Growing a lawn on poor soil

My soil is very poor and my lawn is all worn and patchy 

 

Poor soil is a problem when trying to grow a grass lawn. Nutrient-poor soil causes grass lawn problems like browning, weeds (dandelions like poor soil), grass disease, Leather jackets and the inevitable bare patches.

 

How can I improve the soil in my lawn?

 

Clover lawn is growing on poor soil
This lawn is growing on poor soil, but it's not grass

 So what can we do?

  • Take advice from green-lawn-man (Every neighbourhood  has one, he's the guy in love with his hosepipe and box of chemicals) and rush out to buy the expensive chemical "remedies" that claim to fix poor soil when in reality all we are doing is wasting money and creating a lawn that becomes shallow rooting and dependent on chemical fixes and wasteful watering schedules.
  • There are of course several lawn care tactics that will properly fix the Nutrient-poor soil problem over time, like adding topsoil and organic material, but here's the catch "over time" means what it says, improving nutrient deficient soil can take years of back breaking work.
  • Or there's a better way, plant a lawn that not only thrives on poor soil, but improves it over time. Clover makes the greenest and easiest lawn to maintain you could ever dream off, it stays green all summer, without being watered profusely because it's drought-tolerant and it doesn't need chemical fixes. 
  1. It is free of weeds, Your lawn competes so well for growing space that most weeds are crowded out.
  2. It doesn't need to be fertilised.
  3. It is also relatively pest-free, so that you don't have to bother spraying pesticides on it.
  4. It aerates the soil on its own, so that you don't have to worry about counteracting soil compaction. 
  5. It is a soft lawn to walk on.
  6. It attracts beneficial insects, including honeybees.
  7. It rarely has to be mowed.
  8. It doesn't suffer discoloration from dog urine.
  9. And if, despite all these benefits, you should ever want to replace it with grass it helps you to do so by improving the soil.  Its ability to aerate the soil and pump nitrogen into it means that succeeding generations of plants using that soil will be better off.  
  10. No grass has all these qualities, but clover possesses all 10, interesting! Didn't know that did you?

Here's how to grow a clover lawn

There are two ways to grow a clover lawn.

  1. Seeding a new lawn.
  2. Over-sowing an existing grass lawn with Dutch White Clover

I'm going to explain both ways, starting with Seeding a new lawn:

 

 

Preparing the area for sowing clover seed

  • First strip the area to bare soil removing all grass and weeds including roots by digging over or rotovating the area, don't dig to deep or you will end up with a mix of top soil and sub soil.
  • Remove all weeds. The easiest way (unless you are an organic gardener) to be double sure all weeds and roots are removed or killed  is to spray the area with a systematic weed Killer that kills the whole plant including the root. This should be carried out about three weeks before you plan to dig or rotovate and sow the clover seed to allow time for the weeds to die.
  • Next rake it level shifting high areas of top soil into the dips, so you end up with a fairly level lawn.
  • Gently firm the surface soil, being careful not to compact the topsoil. You can do this by gently treading it down. Start in one corner, walking slowly placing one foot in front of the other, turning around and repeating until the whole area is level and firmed.  A much easier way is to "Board it" to do this, you will need two large firm square wooden boards (plywood is ideal) place one in front of the other and work your way across the area, standing on the last and lifting the other to the front and so on.
  • Remove large stones and builders rubble. As you are flattening the ground remove surface stones as you go. It's impossible to remove every stone, the earth is full of them and they naturally rise to the surface, so don't let it become an obsession. Any humps and dips will now be more visible, rake of the humps into the dips and lightly tread down

Sowing clover seed

  • Buying clover seed for lawnsthe most popular clover and the seed I use is Dutch White Clover (Trifolium repens)  it is relatively low growing, tolerates close mowing, and out competes most weeds. You can buy clover seeds online. You'll need roughly 2 ounces (57 g) of clover seeds per 1,000 square feet of lawn.
  • Mix the seed with sand or soil. Clover seeds are quite small so to make it easier to get an even spread across the lawn, mix the clover seed with sharp sand or sieved fine soil. Mix about equal parts of seed and sand or soil. 
  • Spread the seed evenly over the lawn. If it's not to windy this can be done by hand or if you can, borrow a broadcast spreader it's easier and gives a more even spread.
  • Rake the area you’ve seeded to loosen and gently mix the seeds into the top layer of soil. Clover seeds will not germinate if they are buried more than a quarter-inch deep, but covering them with a very thin layer of soil will stop them blowing around in the wind and being eaten by birds.
  • Water the seeds to keep them moist until your clover lawn is established. Water the seeds immediately after spreading and give them  a light misting of water every day until the seedlings grow leaves. In spring and summer clover seeds will germinate in about one or two weeks.

