Preparing the soil for new sod is essential before sodding. Proper soil preparation will reduce the water use of a lawn by 20% to 30%. Soil preparation is the process of roto-tilling compost into the soil. By adding compost to the soil, clay soils drain better, and sandy soils retain more water. Tilling and adding organics also introduces air to the root zone and feeds the microorganism in the soil.
Step 1 - Clear The Area
The first step to creating a great lawn is removing weeds, rocks, and debris. Rocks in the soil can create long term problems making areas compacted, prone to dry out, and hard to aerate. You only have one chance to start your lawn with a clean soil profile free of rock and debris.
Step 2 - Remove any existing grass
If old or dead grass exists, it is vital to remove it before rotor tilling because most tillers will not break it up. If the old turf gets tilled in, the clumps of grass make it hard to grade. The easiest way to remove sod is with a sod cutter.
Step 3 - Establish a Rough Grade
If you need to reshape the soil more than two inches, establish the grade before soil preparation. Cut down the higher spots and use topsoil to fill in the holes. Grade your lawn so that water will run away from the house’s foundation.
Step 4 - Soil Preparation
Spread compost evenly over the area to be tilled at the rate of three to six cubic yards per 1,000 square feet. Rotor till in the compost 4” to 6” deep. If the ground is hard, water the area the night before to soften it up. Pulverized the soil and mix in the compost by making multiple passes if necessary. To firm up the area and get ready for fine grading, wheel pack using the tiller, roll it, or water the area. Rain and snowfall will naturally settle tilled soil.
Step 5 - Install a Sprinkler System
A properly designed sprinkler system will conserve water, save time and money in the long run, and add value to your home. Sprinkler systems apply water uniformly in an efficient manner. Automatic sprinkler clocks allow you to water in multiple cycles preventing runoff, water during the night, and when you are not at home.
Step 6 - Fine Grading
After the sprinkler system installation, fine grade the lawn area with a landscape or garden rake. Break up clods to less than 3/4”, and remove any rock. Soil should be 1” below patios, sidewalks, driveways, and edging. Fixing the grade after sodding is not an option. Sod follows the contour of the ground. The finely graded area should be smooth and clump-free before sodding.