Soil on sod?


Hello, We live near Avenue Rd and Eglinton. Our backyard is south facing, clay soil, 14′ wide x 32′ deep, and well shaded by huge neighbouring maple trees, our 2-story shed (previous owners built it), and our slowly dying Mountain Ash Tree (we might remove it this year). Last summer we removed a kids climber and put down a layer of soil, then sod. The sod died, dried up by September (like hay dry), and now that section of the yard is just brown. Rest of yard is gardens & flag stones. My plan was to lay more soil and shade seed mixed with white clover seed – and keep my fingers crossed! (1) If I do that, can I just put soil & seed on TOP of the old sod or (2) do I have to remove the sod first? (3) Third question, am I better off doing something totally different and give up on grass seed and clover seed (I can return it to the store). If so, any examples of what to do?!?!?!? Picture attached. Turf is not an option, we’d like to keep it natural, we spend much effort planting for bees and butterfly and the fruits of our labour are the beautiful Monarchs that come and lay eggs every year – we have pics of their whole cycle! What fun it’s been! We have 11 & 12 year old kids and would also like to entertain adults in the backyard. Any insight would be much appreciated. Laura


Thank you for your question.  .

I would suggest you remove the sod and assess the soil.  If it  compacted  you might want to have it aerated.

Ideally, the best time to seed a lawn is the late summer or early autumn.  But as you will be seeding your lawn in the spring, the best time to start is when the soil can be worked.

Sounds like you have chosen an appropriate ready-made seed/soil/nutrient mix

We get questions similar to yours at this time of year and I have included a previous response.

  • Rake and aerate soil
  • Apply top soil/compost
  • Spread seed
  • Rake lightly again
  • Water well for 3 weeks till seed germinates
  • Mow – regularly at a height of 2-3 inches and leave clippings on lawn.

Continue to add top soil and seed to any bare areas. Note that the grass seed must be in contact with the soil in order to germinate which is why a second raking is recommended.  You may also want to tamp down the areas you have seeded to ensure good contact.  You can continue this practice till the summer temperatures are mostly over 80 degrees.  Follow the steps above when you over seed in the fall

If you want to consider an alternative to grass, below is a link to a Toronto Master Gardeners guide to Lawn Alternatives

In addition, this City of Guelph website gives a very good overview of the kinds of plants available as lawn substitutes based on a variety of factors including foot traffic resilience and soil type.  All choices are winter hardy in our part of the province:

Good luck with your Mountain Ash.  You might consider a good pruning and a consult with an arborist.

Here is a link to a website that has helpful information.  Please refer to the ‘Time of Seeding’ section.

Mar. 23/ 21