How to Lay Sod for a New Lawn
- Home & Garden
- Lawn Care
- How to Lay Sod for a New Lawn
By Lance Walheim, The National Gardening Association
Laying sod is a gratifying experience—you get a new, green lawn in no time! The time to lay sod is early morning before it gets too hot. The soil in the planting area should be moist, not soggy or dry. Water thoroughly one or two days before the sod is delivered so that the top several inches of soil are wetted. Then allow time for the soil to drain so that it’s not muddy and is workable.
1Fertilize the soil.
Before you begin laying the sod, apply fertilizer to the entire area after the final leveling. No need to rake the fertilizer into the soil — you lay the sod right on top of it.
2Make sure the sod is moist.
The sod should be cool and moist to the touch, but not dripping wet. Sprinkle the sod quickly to keep it cool, but don’t soak it. Then, as soon as you’ve laid down the sod, soak it with impunity. You can even start watering before all the sod is laid.
3Choose the right place for the first row of sod.
Start laying sod along a straight edge, such as next to a walk or driveway, so that everything starts off straight. If your lawn has an irregular shape, run a string across the center of the lawn area, with each end of the string attached to a stake. Lay sod on either side of the string.
4Unroll the first piece of sod.
To avoid roughing up the planting surface or the new sod, kneel on a board or piece of plywood as you work. Make sure that you place the edges of the sod tightly against any hard surfaces, such as cement edgings, walks, or driveways. Otherwise, you have empty gaps where the edges of the sod can dry out.
5Set the loose end of the second piece tightly against the end of the first piece and unroll it.
Handle the sod with care so that it doesn’t tear or fall apart as you move it.
6Cinch the edges as close as possible without overlapping or stretching the sod. Stagger the ends as if you’re laying brick
The edges of the sod are the first part to dry out.
7Level the planting surface with a rake as you go.
If part of the planting surface gets roughed up, level it with a steel rake. Otherwise, you’ll have a bumpy lawn. Occasionally, you may need to lift a piece of sod, rake level, and then replace the sod.
8When you come to the end of a row, roll the sod out over the edge and cut it to fit with a sharp knife.
If you have in-ground sprinklers, cut small holes in the sod to fit it around them.
9After you lay out all the sod, place soil in any open seams between pieces of sod.
Potting soil is ideal because it’s weedfree, or you can use organic matter such as peat moss. Don’t try to fill the spaces with small pieces of sod, which dry out too fast and are likely to die.
10Roll the sod with a water-filled roller.
To help level the sod and ensure good contact between roots and soil, you need to roll the sod. Use a roller that’s half full of water. Roll perpendicular to the length of the sod.
11Water the lawn thoroughly, applying enough to wet the soil 6 to 8 inches deep below the sod.
Probe the soil under the sod with a stiff wire to see how far the water penetrates. If you’re planting a really big lawn or if it’s hot or windy, you may need to use a hose to hand-sprinkle dry areas of the rolled out sod before you finish planting.
How to Lay Sod — Installing Sod Options
Whether your project is commercial or residential, using sod is often the quickest and easiest route to establishing a lawn. This is particularly true in areas where wind and potential soil erosion is a factor, because seed can be blown or washed away before it has a chance to become established in the ground. Sod allows you to kick start your lawn growth, because most of the work has already been done for you. However, whether you hired installation professionals or you’re tackling this task yourself, once the sod arrives, there’s a lot of work to be done. Here are steps for laying sod efficiently and effectively.
Before You Buy
- Do your homework. What kind of sod is recommended for your area? What kind will tolerate the climate and will still give you the look and texture that you want?
- Find a sod type that will be right for your level of yard care interest. If you want to putter in the yard every weekend then finicky grass that needs constant tending is for you. If you would rather only rev up the mower once a month or so, then a lower maintenance type of lawn is right for you. It is possible to have a low maintenance lawn that’s attractive; it is just a matter of proper research.
- Get suggestions from neighbors and from your county’s extension agency before buying sod. They will give you tips about what grows best in your area and what will struggle.
Prep Work is Key
The area to be sodded should be prepared at least two to three days before the sod is delivered.
- Level the ground using a rake. Remove any rocks or large stones. You may need to dig high patches out with a shovel. Your goal is ground that is as flat and even as possible.
- Water the ground so that it is moist. Your goal should be damp ground that is not soggy but also not dry. It should also be in this condition on the day of sod installation. Water deeply one to two days before your delivery.
- Fertilize the soil. You won’t need to do anything beyond spreading your fertilizer at this point.
The Day of Delivery
- You should be ready to get started on laying the sod early in the morning, especially in areas with extreme temperatures.
- Check that the sod is cool and moist to the touch. If you need to, sprinkle it with water to keep it cool, but do not allow it to become soaked.
- Your first row of sod should be placed along a straight edge wherever possible. For instance, along a sidewalk or against a building will be perfect. Make sure that you are getting the sod pieces as tightly against the edges as possible or it might dry out and the roots will die.
