New lawn from seed, when to test soil?

Discussion in 'Lawns' started by hoofy, May 7, 2019.

  1. hoofy

    hoofy Gardener

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    Over the weekend I have dug a patch over that used to be a veg patch years ago. I have also used the patch for burning garden waste like hedging, some of the fires quite big and burning for hours so lots of ash on there.

    The soil looks and feels decent and I intend to dig compost in too but how do I get an accurate soil test with the soil not being mixed thoroughly with the ash and compost and when should I take the test?

    I'm planning on getting the compost on in the next week or so and getting it all flat and raked over, removing any weeds over the summer ready for seeding in the autumn.
     
  2. Liz the pot

    Liz the pot Super Gardener

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    I take it you are going to add some topsoil as well? I’m not a fan of compost used for the top layers of turf but rather a fine soil.
    Just check the Ph level, for fine grass types like browntop bent and red fescue you want in around the 4.8 to 5.5 as they like a mildly acid soil and this helps to deter the annual meadow grass. These are commonly associated with ornamental lawns.
    For ryegrass and creeping bent types of grass a Ph of 5.5 to 6.5 is fine. Any lower leads to increase in thatch and soft surfaces that create problems like diseases.
    I can’t see an issue if it’s old ash and mixed well. A simple Ph test will soon let you know.
     
  3. hoofy

    hoofy Gardener

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    I was going to spread the compost over the area and then fork it all in and then leave til the autumn to settle. I dug the patch well breaking up all the sods into a very fine soil so the plan was to seed onto that.
     
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    • Liz the pot

      Liz the pot Super Gardener

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      should be fine then, as long as your are happy its all settled. Might have to keep on top or clear out the weeds but i can't see an issue.
       
    • hoofy

      hoofy Gardener

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      I'm a bit concerned about that. I've just finished the digging this morning and the height of the pile of soil is quite alarming. I haven't raked it yet to level it out but I'm pretty sure it's still going to much higher than it was. Then I'm thinking of putting maybe 2 tonne bags of compost on an area of around 20m2.

      Should I just level it out and if it's higher when it's settled then the lawn will just be a bit higher and I can cut the edges?

      I'm worried if I remove some soil then the lawn might sink in time and have drainage problems.
       
    • Liz the pot

      Liz the pot Super Gardener

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      its all down to preparation, if its just raked and not firmed it will sink and if firmed but you want to add more it may be too high.
      Just how bad is the soil already?
      Does it need compost at this stage?
      Do you have drainage issues already?

      If it were me I would be looking to insure the Ph level was in the ball park of the soil thats there nearer the time you plan to seed and add a good quality top soil to a depth of around 150mm but thats me and how I would work it.
      I can't see an issue with Ph levels to be frank but I don't add compost to any seeding work, I try to match the soil type on the job with the rest of the lawn to avoid future issues. Top soil will have enough nutrients to feed the grass from the go. I would only prep the area when I'm ready to seed so its all done asap rather than prep and wait for the season to end.
      Thats how i would tackle the job if someone was paying for my service. Theres no rule in place to how its done as others use compost mixed in but I don't.
       
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      • hoofy

        hoofy Gardener

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        With all that in mind I think I might forget about the compost.

        The soil looks pretty damn good. It was farm land 100 years ago and it has been a garden ever since. No rocks in the soil, no crisp packets, etc, just nice easy to dig soil. When I turned a clump over I chopped it a couple of times with the spade and it all broke down into nice friable soil.

        No drainage issues at all. The garden is on a nice gentle slope away from the house and the land beyond the garden also slopes down to a river half a mile away.
         
      • ricky101

        ricky101 Total Gardener

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        Just my two penn'orth .. think you are complicating things a lot.:smile:

        No need for additional compost and unless you are talking about tons of wood ash , little need for a ph test, plus if you did, you would probably get odd readings as you hit and miss on pockets of any remaining ash.

        As for the soil, once you have dug it over , raked it level and smooth, you need to "tread and heal" it - just google.
        See this at 6 mins in , applys to seed as well as turf -

        plus mr.T

        You can also use a small roller to do the same.
        Then you lightly rake it level and leave it for a week or two, leveling out and new dips or bumps that appear, little point in waiting until autumn, this cool May is a good month to sow grass seed.
         
