How To Fix Your Soil
The process of growing a beautiful lawn extends beyond the initial sod purchase. To install and maintain healthy sod grass, the secret is in the soil. Learn how to prepare or repair soil for sod grass by reviewing the basics of yard care.
How to Prep Soil for a New Sod Install
If you’re just installing a new lawn, you’ll need to properly prepare the ground and soil. This may prove to be an arduous task to homeowners with large yards, so be sure to set aside enough time for prep work. Since you should always install sod the same day it arrives, you don’t want it to be met with an unprepared foundation. To begin, remove all debris along with rocks, weeds, fallen branches, etc. To sufficiently amend soil for sod grass, till in mulch and gypsum 4-6 inches in depth while removing new debris below the surface. Level the ground and water thoroughly to compact the new soil. Finally, use a roller to avoid air pockets and uneven ground settling to end with a grade of one half to one inch below the patio and walkway. For more in-depth instruction, visit Evergreen Turf’s guide to sod installation.
How to Fix Soil for an Established Sod Lawn
To repair a lackluster sod lawn, you’ll want to test the pH levels of the soil. In short, the pH level is the soil’s acidity level—a finely tuned indicator of proper plant growth. There are many methods by which to accomplish this (see wikiHow for a complete list); however, the easiest is to simply use a test probe found at your local garden center. Dig a 2-4 inch hole in the soil and fill it with distilled water (the water type is important as it is neutrally acidic). Insert a clean, calibrated test probe into the mud and leave it for 60 seconds. The pH number will reveal the following information about your soil:
- >7: Alkaline
- 7: Neutral
- <7: Acidic
Once you know the pH, you’re halfway toward correcting the problem. Be sure to test the soil in several areas of your lawn. If you see slight variations in results, take the average pH level. Drastic differences may necessitate spot treatment. The pH level is important because acidic soil can foster weeds and hinder healthy sod growth. While you should have an understanding of pH levels prior to installing sod, you may have to modify the soil through trial and error throughout the lifetime of your lawn.
Because different plants require different levels of acidity, simply start with basic research on your particular sod type and how it fares in the Arizona sun. Be sure to take the surrounding plant life into account when trying to determine whether to alkalize or acidify soil for sod grass. Although there’s a definite science to correcting a soil’s pH, it’s really quite simple to implement the changes once you know what’s required of your sod and/or garden. For more information on modifying pH levels, see Sunset’s Garden Basics blog.
If the study of acidity and alkalinity levels leaves you feeling exhausted, it might be time to hire a professional—especially if you have a large backyard with many trouble spots. Like any major home project, it’s always easiest to do things correctly the first time. Getting “down and dirty” with your soil is the key to a strong, vibrant yard.