Case Study: Soil Preparation

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Case Study: Soil Preparation

Soil Structure Background

Soil is made up of a group of aggregate soil particles. It can range from a sandy dust to a dense clay chunk. Soil is basically made up of particles, air, and water. The ideal soil is going to have balanced particles, air, drainage, and moisture-holding. Another key component is a healthy level of microorganisms including bacteria, algae, fungi, and protozoa. The chart to the right features the USDA guidelines recommend for ideal soil make-up.


This case study is applicable to soil preparation for sod, organic soil preparation, lawn soil preparation, and soil preparation for planting just about anything. The area I prepared was a small strip in the middle of the driveway about 100 sq. ft. in size. There was a combination of roots, rocks, and poor, sandy soil to begin. In other words, it was completely unacceptable for planting anything.

Getting Started

The first step was removing all the roots and rocks from the soil. I used a shovel and axe to help me do this. Then I had to remove some of the native soil to make space for all the amendments I would mix in. A yard cart would have been helpful, but since I didn’t have one I simply spread it around some low spots elsewhere by hand.


I added quite a few amendments to the soil including some that aren’t completely necessary, but they were recommended by the Dirt Doctor (Howard Garrett). I included 2 bags of lava sand, 2 bags of green sand, 10 bags of cotton burr compost, 1/2 lbs. of corn gluten meal, 5 lbs. of dried  molasses, and 5 lbs. of a poultry-based organic fertilizer.


I did some of the mixing by hand with a shovel because the area was so small, but I did the final job using a Mantis Tiller. I let the process extend out over approximately two weeks to let all the new soil goodness settle in. As one of my landscaping friends puts it, “your giving a shot in the arm of about 100 years of soil development – there’s no hurry.” Then I used a lawn rake to level out the area flush with the driveway. After that, I watered everything in to solidify the base. In the next case study, I will show what I planted and how it turned out. For now, check out some pictures of the process along the way below:

Author Bio

Matt Morrison is a lawn expert, homeowner, and website hobbyist from Texas. He enjoys working on his own lawn and helping others make their lawn the best it can be. You can read more of his articles here.

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One comment

  1. I have St Augustine grass in my yard and for the first time in awhile it did not survive well over the winter. I have a variety of more weeds than ever before that I need to treat is my first problem. Secondly my dogs have destroyed a large portion of the grass in the backyard and it will reguire me to lay new sod. Please tell me the best way to prep prior to laying the new sod. Do I till up the yard? Do I remove all of the existing root structure of the dead St augustine or is it best to leave in case it comes back? What weed killers work best? What fertilizer do I use to prep the earth prior to laying the sod?

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