Step 4: Amend the soil

Amending the soil
Photo: Webb Chappell
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Adding lime, peat moss, or sulfur balances the soil's pH level and boosts nutrients.

Distribute peat moss with a shovel from a wheelbarrow. For lime or sulfur, apply it with a walk-behind broadcast spreader, set to the appropriate distribution rate. Coat the entire area, making sure you don't miss any spots.

Next, use the broadcast spreader to apply starter fertilizer to the entire area. Make sure the spreader is adjusted to distribute at the rate outlined on the fertilizer packaging.
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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