Lawn Soil Preparation, Mulch and Groundcover
One of the most important steps in gardening of any type is soil preparation. Good soil is what we build our yards and gardens out of. A little more time and effort in this stage, will help to assure your gardening efforts are successful.
Get to Know Your Soil
There are three basic types of soil - Sandy , Clay, and Silt
Along with organic matter or humus there are three primary minerals that make up soil: sand, clay, silt. The right balance of both humus and minerals will achieve garden loam, the best soil for growing plants. The good news is that poor soil can easily be improved and transformed into loam.
What Kind of Soil Do I Have?
Here's a quick informal test to see what type of soil you have. Check your soil's texture by picking up a handful and squeeze gently: If it feels sticky and stays in a tight mass, your soil is likely too high in clay. If it feels harsh or gritty and won't hold any shape or crumbles it is likely too high in sand. If it feels smooth or floury and won't hold any shape, it's likely too high in silt. If it molds into your hand yet crumbles apart when squeezed, it has the perfect texture. It is probably loam.
Turning Poor Soil Into Loam
Available organic matter can be used to enhance the quality of your topsoil. There are several sources of organic matter. The one to use depends upon local availability and cost. Commonly recommended soil additives include:
After adding topsoil and/or soil additives, bring entire yard to a rough grade, be sure to distribute the improved topsoil evenly over the entire yard. Generously apply lime. Use three times the amount recommended for an established lawn.
Roto-till the soil to a depth of 4 to 6 inches. Finish grading:
When you rake and grade, remove debris such as old sod, plants and rocks. Stones less than one inch in diameter can be left 'when you are laying turf.
Prepare the ground with these goals in mind:
You should slope the ground away from buildings and grade to one inch below driveway or sidewalk level.
When possible use mulch or gravel borders to avoid turf areas that are difficult to irrigate efficiently.
Grasscycling is the natural practice of leaving clippings on the lawn when mowing. This can save time, money and other resources like landfill space. The clippings quickly decompose, returning nutrients to the soil. Proper turf management, in conjunction with the practice of grasscycling, can reduce water and fertilizer requirements, mowing time, and disposal costs.
When you mow, the grass clippings do not need to be removed from the lawn unless they are excessively heavy. Clippings have a high nutrient value, breakdown rapidly and do not contribute significantly to thatch. If clippings are removed on a regular basis, then fertilizer, particularly nitrogen, have to be increased by 20 to 35 % to compensate for their removal. It may be desirable to remove clippings in some instances, such as around pool areas, but in most cases, clippings can be returned without causing any problems.
Mulching is a great way to landscape areas of your yard that are not covered by lawn or plants. By creating mulch strips around your lawn you can reduce irrigation runoff and improve watering efficiency. There are many different types of mulch, so pick the one that best fits your needs. Some people use stones or lava rocks in the place of mulch edging. Keep in mind that rocks will not hold moisture in the ground as effectively as mulch – if this is a concern.