How to Plant a Lawn

Do you want to turn your scruffy lot into a lush lawn? We've got just the help for you. Read on to learn how to sod or seed your lawn.

Colorful Flowers Provide Backdrop for Lush Green Lawn

Lush Green Lawn and Colorful Flowers Provide a Lovely Backdrop

DK - Garden Design, 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

The velvet green of a well-maintained lawn is the perfect foil for border flowers. Lawns create a sense of space in the garden and provide color, even in the depths of winter.

The best time to plant, or seed, a new lawn is early fall or spring. Dig the area, adding a margin of 6 inches, and improve the drainage of heavy clay and wet soils by working grit into the topsoil. For free-draining soils, dig in a 3 to 4 inch layer of bulky organic matter to conserve moisture and fertility. Depending on the size of your yard, it should take you about a day to plant your lawn.

Materials Needed:

  • spade or fork
  • rake and hoe
  • all-purpose granular fertilizer
  • topsoil mixed with horticultural sand
  • wooden plank
  • broom
  • garden hose
  • sharp spade

Preparing the Ground

Dig over the lawn area, removing big stones and perennial weeds, and break up the surface into a fine crumb consistency. Rake level then, keeping your weight on your heels, walk over the length of your plot, and then across the width (image 1).

Rake the ground level to remove any imprints left after walking (image 2). Leave for five weeks to allow weed seeds to germinate, then hoe lightly to remove them. Rake level and apply a sprinkling of all-purpose granular fertilizer.

Laying the Sod

Arrange sod delivery a few days after applying fertilizer. Carefully unroll the sod, laying whole pieces and working out from an edge. Stand on a plank to distribute your weight. Tamp down sod with a rake (image 1).

To ensure that the grass knits together, make sure the edges of the sod adjoin each other tightly by lifting them so that they are almost overlapping when pushed down (image 2). This helps to combat any shrinkage. Firm again with a rake.

Finishing and Shaping

Continue to lay the next row of sod, ensuring that the adjacent edges are staggered like wall bricks (image 1). This produces a much stronger structure. Use an old knife for cutting, and avoid using small pieces at the edges.

To help adjacent pieces of sod to grow together and root firmly, brush in a blend of topsoil and horticultural sand. Use a stiff broom to work it in and raise the flattened grass (image 2).

Water thoroughly during dry spells to prevent shrinkage. Shape lawn edges when the sod has rooted (try gently lifting an edge). Lay out curves with a garden hose and cut using a sharp spade (image 3).

During lawn establishment, perennial weeds often take root, especially dandelions and thistles, which can smother the sod. Use an old kitchen knife, narrow hand fork with V-shaped prongs ("daisy grubber") or long-handled, lawn-weeding tool to extract them. Try to remove weeds at the taproot. Do not use lawn weed killers for at least six months.

Seeding a Lawn

For large areas of lawn, seeding is the cheapest option. Although it will be about a year before the grass can take heavy use, it should start to green up and look good in under a month. Worn patches in existing lawns can also be repaired by re-seeding with an appropriate grass mix. Sow in early fall when the soil is warm and moist, or in spring when plants start to grow actively.

Dig, firm, level and rake the lawn bed at least five weeks previous to seeding (image 1). A few days before sowing, remove any weeds and add a top layer of fertilizer. Rake level, removing any stones.

Select a seed mix that suits your conditions and lawn use - for example, is your lawn for hard-wearing family use or fine, ornamental beauty . Weigh out seed for 1 square yard following pack directions. Pour into a paper cup; mark where the seed reaches (image 2).

Mark out 1 square yard sections using canes, and measure out the grass seed using the marked paper cup (image 3).

Scatter half the seed in one direction, and then go over at right angles with the remainder, keeping within the template (image 4). Move the template along and repeat the process. As a guide, one handful of seed weighs roughly 1 ouce.

Work over the seeded lawn lightly with a rake until the seed is just covered with soil (image 5). Protect from birds using netting. Seedlings should appear within 14 days. Once the grass has reached 2 inches, cut with the mower blades set high.

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