Your Guide to Preparing a Thriving New Lawn

Don’t let your efforts go to waste by planting seeds or grass on uneven, weed-infested ground. Follow these steps to ensure your new lawn flourishes.

While low-maintenance lawn alternatives gain popularity, many homeowners still cherish the appeal of a lush, green turf. Lawns offer ideal spaces for entertaining, children’s play, and pets’ frolic. But what if you need to establish a new lawn or your existing one has outgrown its capacity, necessitating a fresh start? Can someone with average skills tackle this as a DIY project? Absolutely. However, like most endeavors, a successful lawn begins with thorough preparation.

Materials and Tools Needed:


  • Soil test kit
  • Lawn mower
  • Hoe
  • Tiller
  • Sturdy rake
  • Seed spreader
  • Soil improvement materials
  • Fertilizer

How to Preparing Your New Lawn:

Soil Testing: Begin by testing your soil. For approximately $15, you can have a soil sample analyzed at your local county extension office. Basic soil test kits are available for DIY testing, but your extension office can provide more comprehensive soil condition information, although it may incur additional costs. A thorough soil test reveals your soil’s pH, texture, nutrient levels (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium), and other minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, and copper. Armed with this data, you can amend your soil appropriately.

Remove Existing Vegetation: Start with a clean slate by clearing existing grass, plants, and weeds. The method depends on the area’s size and plant type. For small areas with grass and weeds, a hoe will suffice. For larger areas, consider renting a lawn cutter (typically around $70 per day). If you have large plants or shrubs, decide whether to transplant them or move them to a compost pile.

Soil Preparation: Loosen the soil using a tiller (optional). Some experts recommend tilling to ensure thorough mixing of the existing soil and amendments, while others caution that tilling may disturb weed seeds and create a mess. My recommendation is to consider rear tilling if your soil is extremely compacted, breaking it down to a depth of 6 to 8 inches before adding soil amendments (rental cost is approximately $55 per day).

Add Compost: Regardless of your soil test results, all soils benefit from a 2 to 3-inch layer of well-rotted compost. You can use your own compost or purchase it from a landscaping supply store. Ensure the compost is well-aged, as overly fresh or ‘hot’ compost may not break down adequately and won’t benefit your new lawn. Expect to spend about $30 to $50 per cubic yard, depending on the type and location. Various compost mixtures are available to suit different gardening needs, so communicate your requirements to your landscaping supply store.

Additional Soil Amendments: Depending on your soil type, you may need to introduce other amendments like sand to improve soil texture and drainage. Remember that soil amendments address soil texture and drainage, which should not be confused with fertilizers, which focus on soil nutrient levels.

Fertilize and Level: Based on your soil test results, consider applying starter fertilizer to give your lawn a strong start. Use a spreader to distribute the fertilizer evenly and a robust rake to level the soil surface. Ensure that the soil sits about 1 inch below ground level, accounting for the turf’s height to be installed. Eliminate any ‘hills and valleys’ on the soil surface to achieve a uniform appearance.

Plant or Sow: Plant your lawn or sow grass seed as soon as possible after completing the preparation work. The longer bare soil is exposed, the quicker weeds can establish themselves.

Special Considerations:


  • Every geographical region possesses unique soil characteristics, such as stones, sandy soils, clay soils, and more. Understanding your soil can aid in resolving gardening challenges.
  • When planning a new lawn, do not skimp on soil preparation. A healthy lawn will ultimately be your reward, even if the specific ingredients aren’t visible.
  • Always select grass or grass seed varieties recommended for your area and site.

For further information on choosing the ideal grass for your new lawn, please visit our website 

Seek inspiration for maximizing small lawns  and explore alternatives to traditional grass 

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