How to Prepare Soil for Grasses

Photo Credit: René Riegal

Soil Preparation for Grass Seed

To prepare the soil for grass seed:

  • Remove any dead grass or weeds and break up any hardened or compacted soil.
  • Consider aerating the soil. Also consider a layer top soil, perhaps mixed with compost and/or peat moss. The goal here is for grass seeds to have loose, quality soil in which to germinate.
  • Spread grass seed. For small areas, you may do it by hand; for bigger areas, consider using a lawn spreader. Spread it out evenly over the sowing area.
  • Next, the seed needs to be in contact with the soil to germinate. To help, you can cover the fresh seed lightly with new top soil if desired. Or, many prefer to simply rake or roll the seed into the soil.
  • Ensure the seeded area is well watered; be mindful that moist seeds germinate best. Daily or twice daily watering may be required over a week or two, in part dependent on weather.
  • Mow the new lawn once it has grown 3 inches or more.

Soil Preparation for Ornamental Grasses

To prepare the soil for ornamental grasses:

  • Work the existing soil to remove any weeds.
  • Add in a couple of inches of triple mixed soil (a mixture of top soil, compost, and peat moss). This preparation is best done in the fall to allow the frost and worms to improve the soil tilth, ready for planting in the spring.
  • Spread the seed.
  • Add a three- to four-inch layer of mulch after planting.
  • After a couple of years, the mulch will have broken down, and the soil can be top-dressed in the fall with compost and mulched again in the spring.

Although some grasses can survive the winter snow load and provide interest in the garden during the winter, most are better cut back in the fall.

Dividing Overcrowded Grasses

Do your ornamental grasses have empty, lifeless centres? This indicates that it is time to divide them.

  • Cut the foliage back to 10 to 15 cm before digging out the entire cluster.
  • Cut the cluster in half, then quarters, with a broad knife or sharp spade.
  • Remove all dead or diseased sections while ensuring that the surviving divisions have healthy roots.
  • Compost the dead material and replant the divisions, watering well and mulching generously.

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