How to Prepare a New Seed Bed for Grass

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No matter if you are planting sod, seed, springs or stolons, successful grass establishment means proper preparation of the seedbed. It may be labor intensive, but proper preparation is one of the most important factors in establishing a healthy lawn. It is best performed prior to planting because improving soil in an established lawn is much more difficult than improving a newly planted seedbed. Proper seedbed preparation reduces problems involving weeds, fertility, aeration, pH and drainage.

Things You'll Need

  • Rototiller
  • Topsoil
  • Soil sample box
  • Slow-release fertilizer with a composition rating of 0-46-0
  • Manure, compost, sphagnum peat moss or well-rotted organic matter
  • Water ballast roller
  • Slow-release nitrogen fertilizer
  • Remove any debris from the seedbed, including rocks, trash and weeds. A uniform seedbed, without undesirable vegetation, is best for planting. Pick up rocks and gravel from the top 2 inches of the soil. Dispose of all plant matter, trash and rocks in the appropriate manner.

  • Loosen the top 4 to 6 inches of soil with a rototiller, going over the seedbed in several different directions. Rototilling the soil will help improve grass rooting and control undesirable vegetation. Top-dress the seedbed with 8 to 10 inches of topsoil. The topsoil will settle down to about 6 to 8 inches.

  • Collect soil samples during the growing season from at least eight different areas. Soil samples should be at least 2 to 4 inches deep, free of plant parts and mixed together thoroughly, with about 1 cup of the mixture put in a soil sample box. Send the sample to a local extension office for testing.

  • Apply the amount of fertilizer recommended by the soil test results to the top 4 to 6 inches of soil. If soil test results are not available, apply 10 to 15 pounds of a slow-release fertilizer (composition rating of 0-46-0) per 1,000 square feet. Till the fertilizer into the top 4 to 6 inches of soil.

  • Apply 2 inches of manure, compost, sphagnum peat moss or well-rotted organic matter over the seedbed. Organic matter improves drainage and nutrient content, and it reduces fertilizer leaching, diseases and weeds. Till the organic matter into the top 6 to 8 inches of soil with a rototiller.

  • Firm the soil with a water ballast roller. If the seedbed is to be sprigged, keep the top few inches of soil loose. Apply 1 1/2 to 2 pounds of a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer per 1,000 square feet. Till the fertilizer into the top 4 to 6 inches of soil. Rake the seedbed to make it uniform.

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  • Photo Credit John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images
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