- The edge of the second piece of sod should be placed as closely as possible to the first without overlapping or crowding. You should not be stretching the sod in any way. Stagger the ends as if you were laying bricks and remember that it is the edges that dry out first.
- It is important that you level the ground as you go. Working on a board will keep the ground from being torn up but you still may need to use the backside of a rake to continually level. This prevents hills, bumps and other defects in the sod. If you need to do so, you can carefully peel back previously laid sod pieces so that you can smooth out the ground.
- Once you get to the end of a row, roll the sod out and over the edge and then cut off the excess with a very sharp knife. Be careful to cut and not just tear or you can damage the other areas of sod.
- If you have to lay sod around in-ground sprinklers, fountains or trees you can do so by cutting the proper sized holes for these items.
- Lay quality soil or other organic material in any gaps or seams in your sod. You cannot use leftover pieces of sod because they will dry out far too quickly. Potting soil or peat moss are both good choices for this process.
- Roll the entire area with a roller filled with water. Do not push down with the roller or you may damage the sod. The benefit of the roller is to ensure that the ground is leveled and to make sure there is good contact between the soil and the roots.
- Water the newly installed sod very deeply especially in dry areas or areas with no rain in the forecast for several days. The goal is to water so deeply that there is wet soil six to eight inches beneath the new sod. This will help the roots work their way into the soil and will also help them get the fertilizer that they need. Check the depth of the water beneath the ground using a stiff wire and check for several days or until the roots are established. In very hot climates, you may need to re-water the new sod for several days just to be sure that the roots are taking hold and are healthy and strong.
Depending on the climate and the type of sod as well as the condition of the soil, your new lawn should be healthy, green, and growing in as little as a few days. You should be carefully monitoring your grass for signs of struggle so that you can address it quickly. Once it is established, most types of sod are fairly hands off, only needing a quick mowing and maybe an occasional watering if there has been no rain.
How to Lay Sod | Tips & Video Guide — MyMyDIY
One of the easiest ways to have a luscious, green lawn is to lay sod. In the end, it will look like you spent a lot more than you really did. It’s perfect especially when the hotter weather rolls around, if you are planning to sell your home, or if you simply just want to update the outside of your home and have a more interesting and beautiful backyard.
Sod is also convenient in that it can be installed during any time of the year, including the colder months, if where you live has a milder winter. According to This Old House, lawns that have sod installed are actually resistant to things such as disease, pests, and weeds!
Some people have negative opinions of sod, which is why it is important that you follow all directions carefully when installing sod. Read on to find out what you need in order to lay sod, the instructions for how to lay sod, and finally, how much time it will take and how much it costs.
Before & After Example
If you want the DIY guide- check it out here. The only tools you need are a wheel barrel, shovel, metal rack, sod, water, and a hose.
A Quick Visual Guide
Here’s a quick overview of the process from Pinterest:
How To Lay Sod
The first thing you need to do before doing anything else is test your soil. Sod will thrive the best if the soil in your lawn has a pH of about 6 to 7.5. Gather samples from several places across the lawn with a soil test you obtained from your local extension office and send it in. Wait for the results, which will tell you what the soil is made up of and if any adjustments need to be made to it.
Then, you have to measure the area where you want to lay down the sod. Be sure that you purchase about five percent more than you need just in case you measured incorrectly or something else goes wrong. You can then either go to a sod farm or to your local gardening center in order to purchase the sod. You’re going to be asked several questions about your lawn so that you can receive the proper sod. Make sure that you plan accordingly so you can lay down the sod the same day the company delivers it.
Use a rototiller or whatever else you planned on using to tear up your lawn 6 to 8 inches deep. Till in fertilizer which fits the makeup of your lawn according to the results of the soil test you took. Then, rake the soil so that it’s one inch below your sidewalk or driveway. You should water the soil a day before you plan to lay down the sod so that the roots can sink in well.
Once you receive the sod, start by unrolling it evenly alongside something straight like your driveway. Make sure that you work in pieces, avoid walking on the sod, and avoid any air pockets.
Also make sure that there aren’t any overlaps between layers. If you have any places where the lawn curves, use a lawn edger or carpet knife to cut accordingly. If there are any smaller pieces of sod, lay those in the middle of the lawn. Roll the sod so that it can attach to the soil, and try to avoid walking on it too much for the first three weeks. You’re going to have to water the sod well for the first month, after which it will only need watering one inch per week. If you plan to mow the lawn, make sure it’s done at least ten days after you’ve laid down the sod.
What You Need
The first thing that you are going to need is time. The entire process will take a few weeks. You should plan an entire day dedicated to laying the sod itself.
Then, as far as materials go, you are going to need measuring tape so that you can measure your lawn, a rake, fertilizer, and the sod itself, according to Green Horizons. These are just the basics.
There are other things that you may want to purchase too, as the DIY Network site suggests, such as a rototill, trowel, hose, a lawn edger, and sprinklers. It ultimately depends on how much time you have and what your preferences are.
