Step 1: Test the soil pH

pH testing
Photo: Webb Chappell
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Put measured amounts of soil and water into the test kit's plastic test chamber and shake well. Wait a minute or two for the soil to settle and the color to develop.

Hold up the vial and compare the color of the soil solution to the color-coded chart printed beside the test chamber. It should read between 6.0 and 7.5.

If the reading shows a pH lower than 6.0, your soil is too acidic and you'll need to add lime in Step 4. If it's above 7.5, the soil is too alkaline. For moderately alkaline soil add peat moss in Step 4; for very alkaline soil, use sulfur.
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    Tools List

    • pointed shovel
      Pointed shovel,
      to remove rocks and to disperse sand and compost
    • rotary tiller
      Rotary tiller,
      rents for $50 to $75 per day
    • wheelbarrow
      Wheelbarrow
    • walk-behind spreader
      Walk-behind broadcast spreader,
      for applying lime and fertilizer; rents for $10 to $20 a day
    • metal garden rake
      Metal garden rake
    • hand spreader
      Handheld seeder/spreader,
      for dispersing grass seed
    • plastic rake
      Plastic leaf rake,
      for working grass seed into the soil
    • oscillating sprinkler
      Oscillating sprinkler

    Shopping List

    1. SOIL TEST KIT

    to test the pH level of the soil. Do-it-yourself soil kits are sold at garden shops and hardware stores for less than $15, or for about $10 more you can contact your local extension service for a mail-in kit that takes about two weeks for results.



    2. SAND

    to mix with existing soil; about 3 cubic yards covers 1,000 square feet



    3. COMPOST

    to condition soil before seeding; you’ll need 3 cubic yards per 1,000 square feet



    4. PULVERIZED LIME, peat moss, or sulfur

    to correct the pH of soil; you’ll need lime if your soil is acidic, peat moss if it’s slightly alkaline, and sulfur if it’s very alkaline.



    5. STARTER FERTILIZER

    use a 12-25-12 mix; the numbers refer to the ratio of nitrogen to phosphorus to potassium. You’ll need about 5 pounds per 1,000 square feet.



    6. GRASS SEED

    about 4 pounds of seed per 1,000 square feet