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        • hoofy

          hoofy Gardener

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          That would put too much pressure on me to get all my prep done quickly as I'm really busy at work this time of year. I would also like the extra time to rid the bed of weeds and also I like the idea of sowing in the autumn and then leaving it alone all winter with no need to touch it.

          The lawn is just part of a bigger landscaping job that I have going on and I like time to think as the job develops. I've only just decided to make the area into a lawn, I could change my mind yet, I doubt I will though. I love lawns.
           
        • ricky101

          ricky101 Total Gardener

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          You do not mention the size of the lawn, but if you are leaving it till Autumn then covering it with black polythene might help keep the weeds down and stop all the summer seeds like danelions etc floating across.

          While grass seed is cheap, you are looking at well over a year to get a good solid lawn, a lot to be said for turfing from a good source.
           
        • hoofy

          hoofy Gardener

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          The area I've dug over is about 20m2 but I also have my eye on the flower bed next to the area I'm digging so over all it's probably around 40m2.

          I'll have a look at the turf option as money isn't really that much of a consideration. Having said that, the lawn I'm preparing is away from the house so it won't get much traffic at all with no kids and no pets so it's only real function will be to look nice and fill a large space.

          Here's a picture of what I'm on with.

          20190507_101341.jpg

          The pile of rubble on the left is where I've taken down an old cabin and is currently waiting for the busy landscapers to come and lay some stone flags.

          The flagged area next to it is where I've removed an old green house and I'm thinking of keeping those flags and building a pergola over that 3m square.

          All the land further on from the flags is what I'm thinking of making into a lawn. You can see the soil piled high right at the bottom where I've been digging.

          As you can see I already have a lawn this side of the path, but I think another one at that side might look good. I can't really think what else to do with the space beyond the flagged area. I don't want a veg patch.

          The picture makes the area I intend to seed look a lot smaller than it is. It's probably somewhere around 25 feet by about 12 feet.
           
        • hoofy

          hoofy Gardener

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          Next question.

          Since you mentioned turf @ricky101 I've had a look at some online and a place near me does 3 grades.

          UTILITY GRADE A rye based hardwearing seeded turf for use on areas subject to heavy useage/amenity areas.

          OLYMPIC GRADE A middle grade high quality seeded turf for use on ornamental lawns and other landscaped areas.

          PREMIUM TURF A very high quality non rye grass seeded turf. Has an exceptionally dense sward and is slower growing than rye grass seeded turf. For use on high quality ornamental areas.

          I quite fancy the premium but would it be a problem with me already having an existing lawn that isn't of the same grade? Would the contrast look out of place or would it enhance the overall look? How much more work is involved with the upkeep of such a lawn in comparison to what I already have? I have 2 really good lawn mowers. A cylinder and a rotary.
           
        • Liz the pot

          Liz the pot Super Gardener

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          Remember I stated Ph levels for finer grasses, the premium will be in that level so you need to take notice of the effect of N feeds which alter the Ph and treat it different to keep it tip top or else it will suffer and down the line will not be as good.
          Any decent supplier will tell you the grass type.
          Ph levels are not often used in the domestic field and many a good lawn falls apart after a few seasons which is why you see it used more in the sports industry as they can spot issues before the rise up.
          The choice is yours but finer grass likes a cylinder where rye being courser is not so good on cylinders. Depends on how fussy you are and what level of grass care you like.
           
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          • ricky101

            ricky101 Total Gardener

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            Yes , agree with @Liz the pot , its all down to what you want and how much attention you want to give it.

            The premium non rye is what you need for the old fashion bowling green type of lawn, if you want to dedicate yourself to it ! which few do these days.

            The olympic sounds more suitable.

            It does not matter what type you choose, the two areas of lawn will always look a bit different due to light, moisture , even cutting angle etc, so I would not worry about that.

            If grass floats your boat , fair enough, though for that area at the top by the trellis a bed of roses jumps to my mind, even less maintenance that grass ....
             
          • hoofy

            hoofy Gardener

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            Maybe not such a good idea then. My enthusiasm is very high atm and I would love to mow it 3 times a week and give it all the care it needed but that might not be the case in a few years time.
             
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