5 Key Steps to Laying Sod

Take advantage of the best time to lay sod and a healthy lawn will follow. Use these tips to properly prepare your lawn to lay sod efficiently.

woman cutting sod on grass
Photo: Carson Downing

Sod is a hefty investment, so it is critical to prepare the planting area and tend the turf with care. You can lay sod anytime during the growing season, although spring and early autumn are best—cool temperatures combined with occasional rain help sod quickly root. Follow these steps to do the job right the first time.

How to Properly Lay Sod

BHG / Michela Buttignol

How to Lay Down Sod

Every step in the process of laying sod is important to keep your lawn healthy and happy. Preparing for the sod before laying it down and caring for it after it's in place will help yield the longest-lasting results.

Step 1: Prepare the Soil

Remove twigs, stones, and other debris from the area to prepare the soil. Do a quick soil test to evaluate the area and its nutrient make-up. It's good to know what you're working with before you lay down the sod—you may want to amend the soil while you're at it. If your soil test indicates a low pH level, you'll need to add lime, dolomite limestone, or wood ashes to your soil. If your soil contains a high pH level, you'll need to amend it by adding horticultural sulfur, composted oak leaves, or pine needles.

Step 2: Fill with Top Soil

Break up soil clods that are larger than 2 inches in diameter. Fill low areas with good quality topsoil. If the soil is sandy or full of clay, work in organic matter. Take advantage of this opportunity to improve the soil; it's easy to add amendments when the soil is bare.

preparing dirt and grass with gardening rake
Carson Downing

Step 3: Smooth the Soil

Smooth the soil with a stiff garden rake. Be sure to distribute any bumps or piles of soil to create a flat area. Finish preparing the area by compacting it slightly with a lawn roller.

Step 4: Lay Sod

Lay sod on a cool, overcast day to minimize plant stress. If you lay sod in the heat of summer, moisten the surface of the planting area before putting down the turf. Stagger strips in a brick-like pattern, and be sure that all pieces fit tightly together. A utility knife or sharp spade is handy for cutting sod to fit irregular areas. Once the sod is in place, run the sod roller over it to eliminate air pockets.

woman watering green grass
Carson Downing

Step 5: Water Sod Daily

Water it immediately, then water daily (depending on rainfall), moistening the soil to a depth of 4 inches, until the sod takes root (in 2 to 3 weeks). Avoid mowing sod until it has firmly rooted. To find out if sod has rooted, gently tug at it. If you feel resistance, roots are anchored in the underlying soil.

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