Need a lawn in a hurry or tired of bare spots? Don’t feel like waiting for seeds to grow? If you don’t mind a little work, here’s how to lay sod that will thrive.
What You’ll Need
Lawn Sprinkler or Hose
Do a Soil Test
Doing a soil test is the best opportunity to get the nutrient level correct and optimize your chances for success. Your state’s university cooperative extension service can test your soil for around $20 or less. They will also help you decipher the results, figure out what to add before sodding, and advise the best time of year to sod in your region.
Prepare the Bed
Remove scraggly grass, weeds, rocks and sticks from the area. Loosen the soil to at least 4 inches deep. You can rent a small tiller at the garden center for this. Rake out the surface evenly, then smooth the area with a sod roller, which you can also rent. Don’t fill the roller with water (this makes it too heavy). Wet the prepared surface with a garden hose or sprinkler until moist (not soaked). If you’re patching areas, follow the same steps but add or remove topsoil as needed so the new sod will be level with the existing turf.
Measure the Area
Sod is sold in square or rectangular slabs about a foot wide by 18 inches long, or in rolls about 60 inches long. Prices vary depending on where you live, time of year and type of grass. You can buy it from sod farms or garden centers, though it’s typically fresher from farms because they don’t cut turf until it’s sold. Typically, each slab runs anywhere from 30 cents to $1 a square foot from sod farmers, or a few dollars per slab at garden centers plus delivery charges.
Time is Right
Because sod is perishable, you don’t want slabs that have been on pallets for days. Sod shouldn’t sit around in your yard for more than 24-36 hours before you get it down. Even in the shade, slabs start “cooking” the grass and microorganisms that naturally live in turf. Ideally do all the prep the day before, then lay the sod the next day.
Lay the Pieces
Start from the farthest part of the yard (as if you’re mopping the floor, you don’t want to walk all over it as you work). Place the first row, butting sections up against each other. Use a sod knife to cut from the green side if you need to trim. Stagger subsequent rows so won’t have one big seam (similar to laying brick). Use your sod roller after installation, then again once or twice over the next few days to ensure even contact of the sod to the prepared soil.
Keep sod moist, not sopping wet. Make sure water is getting to the roots by gently lifting a corner of sod to check the bare soil. Skip fertilizer for now (most sod has residual fertilizer in it and new fertilizer will leach through because there are no roots yet to take it up). Depending on the species, your sod with take ten days to three weeks to get rooted. After about a month, it’s fine to feed it. But avoid herbicides, which aren’t necessary.
Keep Off the Grass
Your newly sodded yard isn’t ready for action yet. Keep heavy traffic off for the first 45 to 60 days. Don’t mow until about the third or fourth week, but scale back watering before you mow to prevent the wheels from sinking in and gouging the surface.