Gardener Laying Sod For New Lawn

Your Guide to Laying Sod

Nothing is better for a lawn party or a nice home than a beautiful lawn. In fact, well-manicured lawns are often the envy of neighborhoods and friends. Unfortunately, the reality of that beautiful, lush grass is that it comes with the hefty price of work. Droughts and heat leave us with no choice, however, then to seek better measures to keep our lawns alive, and one of them is sod.

The temptation, when considering getting sod for your lawn, is to simply place it over your existing grass. After all, if your grass is already crunchy or yellow or decomposing or simply non-existent, wouldn’t it be easy just to put the sod on top and let nature do its job?

Unfortunately, no. Sod isn’t an instant cure – it requires preparation, and one of them is removing old grass before installing sod. The reason for this is that sod isn’t just a mat of fake grass. Sod is made of living grass stems, which have roots, and the roots cannot keep the sod alive without both nutrients and water. You could put sod on top of your existing grass, but the roots of the sod wouldn’t touch the soil, and the sod would wither from lack of access to nutrients and moisture. In the meantime, the remaining grass underneath wouldn’t just crumble away – it would get soggy and mold, inviting bugs to come and infest your lawn. By the time you pull up the dead sod, your entire yard would be ruined, and you’d have an infestation on your hands in addition to having to purchase more sod.

To work, the sod must be flushed up against the soil so it can put out roots into the ready ground and gather nutrients and moisture without having to compete for the things it needs to stay alive. But that wouldn’t be the only problem you’d have if you lay sod over existing grass. If you laid sod over your existing grass, you’d create an uneven field. This is because you will be unable to lay the sod down flat, resulting in hidden pockets of air underneath the sod but above the grass. This would result in drainage problems, as these abscesses would fill with water every time it rains and contribute to killing your struggling lawn. And even if you could get the sod to lie flat, it wouldn’t sit well over small areas of compacted dirt that naturally contour your lawn – that is, you’d have a bunch of invisible hills and valleys in your yard that you wouldn’t notice until you’d rolled at least one ankle. This dangerous endeavor will only cause more problems at night, when you can’t see well, or when kids run across it. The last thing you want is to have to pay for pricy dental care or surgery right after redoing your lawn with expensive sod.

To avoid all these problems (and finish as fast as possible so you can enjoy your afternoon and dinner) we’ve put together that is both as simple and as fast as we can possibly make it while hitting all the important points.

The Process of Laying Sod

Step 1

Prepare for irrigation and drainage. This is easily done for small areas you can water with a sprinkler head or by hand, but if it’s a larger end, you’ll probably need to invest in a sprinkler system. And since you’re dealing with water, it would be best to make sure the lawn can drain properly, particularly if you live in an area that floods often or experiences thunderstorms or hurricanes.

Step 2

Prepare the soil. It’s recommended it do it sometime the month before the planned installation of the sod, or even the ordering. You prepare the soil by removing any existing grass in the area you wish to cover with sod, and remove any weeds by pulling them up by the roots (this is to ensure the weed does not grow back). You can remove the grass using a sod cutter, or you could use a chemical weedkiller (be careful with this option and wait the appropriate time between treating your existing lawn and putting down sod). Within two weeks of your expected delivery of sod, you will want to further prep the soil by applying a three-inch layer of compost and till down to six inches, raking when you’re finished to form a flat surface. Rain can wipe this out so do it as close to the planned installation as you can. 

Step 3

Make sure you choose the right type of grass that matches the type you already have. You can skip this step if you’re planning to redo the entire lawn, but most people are looking at sections. Another problem that can come up if you choose to do a different type of grass is if you live in a residential area that has an HOA (Home Owners Association) group which regulates the types of grass you can use to maintain a uniform look in the neighborhood. Failing to follow the regulations can result in unwarranted fees or trouble with landlords and neighbors, so it’s best to check. Many apps and even the internet offer easy ways to identify the type of grass you have, but if you’re not sure, you can call in a professional or bring a sample to us.

Step 4

Order your sod. Make sure to calculate the area of your yard beforehand, and order the sod about two weeks before you actually want it installed to allow time for processing. Keep in mind the sod comes in both slabs and rolls. Slabs are better for replacing small areas, while rolls are easier to work with and result in less edges and a more uniform look in larger areas. 

Step 5

Lay down your sod. Be sure to heavily water your dirt before, and water the sod heavily after installation to promote root growth and reduce stress on the new grass. Be sure to cut out holes for sprinkler heads or utility boxes. 

Sod Questions?

Many people ask if it’s possible to lay sod down next to existing grass, and the answer is yes. You would remove the previous grass and follow the instructions for steps 2-5, with some slight changes. In this case, you would cut a bit into the healthy grass to make the patch for your sod, and do your best to make the edges uniform in a square to easier placement of the sod. Then lay the sod down as normal and water.

We can easily answer any questions you have, whether it be about placement or preparing for your new sod. Give us a call and we can help you individually customize your sod to better fit your lawn and aesthetics.

Happy planting!

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