Starting a new lawn – Chapter Two

We’ve cleared the slate, but before we start dropping seed all over the place, its important to know exactly what we’re dropping it into. Over time, soil can get pretty unbalanced: ph levels can get all wonky, sulfur and nitrate levels can become depleted. Sometimes, the soil just wears itself out. Since the days of the Old Testament, farmers have recognized the importance of allowing the soil time to rest and re-charge; and if left alone, nature will do just that.

But let’s face it. Nature takes too long.  Stupid, lazy nature! Always taking too long with stuff. We want our yard in by this spring! Ok. Then let’s talk about…

“Gettin right with Sod”.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you bring in the Environmental Protection Agency to conduct a level III full spectrum analysis on your yard. But you’ve committed to this project. You rented the grader, you cleared your schedule for the next three weekends. You’ve got a whole cooler full of diet-soda and you have 120 pounds of premium Bermuda grass seed just screaming at you. This thing is going to happen! (You seeth through gritted teeth.)

Cool yer jets there killer. We’ll get to it. But first…it stands to reason that you’ll probably want to know whether all that beautiful seed is actually going to grow or just wither away?

Remember: before you seed, know what it needs? Catchy, huh?

Is this going to be on the test?

There are a couple of options to consider for soil testing.

The first involves providing soil samples to your local Cooperative Extension Service (CSREES) office. If you’re not sure who or where they are, contact the agricultural division of your state government or consider checking with a state college. They’ll steer you in the right direction.

Keep in mind- these are “real deal” tests, and they cost money. You can’t just ship them a bucket of dirt. There are collection protocols to ensure the integrity of the sample. Chain of custody and all that.

But if you’re looking for the most comprehensive analysis of your soil, this is how you get them. (provided you can make heads or tails of the test results). Keep the lab on speed dial…you’re probably going to have questions.

The second is a little more “wallet friendly” and doesn’t involve quite as much in the way of collecting and processing samples. These simple, self administered tests are available at most garden-supply stores for around $20 or so. You’ll get a comprehensive kit that’s easy to use. Add the stuff to the dirt and give her a shake. Green’s good, red is bad and blue means you’ve got “cooties”.

Maybe not, but you get the idea.

Now what?

Once you know whats going on in your dirt, it should be a simple matter of purchasing the right components and working them into the soil. This is where a second test will come in handy.

Any reputable landscaping company can offer valuable advice on how to address soil amendment, and I’m sure that for a fee, they will be happy to take care of it for you. And how exactly do they do that? Well, I’m not going to go into the mechanics of it right now. But, if you haven’t figured out a rake is involved, it won’t do any good anyway.

Once you’ve addressed any issues with the soil, it’s time to move on to final prep.

But that….is for….another time.

Suspenseful, huh? I got chills right there. Ha!


Are you joining us late and missed the beginning?

Visit Chapter One of How to Start a New Lawn.

Did you enjoy this article?
Signup today and receive free updates straight in your inbox. We will never share or sell your email address.
I agree to have my personal information transfered to Mad Mimi ( more information )

Bill Brown

Bill is the head of content creation for the LawnMowerPros Blog and DIY section. He’s been in the Outdoor Power Equipment Industry for years and he’s still learning new things everyday. You can often find him creating featured articles, DIY guides, videos, graphics and much more.