Now that the weather has warmed up, green-thumbed gardeners are ready to get a-growin'. But in order to grow grass or garden plants, one has to begin with fertile soil. Soil is the bedrock for the success of any plant growth. We've assembled the need-to-know tips on soil preparation so you can start the season off right:
To prepare your lawn for optimal growing conditions, you'll first want to clear the site of any construction materials, such as cement and lumber, and tree stumps, rocks and other large debris. Use a stump grinder to remove tree trunk remnants and cart off the remaining materials. (Tip: Wood mulch when used correctly can produce some great soil according to Mother Earth News) Rough grading is also recommended to ensure no drainage problems occur, according to TheLawnInstitue.com. For example, fill in low-lying areas and reducing steep slopes. Before adding topsoil and amendments, till the soil to a depth of two inches to mitigate weeds and subsoil compaction. Afterward, add topsoil to gain an overall soil depth of six inches for lengthier roots. Incorporate decomposed organic matter known as humus into the loamy mixture as well.
Testing the pH of your soil is an intelligent, preliminary step to planting your lawn or garden. First, you'll need to combine equal parts soil and distilled water or rain water, according to Suite101.com. Immerse a few pieces of Litmus paper into the mixture to determine your soil's acidity or alkalinity. Remove one after 10 seconds and rinse. Pink is indicative of highly acidic soil. If the Litmus paper hasn't changed color, allow five minutes to elapse and extract another strip. Light pink signifies slight acidity. Blue indicates fully alkaline soil. Optimal soil pH levels depend on what you're planting. A pH of 6.0 to 7.0 are ideal for a verdant, low-maintenance lawn, according to The Lawn Institute. Incorporating lime can help to reduce the acidity of soil. Adding gypsum or sulfur will reduce soil alkalinity. However, it's recommended to seek garden center professionals or turf specialists to learn how to best go about improving pH.
Soil Amendments & Fertilizer
Work in a starter fertilizer in the top three to four inches of the soil. Ensure that it's high in phosphate to engender fruit production and root growth, according to Almanac.com. The fertilizer should also contain a nice balance of nitrogen for leaf growth and potassium to fend off disease. Additional amendments include:
- Peat moss: A conditioner that assists soil in retaining water
- Bark: Improves soil structure (use your ground tree stumps)
- Leaf mold: Adds nutrients and improves soil structure
- Sand: Enhances clay soil drainage
- Compost and manure: The ideal conditioner
Once amending and grading is completed, roll the entire space with a lawn roller one-third full of water. This process settles the topsoil and exposes low areas that need extra soil.