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Caring for your lawn - Preparing The Site For A New Lawn (continued page 3b)

Preparing The Site For A New Lawn

Preparing the site to lay a new lawn is essential. Put the effort in at this stage and you will end up with a good-looking and hard-wearing lawn. This page will show what to do to prepare the site and when to do it. 

Each of the steps described below has a link to a much more detailed page letting you know what to do in much more detail.

 Step 1 Clear Site To Bare Earth

This step is needed for turf, seed or sprigs and it can't be left out. First, decide if you need to grade and/or drain the site (see steps 2 and 3). If you do need to grade and/or drain the site you need to start this task around end May, otherwise it should be started in the early Autumn.

Clear away and bricks, rubble and piles of soil which may have been left by the builders. Next remove the existing grass/weeds by stripping off the top inch (2.5 cm) of soil. This is normally done with a spade, but have no illusions, it is back-breaking work if the area to be cleared is large. If you have the money, hire a special tool for this from your local hire shop. 

The top inch of rough grass can be piled up (grass side facing down) and it will make good compost in about 12 months time.

 Step 2 Level The Site

This step is optional. Look at the site and decide if you want to level it or change the contours. Be realistic, this is hard work and the less change the better. Also consider drainage at this point. It's no good having lots of little hills and valleys in your garden because water will collect in the 'valleys' and make the lawn difficult to grow.

Bear in mind one important consideration when moving soil around your garden, always remove the top soil first. To do this, remove it and stack it elsewhere in the garden, then change the level of the subsoil. When the correct level is obtained, replace the top soil. Do not leave subsoil on the surface, grass will only grow well on topsoil.

Click here for further illustrated details on how to level your site.

 Step 3 Drain The Site

This step is also optional. If the site is already free-draining, skip to step 4. This article describes how to incorporate a basic drainage system, however there are actually three methods of drainage. Method 1, is suitable for the amateur, methods 2 and 3 would almost certainly need professional help and equipment.

Method 1 - construct individual soakaways at three or four points in the lawn. Click here for more details.

Method 2 - drain the whole site at all points with a layer of free-draining materials under the top soil.

Method 3 - install a herring bone pattern of drainage pipes under the top soil.

 Step 4 Dig Over The Site

Digging over the site can be done with a fork or with a mechanical cultivator. If the size of the area to be dug is large, we would strongly recommend that you hire a mechanical cultivator from your local hire shop. Dig to a depth of around 22cm (9 inches). 

During the digging process, take the chance to correct the soil pH if necessary. pH is a measurement of the acidity of your soil. The ideal pH for grass is a neutral one around 6.5 but anywhere in the range of 6.0 to 7.5 will be fine. Click here for details of how to measure soil pH and how to correct it. 

At the same time, if the soil is heavy or light, take the following action:

Heavy soil - work in some lime-free sand to lighten the soil. Generally about 6 kilos (14 lb) of sand per square metre (yard) should be sufficient.

Light soil - work in as much well-rotted compost as you have available.

 Step 5 Break Down The Soil and Level

Break up any large large lumps of soil and rake the soil over until it is even. Rake the soil surface so that it is even and then either trample over the soil with your feet or go over it with a roller. The idea is break down the soil into small particles and then compact it lightly to ensure that there are no air pockets. 

At the same time, remove any stones from the top 5cm (2 inch) of soil. You may well need to repeat this step twice to obtain a reasonably fine and even surface. 

If the lawn is to be laid with turf / sod rather than seeded, skip the next two steps and return to the previous page (click here).

 Step 5 Fallow The Site

The purpose of fallowing the site is to let dormant weed seeds germinate and then remove them. This will prevent the weeds germinating when the grass seed is sown.

In order to achieve this, hoe and rake the soil surface clear of weed seedlings once a month over the summer. Hoeing will remove the weed seedlings and the raking will encourage any remaining weed seeds to germinate.

 Step 5 Final Preparation Before Sowing

Make a final visual check of the soil level. One final raking of the soil surface should result in an even surface with soil particles no larger than a grain of wheat.