How do I establish a lawn on rocky soil?

Asked July 29, 2014, 6:08 PM EDT

I used to live in the Utah foothills, where there is an abundance of small and large rocks and not much topsoil. During my years there, I established at least three lawns, but not very successfully. Eventually, someone recommended the following steps for establishing a lawn there: (1) Clear all the rocks as best you can. (2) Bring in several dump trucks full of "road base," and smooth it out to approximately four inches deep. (3) Roll it with a heavy roller, adding water to pack it down tightly. (4) Bring in topsoil, and smooth it out to a depth of four to six inches (not cheap). (5) Bury a sprinkler system. (6) Water, fertilize, and cut the lawn on a regular basis. He said that the road base serves two purposes: to hold the topsoil in place and keep it from washing away down through the rocks and to allow the water to drain down away from the topsoil so that it doesn't drown the lawn. I now live on top of a mountain in Pennsylvania, where the soil is very similar to what I had in Utah. Is the method I've described appropriate for establishing a lawn in such conditions, or can you recommend a better way?

Monroe County Pennsylvania lawns and turf dja horticulture

1 Response

While soils in some parts of Monroe County, Pennsylvania, may resemble the soil you had in Utah, significant differences likely exist. You should be able to establish a good turf lawn in your location by using measures that are less complex and less expensive than the method you describe. Remember that adequate soil is just one of the requirements for growing good turf. The variety of grass chosen, light, drainage, mowing practices, and moisture play important roles as well.

Before attempting to establish a lawn, check out a thorough and detailed source of information on all aspects of lawn care in Pennsylvania, such as the Penn State Extension online resource Home Lawns.

If you have additional questions, you can speak to a Penn State Master Gardener in your area. Details about getting information from a Monroe County Master Gardener are available at the Penn State Extension resource The Master Gardeners are in the building! Also, here is information for the Monroe County Penn State Extension office:

Monroe County Penn State Extension

Address: 724 Phillips Street, Suite 201, Stroudsburg, PA 18360-2224

Phone: 570-421-6430
Email: MonroeExt@psu.edu

Hours: Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.