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Soil: Get Your Hands Dirty

by Dawn West, All About Lawns Columnist


Want a lush green lawn? You're going to have to think about what's under that lawn. Ensure that you've got nutrient-rich soil with good drainage and the right ph level, and you'll be on your way to a spectacular yard.

Before you put in your lawn, give your soil plenty of tender loving care. Once you're puttering around in bare feet on your gorgeous green carpet of grass, you'll realize the effort was well worth it.
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Tip #1 - Start with Soil Testing

Before you can help your soil, you have to know what it needs. This is where soil testing comes in. You can turn to either your local Extension office or professional lawn care provider for soil testing. Either way the results of your soil testing will tell you whether your soil is too acidic or too basic and which essential minerals it needs (nitrogen, phosphorous, zinc, etc.).

Tip #2 -- Figure out Your Soil Type

Is your soil sandy or clay-like? If it's sandy, water and nutrients run right through it. If it's clay-like, it's thick and heavy and has a hard time absorbing anything. The perfect in-between is loamy.

The easy test: grab a handful of soil from your yard and squeeze it. If it doesn't hold any shape it's sand. If it looks like you just squeezed a ball of play-do - yep, clay.

Tip #3 -- Amend Away

Once you know what your soil needs, you can go about adding it. Adjust the ph with lime or sulfur. If it needs phosphorous, find yourself a nice phosphorous rich fertilizer. If it's too sandy, mix in some clay, and vice versa.

Tip #4 -- Be Careful with Topsoil

Adding a new layer of topsoil can be a great way to get the rich loamy soil you want. Just because it's sold as topsoil, though, doesn't mean it's in perfect shape. Soil testing your new topsoil is smart. So is checking to make sure that it's not full of seeds and material that will turn into weeds the second you start watering and fertilizing your new lawn.

About the Author
Dawn West B.A. holds a B.A. in English from Harvard University and teaches writing at Oregon State University.

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