Friday, September 25, 2009

How to sow grass seeds, part I: preparing the soil

Last weekend, for the first time ever, I had the pleasure working in my yard, doing the back-breaking, thigh-throbbing, never-ending work of preparing the soil for sowing grass seeds.

OK- it wasn’t me alone. There were five of us. And, to be totally honest, I worked in the yard the least of us, as I had to spend most of the time running after Lil’Dawg or feeding Pup. But I did get my hands dirty as much as I could. And I loved it.

As I wrote in an earlier post, due to the yard looking like this:

we decided to have the entire yard leveled by local farmer and have some topsoil added. Then Dawg and I would sow the grass seeds ourselves.

The leveling took place weekend before last.

Things were going fine until we noticed the soil that the farmer had brought to cover our yard. For some reason, we had expected the soil to look like it would when you buy it in a gardening store: dark, rich, moist, healthy. But we got this:

Even though the farmer assured us that he would get rid of the bigger chunks of rock, I immediately made a call to our friend Skip, who has a degree in Horticulture, and asked her if we were being ripped off by purchasing rock-and-brick filled soil. She told us that it was unreasonable to expect the soil to look like store-bought soil, as that would be crazy expensive, and something the French would think completely unnecessary. Our soil would improve over the years as we tended to it and used my compost on it. However, we would need to, she said, get rid of as many as the rocks as possible, even after the farmer had done his work.

That’s when we asked her and her boyfriend to come down the weekend and help us. We thought it would be fun. Poor them.

To prepare soil for sowing seeds, you need to do five things:
1. Smooth over any deep ruts or bumps in the yard.
2. Break up thick clumps of soil.
3. Remove rocks, weeds or trash from the soil.
4. Rake the area to level it.
5. Use a roller to make the soil firm (or just walk all over the area).

Preparing the soil took about 12 hours of work – almost all day Saturday, plus most of Sunday – and that was with 3 of us working at any point. It wasn’t just that we have a big working space (about 1300 sq.meters/13,900 sq. feet), but that our soil has multiple personalities. Horribly clayey in one area…sandy in another…rocky as a pebble beach in another. Breaking up the clay was a nightmare – some clumps were so tough that even hurling it into the side of the barn didn’t break it up. And the rocks seem to multiply under our fingers. We filled the tractor’s shovel twice, and still the yard was crazy with rocks. And broken glass. Oh, and the weeds! I swear, it’ll be a miracle if we get any grass at all. But we did go from this:

To this:

It may not have been perfect, but we felt pretty good about it.

I'm going to end this post with a few pictures of the weekend, but before I do, I want to give huge props to Skip and Tollie, who gave up their entire weekend to do hard, sweaty work. They worked harder than Dawg or me, and never complained (at least not to us) about how tiring it was or how much work was left to them while we were dealing with the kids. They didn’t even complain when Lil’Dawg tipped over the wheelbarrow that was full of rocks that we had painstakingly collected. So, props to you my friends. Ya’ll rock! (No pun intended).

Okay here are the pix.


  1. Wow, what a lot of hard work, and such a big area. I purchased a load of top soil recently, that was dark and rich looking, but it was full of dandelion roots, luckily they were easy to pull out (and no rocks).

  2. Hi Kilbournegrove - Lucky you to have access to such good-quality soil! I hope that my lawn ends up as nice as yours!

  3. Hello! hello! I really have missed out on this post. Glad I check on you today. The last pix your baby? Looks like all the baby chores are settled and you have time now to garden. How's the grass doing? See some greens yet? I wish I have a big compound like yours. Have a great weekend!

  4. Fantastic work! I am very inspired from your post and i really enjoyed your post..
    Thanks for sharing..Flowering Trees Tennessee