Lay a Sod Lawn

Turfgrass sod is an attractive option when it's time to renovate a tired old lawn or put in a new one.

lawn with house in background

It's an instant fix and, when properly installed, sod grass eliminates problems with soil erosion, mud, and weeds. And you can lay it almost any time during the growing season. Professionally raised sod grass is sturdy and dense from the outset and is usually weed-free. You can find lawn sod in several of the most common grasses for your area. Although the initial cost of lawn sod is considerably more than grass seed—especially if you hire a contractor to lay it—seeding costs about the same in the long run with overseeding to keep the lawn dense.

Start your lawn from seed.

Prepare Your Lawn

manual aerator

Think of your lawn as a garden of grass. Before planting, prepare the soil as you would any garden bed. Add plenty of organic matter so the soil will retain moisture, yet drain well. Aerate it to encourage healthier soil filled with helpful microorganisms. Once the sod grass is planted, deep watering is essential—the water must penetrate 6 inches below the sod—to encourage roots to penetrate deeply as they knit the sod to the soil. Pay attention to the seams between pieces of sod and the edges along walks and drives, and water them carefully because they dry out quickly.

Figure out how much seed you'll need.

Choosing Sod

sample section of crabgrass & clover in lawn

Fresh, healthy sod grass is the key to a successful sod lawn. Because the grass in commercial sod is professionally grown in top-quality soil that receives regular fertilizing and watering, it is sturdy, dense, and weed-free.

An advantage to sodding is that it gives you an opportunity to introduce a new grass blend or mixture that's appropriate for your site. If it's an area that gets a lot of foot traffic, use a mixture that features tall fescue, which stands up best to wear and tear. Or if the area is primarily for display, a blend of Kentucky bluegrasses may look elegant.

Sod is available in many types of grass. If you're doing a patching job, try to find a sod with grass that resembles the color and texture of the grass surrounding the patch. When in doubt, compromise by choosing a mixture of grass types.

Sod grass should be newly harvested—ideally within a day before it's laid. Arrange for it to be delivered as soon as you've finished preparing the soil. The sod will arrive piled on pallets in rolled or folded strips, with the soil side exposed. The strips of sod are generally 1 to 2 feet wide and 4 to 10 feet long.

When you get your sod, roll it out to inspect it. The grass should be at least 2 inches long and of a uniform green color. The soil on the underside should be dark and moist, about 1 inch thick, and show a tight matrix of healthy roots.

Store the pallets in the shade. Keep the pieces of sod moist, and cover them to avoid drying out in case there's an unexpected delay.

Pick the right grass for your lawn.

When to Lay Sod

holding up edge of sod

For best results, lay sod in the spring or fall when there's likely to be more rainfall to help the lawn become established. However, you can patch bare spots in existing lawns any time of the year that the ground isn't frozen. Be prepared to water at least once a day during the hot summer months, especially if you first lay the sod grass during this time.

See the best time to lay sod in your area.

What You Need:

  • Shovel
  • Rake
  • Organic fertilizer
  • Fresh sod
  • Wheelbarrow/cart
  • Water
  • Kneeling board
  • Sturdy knife

Step 1: Dig and Rake Soil

Country Gardens/Radish

Establish a bed an inch below grade so the new lawn will be even with walkways. Dig organic material and slow-acting, granular fertilizer into the soil, then rake the bed smooth and level.

Step 2: Moisten Soil

composting watering

Store the sod in the shade; keep it rolled and moist until you're ready to use it. Bring one or two rolls of sod at a time to the site in a wheelbarrow or cart. Moisten the soil bed just before laying the sod.

Step 3: Lay Sod Base

unrolling and laying sod

Lay the first length of sod along a straight edge such as a sidewalk or exising length of sod. Unroll the grass strip gently, placing it snugly against the walk. Start the second roll of sod so its end neatly abuts the first.

Step 4: Lay Alternating Sod

staggered rows of sod

Lay subsequent rows so the end seams are never flush with those of adjacent rows. Coax the edges as close together as possible, but don't stretch them. Don't stand on newly planted sod; instead use a kneeling board to lay additional rows. Use a sturdy knife to cut sod to fit irregular spaces.

Step 5: Establish Sod

laying down sod

Tamp the sod, or gently use a roller, to establish good root contact with the soil. Fill any gaps with loose soil if needed. After tamping the sod, generously water the entire lawn to establish even more contact with the soil.

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