Laying Sod for a New Lawn

Sod and sod installation

Sod is grass that has already been planted by seed on a farm and then harvested by slicing a very thin layer of topsoil and then either rolled of stacked and sent directly to the installation site. It should be installed as soon as possible. If you must hold the sod a few days before installing, store it in a single layer in a shaded spot. Moisten it often so it doesn't dry out.

Sod Delivery

Preparing for sod installation

The area to be sodded should be prepped by breaking up and loosening the soil. In fact, the soil should be prepared exactly the same as if you were going to plant grass seed. Using a rake, level the area and remove all debris. Note: To allow for the thickness of the sod, soil level should be 3/4" below curbs, walks, and drives. Grade the area so that contours ensure proper surface drainage away from buildings without low spots that could result in puddling.

Once the grade has been established, a soil sample should be taken and tested for nutrient deficiencies or improper pH levels. Now is the ideal time to correct the pH levels before laying the sod. However, it has been shown that fertilizers should NOT be applied before laying sod, or during the first month of growth. During this first 30 days there is very little root growth and it is more likely that fertilizers applied during this time will be washed away and into the watershed before it can be absorbed by the turfgrass. Better to wait 30 or more days before applying fertilizer. You can amend the soil with organic matter prior to laying the sod.

Using a rake, work the fertilizer into the soil. A complete fertilizer contains the three important grass food elements, nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium (potash). Fertilizers lacking any of these elements are not complete. Read the analysis on the package before purchasing. For example: 10-10-10 and 10-6-4 are complete fertilizers.

Laying sod tips

Should the weather be exceptionally hot and the soil dry, it is wise to moisten the soil slightly before laying the sod.

Laying Sod Pattern

When laying the sod, make sure that all edges are butted firmly together and the corners are flush. Overlapping edges will cause uneven turf and make rooting difficult. Lay the sod in a brick pattern to reduce seems. Avoid trying to stretch sections of sod to make better fits. As it dries out it is more likely to shrink leaving gaps. If there is a slope on the section being sodded, start at the bottom of the slope and work upwards and perpendicular to the slope. Steep slopes, the sod should be pegged to avoid sliding. Wooden stakes can be removed after the sod is rooted. You can also purchase biodegradable sod staples that do not have to be removed.

Start watering IMMEDIATELY after the sod is laid. For the first 7 - 10 days, keep a close eye on your turf. Give it just enough water to keep it from drying out. After that, apply an inch of water every 7 - 10 days.

To measure an inch, place a coffee can on the lawn in the path of the sprinkler. A good watering once per week is usually better for your lawn than light daily watering. Once your lawn is established it is generally better to water in the morning hours.

During the first two weeks sod requires daily watering. During warm weather, sod may need to be lightly watered during mid- and late afternoon hours when water use and evaporation is greatest. After 7 - 10 days, check for root development by firmly grasping the grass blades with both hands and lifting vertically. When the sod resists being lifted, usually in 10 - 14 days during optimum weather conditions, the frequency of irrigation should be reduced but the amount of water applied during each irrigation cycle should be increased. Schedule irrigation so the lawn becomes firm enough to mow between waterings.

By about the 10th day, allow the sod to dry out enough to mow it. Make sure your mower is in good mechanical condition with a sharp blade. Set your mower on the highest setting and mow the lawn very carefully. The frequency in which you will have to mow your lawn depends on weather conditions.

The following advice may be helpful: Mow the lawn before the clippings are longer than one inch. In the spring and fall, mowing may have to be done twice a week due to rapid growth. Mowing heights should be 2" — 2-1/2" in spring and fall and 2-1/2" — 3" during the summer months, this of course depends on the variety of grass.

Vigorously core cultivate the sod as soon as it has knitted to the soil (about 2 months). Core cultivation will remove cores of sod and soil and deposit them on the surface. Core cultivation should be done in the spring and fall every year.

Following initial fertilization, wait six weeks and fertilize again with a complete fertilizer. Repeat every 6 weeks for the remainder of the growing season. Next year, begin the cycle in late May or early June.

Weed and crabgrass control chemicals should not be used in the first year. The use of weed and crabgrass control chemicals should only be considered in extreme situations and then only as a spot treatment. It is better to tolerate the weeds during that first year rather than risk causing damage to the new sod.

A lawn sodded in the spring or summer will not survive drought conditions very well if these conditions occur during the first year. Extreme care should be taken should these conditions occur during that first year.

Is a sod lawn less work?

A professional sod-laid lawn needs no special care except for initial watering because it is a healthy, mature lawn when installed, whereas a sprigged or seeded lawn requires years of nurturing to reach maturity.

Sod is grown under expert supervision from top quality certified sod seed. After it's been installed, just water, mow and fertilize your sod lawn as needed and it will remain a healthy, green carpet of grass, requiring very little maintenance.

Sod Selection

Some things to consider when purchasing sod include thickness, soil type, weed content, and freshness. Sod is generally cut to a depth of 1/4" - 1/2", and properly harvested sod should contain surprisingly little soil. Thinner sod is easier to ship and handle and will also root faster. However, thin sod requires more frequent irrigation during establishment. Choose sod that contains soil similar to the soil found on the site. This will help avoid creating layers that could reduce rooting depth and water flow. Weed content is an obvious consideration. If possible, ask to see the area from where the sod will be harvested. This will also give some idea of the health of the sod. Finally, the sod should be fresh when it is delivered to the site and it should be laid within 24 hours after harvesting.