The dirt on Sandy Loam

Author: Stefan Palm   Date Posted: 15 January 2020 

What type of top soil is the right type when it comes to preparing your area for turf? - it's a question that everyone will ask themselves when undertaking a landscape project.

Good soil preparation when preparing to install an instant lawn as it will provide the foundation your lawn needs to become the hard wearing, drought tolerant surface that you’re looking for. When it comes to giving advice about soil preparation,  we get lots of questions on this like; How do I know if my soil is good enough to lay turf on and if not, how much and what sort of topsoil should I bring in?

South Australia has a very diverse mix of naturally occurring soil types ranging from coarse sands to heavy clays. I once owned a property that had naturally occurring deep, white sand in the front yard and hard setting silty clay in the back yard. Because of this diversity, it’s hard to come up with a “one size fits all” approach to preparing your soil for lawn however there is an underlying principle that applies to all circumstances. Lawns grow best when they have at least 100mm of good quality top soil under them. 

There are often times when the existing soil on your property is perfectly fine to lay turf on. It's worthwhile investing some time understanding how good or not you soil is because it may save you a lot of time and money replacing what doesnt need to be replaced. If you would like to get an opinion on your soil, bring a sample down to us at our store at Hove and we'll let you know what (if anything) needs to be done.

I often say to customers that there are 2 soil characteristics that lawns don’t particularly like. Those are;

  • Soils that set hard
  • Soils that repel water (non-wetting soils).

Both of these characteristics limit the lawns ability to develop deep roots and they both have implications on how able the soil is to accept and drain water. If you have either of these 2 problems within the soil on your property, you’ll need to replace some of your existing soil with some fresh topsoil. When it comes to topsoil for lawns, most people recommend sandy loam.

Sandy loam is just as the name suggests – a mixture of sand and loam. The percentage of each of these can vary but the most common mix is 80% sand and 20% loam. Some landscape yards mix in compost and manures and others just supply straight sandy loam.  Lots of people have an opinion on which type of sandy loam is the best so the best way to advise you is tol tell you what we do and what works for us.  Our turf is grown down in Langhorne creek, south of Adelaide. It grows on a soil made up of nearly 80% sand, the rest being silt, loam and clay and I can say that the turf loves it. Being primarily sandy in nature, it doesn’t hold water for long periods of time but it does allow the roots of the lawn to grow down deep which is what you want. In this way, sandy loam is ideal and the correct soil to use when preparing an area for turf.

If you would like your soil to hold more water, there are options. You can buy sandy loam products with added composts and manures which are helpful when establishing a lawn. These additives help to temporarily hold water and nutrients in the soil which in turn help the turf establish faster, with less stress. 

You’ll have success with which ever of these types of sandy loam you use however I can say that as with most things in life, you generally get what you pay for. Some of the cheaper Sandy Loam products can set hard and can be non wetting which are ironically the two things you are trying to avoid when preparing soil for a new lawn so make sure you ask the landscape supply yard some questions around these sorts of things.

Now that you know what to use, click here to read some handy tips and advice on the process of preparing your soil ready for instant turf. If you find that you have some questions that we don't cover, give us a call on 08 8298 0555 or send and email to me at

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