Over-sowing a worn-out patchy grass lawn with clover

Over-seeding a grass lawn with clover seeds will help improve the existing grass and can be carried out from spring through until September, the warmer and wetter the quicker the seeds will germinate. To germinate clover seed needs soil temperatures to be at least 7-8 °C and must be kept moist.

  • Lawn food, stop feeding the grass with chemicals.
  • Closely mow the existing lawn and remove the grass.
  • Scarify with a scarifying tool or garden rake removing as much ‘thatch’ and organic matter as you can so the seeds get through to the soil. 
  • Hard compacted areas of soil. Rake or fork compacted areas being careful not to go to deep as clover seeds will not germinate if they are buried more than a quarter-inch deep.
  • Water the whole lawn before sowing the seeds. 
  • Sowing the clover seeds. I recommend using the Dutch white clover seeds, it is relatively low growing, tolerates close mowing, and out competes most weeds. 
  • Mix the seeds with soil or sharp sand in equal amounts to make spreading the seed evenly over the lawn easier.
  • Keep moist by watering immediately after sowing and daily until the seeds germinate, Clover seeds germinate about one to two weeks after sowing, depending on the weather.
  • Care for the clover seedlings, clover doesn't need any special care, just keep the lawn moist with a gentle spray of water every couple of days until the clover is established in the grass.
  • Keep off the newly over-seeded lawn until the new seedlings are firmly anchored.
  • Mowing the new lawn. The original grass will have benefited from the extra watering and probably getting a bit long, so as soon as the clover seedlings are firmly anchored give your new green lawn a cut. 

Watering new clover seed

With a proper watering schedule, anyone can turn their lawn into a lush spot of green. This will certainly improve the landscape in anyone’s home.

If you are new at landscaping or gardening, looking to make an effort to improve your lawn could be an excellent place to start with. All you need is soil to work with and some clover seeds. Watering new clover seed is quite simple and will only require a little of your time each day.

Before Planting the New Seeds

It’s actually brilliant that Mother Nature has designed seeds in order to make them react positively with moisture. So before starting to plant your seeds, make sure to water the soil. This will kick start the process of germination and create an ideal environment for your seeds to grow healthy.

How will you know if the soil is ready to receive your seed?

For this, you’ll need a long screwdriver and push it into the ground - about 6 to 8 inches deep. You will know if the soil is well saturated if the screwdriver sinks in nicely and is not met with resistance.

Once the soil is ready, you may now sow the new seeds. Immediately after 5 to 10 minutes, water to moisten the soil. This is done because if the ground dries out, the seeds will die.

Taking Care of the New Seeds

What would be the best time to water the new seeds? The ideal time to do the watering is during morning and evening as these are the coolest parts of the day. During these times, water is easily absorbed into the ground and is less prone to evaporate. For less hassle on your part, use a water timer or sprinkler timer for your lawn.

What to use in order to water the new seeds? That would depend on the size of your lawn. For small-seeded areas, a small spot sprinkler will suffice. However, use a quality rectangular sprinkler if you have a considerably large lawn.
How Much to Water clover Seeds

How long to water the seeds? Basically, water them for about 10 minutes per each session - one in the morning and another in the evening. This will provide enough moisture for the soil and the seeds to work with.

As your new  seeds begin to grow, you may now water deeper but do so with less frequency. This is to encourage the roots to extend deeper into the soil.

It usually takes between 7 and 14 days for the seeds to begin to grow. You should gradually increase watering sessions in the morning and at the same time decrease the session in the evening. You should only be sprinkling during 6:00 am to 10:00 am or anytime in the morning when the weather is still cool. This will provide the lawn with an inch of water per week and that includes the amount of water received from rainfall as well.

Growing clover seeds on your lawn is a good start for those who are looking into gardening or landscaping. This is because it teaches us, that consistent water schedule is the key, as is true with most garden care.

Interested in learning more and studying online to gain a certificate in horticultureCertificate III in Horticulture

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