The one thing that underpins every great lawn, is great soil. In this blog, we’re looking at soil for lawns. What to buy, how to improve what you have and how to prepare the soil for turfing.
What is the best soil for lawns?
The grass is possibly one of the most resilient plants grown in the UK. You can find it in farmers’ fields (wheat and barley are types of grass). You’ll find ornamental grasses in many a herbaceous border. It is grown to make sports fields, golf courses, leisure areas, parks and playgrounds. You’ll also find it growing wild in the cracks in the pavement.
It’s easy to assume therefore that grass will grow in any old soil. Well, to an extent you’d be right. But good grass grows best in good soil. To back up my argument, take a look at what’s growing at the side of the road. Coarse, ugly grass with big gaps between plants and probably plenty of weeds too. Is that what you want for a lawn? Probably not.
The best soil for lawns is well drained but not parched. It’s good at holding onto nutrients, deep enough to support lots of root growth. Teeming with life – earthworms, beetles and microscopic creatures are what keep soil and plants healthy.
When it comes to buying soil for lawns look for a nice dark colour, a friable texture, a lovely earthy smell and very few big stones. If soil smells chemical, rotten or oily, don’t buy it. A soil that is grey in colour is possibly subsoil and will not support a lawn.
If you need to buy in new topsoil, Turfonline heartily recommends grade 1 agricultural soil which has been screened to 20mm.
How to improve soil for lawns
As part of the soil preparation process, you will be improving the soil so that it can help your lawn to thrive. It doesn’t matter if you are creating a lawn from seed or laying turf, the method is the same.
First dig deep. Make sure the soil is loose for a depth of at least 15cm. If there are any drainage problems with the area, fix them now. You may need to ask a landscape contractor to help you with this.
As you are digging, remove any old vegetation, roots and all. Take away any stones that are bigger than a matchbox and take note of the colour and appearance of the soil.
If the soil already in your garden is claggy, sticky, grey or very sandy, now is the time to mix in some really good quality topsoil.
When you are happy with the workability of the soil, apply a good dose of pre-seeding or pre-turfing fertiliser. This will make sure that your developing lawn will have all of the nutrients it needs.
Rake and level, level and rake until you are perfectly happy that you have a smooth, lump-free surface.
Now it’s time to lay your turf or sow your seed. To avoid undoing all of your preparation work, always work from boards.
Caring for soil beneath established lawns
Once your lawn has established you may think that your work is done as far as the soil is concerned. I’m afraid that’s not the case.
You will regularly need to top up the nutrients that your lawn is drawing from the soil to help it grow. A very simple lawn feeding regime will do that for you. Program it into the calendar section of your smartphone so you don’t forget to order the correct lawn feed for the time of year.
Soil compaction is the number one cause of failed lawns. Relieve compaction at least once a year by aeration. It’s a simple process that lets air into the soil so that roots and subterranean creatures can breath. Aeration also helps with drainage.
Soil science is quite complex but by following these 3 simple rules you can be sure to buy and maintain the best soil for lawns
- Buy from a reputable supplier to be confident of ordering suitable and good quality soil.
- Avoid soil compaction with annual lawn aeration
- Feed your lawn regularly to keep the soil nutrient levels healthy
If you have any questions at all about soil for lawns, our friendly team are here to help. Send us an email or call during office hours for expert advice.