil to amend it. Organic amendments are loamy and will help to aerate clay soil for better drainage. In addition, compost will add natural fertilizers to soil to help a lawn thrive. Use between 2 and 3 cubic yards per 1,000 square feet of soil.

Step 3

Mix the soil amendments with the soil using the rototiller. Smooth out your soil with a landscaping rake. Be sure to remove all divots in your soil.

Step 4

Water the soil well 24 hours before laying sod over a lawn. Use 1 inch of water per 1 inch of soil to water the soil deeply. You can measure how much water you have used with a rain gauge.

Step 5

Start laying your sod along a street or sidewalk that provides a straight edge. Work in rows to slowly cover the lawn with sod strips. Lay the strips with the roots flush with the soil and the grass pointing upward. Stagger each row of sod so that there are no uniform seams in the turf. Cut sod strips with a utility knife to fit around curved lines or corners.

Step 6

Roll over the sod with a weighted sod roller to force the roots of the sod into contact with the soil.

Step 7

Water the sod up to four times daily for 14 days. Use ¼ inch of water per 1 inch of sod each time you water to keep the sod moist and allow the roots to become established. Gradually decrease water after this until you only use 1 inch of water per 1 inch of soil every 10 days.

Things You'll Need

  • Rototiller
  • Peat moss
  • Compost
  • Landscaping rake
  • Sprinkler
  • Garden hose
  • Rain gauge
  • Sod
  • Sod roller


  • University of Minnesota Extension: Seeding and Sodding Home Lawns
  • University of Missouri Extension: Cool-Season Grasses: Lawn Establishment and Renovation
  • Colorado State University Extension: Choosing a Soil Amendment

Who Can Help

  • Mississippi State University Extension: Amending the Planting Site For Landscape Plants
Keywords: soil amendments, improving lawn soil, establishing turf

About this Author

Tracy S. Morris has been a freelance writer since 2000. She has published two novels and numerous online articles. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers, including "Ferrets," "CatFancy," "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World."