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What you need:
  • Soil test kit
  • String
  • Stakes
  • Line level
  • Compost
  • pH adjusters(lime, sulfur)
  • Lawn roller
  • Rake
  • Tiller

It's imperative that you know the makeup and the pH of your soil before you sow a new lawn. Performing a soil test will ensure that you know the right type and proper amounts of amendments to add.
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Next check the grade of the area. Ideally a lawn should have about a two percent grade away from the house. This will prevent water from draining toward the foundation. A pair of stakes, a long piece of string, and a line level can give you a rough idea of which way the slope runs. A transit level can be used if more exact data is needed or if you are grading a large area. It may be necessary to bring in additional topsoil in order to get the grade right.
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Spread at least 3" of compost over the entire planting area. The more organic material present in the soil the better. If you need to adjust the pH of the soil now is the time to do so. The ideal pH is around 6.5. Add lime to raise the pH and sulfur to lower it.
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All of the amendments need to be mixed in to a depth of 6"-8". Make several passes with a tiller in different directions. This will ensure proper mixing of all the amendments with the soil.
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Once the amendments have been thoroughly mixed in, use a landscape rake to smooth out the soil and fine-tune the grade.
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The last step is to tamp down the soil with a lawn roller. Make several passes with the roller in different directions until the soil is sufficiently packed down. The area is now ready to be seeded.