The foundation for a good lawn is a rich, deep, well-drained soil, retentive of moisture. There should be at least eight inches of good topsoil over any subsoil used or exposed in grading the lawn. As it is impossible to incorporate organic matter in the soil after the lawn is seeded, it is important that an abundance be added in the preparation. The best material is manure, so composted that all weed seeds have been killed without having its value destroyed by burning. From one to two pounds per square foot, or 20 to 40 tons per acre, should be used, but where this is impossible to secure, the turning under of green crops is the alternative. Crops suitable for this purpose are various clovers, vetch with rye, Canada field peas with oats, soy beans and cow peas, the latter having the additional value of crowding out many lawn weeds. A full discussion of green manuring appears in Farmers' Bulletin No. 1250 entitled "Green Manuring." Commercial fertilizers applied to soil-improvement crops often wonderfully stimulate their growth. From 500 pounds to 2 tons per acre of 1/8 to 1 pound for each 10 square feet of mixed fertilizer may be used depending on the condition of the soil. After the soil has been well enriched, it should be well prepared by deep plowing or spading and pulverizing and then permitted to settle for three or four weeks when the top 1 1/2 inches should be made into a very fine seedbed.
The grass to be used depends on the section of the country. Kentucky blue grass is probably the best lawn grass in the northeastern fourth of the country, farther south in shady places, in the Allegheny Mountains, in the Puget Sound Region, on the Pacific Coast and in many irrigated sections. In warmer and in sandy regions the bent grasses, including the creeping bent and Rhode Island bent are likely to succeed; farther south, the Bermuda grass is to be depended on; along the South Atlantic Coast and the Gulf of Mexico carpet grass and St. Augustine grass are best, while in the Mississippi Valley the mesquite grass, one of the bent grasses, is excellent.
Where Kentucky blue grass is used it is necessary to sow some other grass to give a temporary effect for about three years or until the blue grass becomes well established. Red top is usually used with the blue grass for this purpose either equal parts by weight or two parts blue grass to one of red top. The mixture should be sown at the rate of 100 pounds per acre, or one pound for every 400 square feet, and the bent grasses used in the same amounts. Red fescue is useful for shade and can be sown where the blue grass does not seem to give the required result, or it can be used in combination with it.
Seed is probably best sown in the fall, three months before the ground may be expected to freeze. This usually coincides with a period of liberal rains. Spring sowing should be done very early while the ground freezes at night but thaws during the day. The seed should be covered very lightly, and if the ground is dry it should be rolled after planting.
Bermuda grass, carpet grass, St. Augustine grass, mesquite grass and sometimes creeping bent grass are established by transplanting runners that have rooted at the joints. This is best done in the fall two months or more before the freezing weather. They will spread rapidly, often three feet in a single season under favorable conditions.
The cutting of the lawn should begin as soon as the lawn mower will clip the ends of the grass when it is set as high as possible and should follow at sufficiently frequent intervals to permit the clippings to remain on the grass. Short clippings left on the lawn will quickly work down to the surface of the ground where they will aid materially in maintaining good conditions for grass growth.
Applications of ground bone, fish scrap, tankage, cotton-seed meal or other highly nitrogenous fertilizer should be applied liberally each fall from 500 pounds to a ton per acre or 5 to 20 pounds to each 400 square feet according to the condition of the soil. Nitrate of soda or sulphate of ammonia may be used as a summer stimulant at the rate of 50 pounds per acre or 1 pound for 800 square feet at intervals of a month during the growing season either dissolved or when the soil is wet.