The 5 Best Sodding Tools
Cost of Laying Sod and Time Needed
Laying sod is unfortunately not the cheapest thing to do. The end result depends on how much sod you intend to lay down, because sod is priced according to square foot. Angie’s List states that sod can cost anywhere from around 30 to 45 cents per square foot.
And this is of course if you decide to lay sod yourself; hiring someone to do it is more expensive. Then, you are going to need to add in costs for the materials that you need.
You can rent a rototiller, for example, for around 80 dollars to use for the day. The fertilizer will cost somewhere around 20 dollars per bag. The other costs depend on what materials you want to use to prep the lawn.
Sod also requires a lot of time. It’s going to take about two weeks alone just to wait for the results of the soil test. The soil kit needs to be ordered from a local extension office and could cost around 15 to 20 dollars. Make sure that you plan accordingly because the makeup of your soil is going to be the basis for the rest of the process.
When you get the results, if there’s anything else you need to do in order to prepare the soil, make sure you do what is instructed of you by the company.
Then, when it’s time to purchase the sod, plan an entire day to have the sod shipped to you and to install it. Once it’s installed, you’re going to need to water it accordingly for four weeks; water every day during the first week (unless there’s rain), every other day the second week, twice during the third week, and then once the fourth week hits, water about an inch per week.
How to Lay Sod over Existing Lawn (Quick Guide 2019 Update)
The conditions in your lawn may not be good for your turf grass to flourish because they keep drying up and dying each time you plant grass seeds. Most people result to laying sod to give their lawn the beautiful and classic green look. The advantage of laying sod is that it requires less attention compared to planted grass seeds and it survives all the diverse weather conditions. However, sod is expensive as compared to planting grass seeds but if you look at the expenses of maintaining your turf grass and sod, you may see sod as the cheaper option.
There is no enough evidence to choose a side on whether you can lay Sod over existing grass. Some professional landscapers support saying it has worked before, and others discourage laying sod over existing grass, and they have evidence of the epic fails. The major secret to laying sod and being successful is for it to take roots and acquire as many nutrients as possible since sod has limited nutrients. It takes a few weeks for sod to take roots but if the roots are obstructed the sod lacks nutrients and dries up. There are few factors that can hinder your grass from growing.
A week before laying the sod, water your lawn and let the water settle in. Ensure that the lawn I even before laying sod.
When you are replacing a patch of dry sod, measure the area that you will replace and cut your new sod according to the area you have measured. Remove the dry sod and dig at least 2 inches or as much as you will be required to ensure that the new sod is on the same level as the rest of your lawn.
When you are unrolling the sod on your lawn you might leave some gaps between sod rolls; fill this space with soil. The sod takes several weeks for the roots to spread out then you can start fertilizing it after about seven weeks after laying it. Provide your sod with a conducive environment that will encourage roots to spread and regardless of whether you lay the sod over bare ground or grass it will flourish.
How to Lay Sod on Gravel | Home Guides
Laying sod over an area containing gravel is a good idea, especially in areas that receive high amounts of rainfall or are located in the path of water runoff. The gravel provides a natural drain for the excess water, allowing the roots to receive sufficient moisture and oxygen. While gravel alone is not a sufficient base to support sod, it provides a stable foundation upon which you can build layers of soil that will provide anchorage and nourishment to the growing blades of grass.
Remove any large rocks or debris from the surface of the gravel. Smooth the ground, evening out the gravel with a rake.
Spread a 5-inch layer of fill dirt over the gravel. Rake the fill dirt to smooth the surface as much as possible. Push a stick into the fill dirt in multiple random spots throughout the area to determine if the layer is even. Push a roller once over the fill dirt to compact it slightly.
Pour a 3-inch layer of topsoil on top of the fill dirt. Spread the topsoil evenly over the fill dirt with the rake. Smooth the surface of the topsoil. Check the evenness of the topsoil layer by testing it with the stick in the same manner as before. Push the roller over the topsoil once to compact it.
Attach a sprinkler head to the end of a garden hose. Position the sprinkler in the center of the prepared dirt so that the spray of water covers the entire area. Water the soil to a depth of 4 inches.
Lay the sod in the morning on an overcast day, within 24 hours of receiving the sod. Lay the sod soon after watering the soil so the ground will still be moist. Place the fresh sod rolls in the shade to keep them cool while you are working.
Rake the topsoil lightly to break up the top 1/2 inch of soil. Place a roll of sod in the corner of the area. Position the roll’s loose end parallel to the bottom edge of the area, with the left side of the sod roll against the left edge of the space. Unroll the sod, spreading it out in a straight line over the topsoil against the left edge of the area. Do not pull or stretch the sod while unrolling it.
Place a second roll of sod on the topsoil where the first sod roll ends. Fit the loose end of the second roll snugly against the end of the first roll. Do not overlap the ends of the sod. Line up the left side of the second roll with the left edge of the area. Unroll the second sod roll over the ground.
Continue to lay the sod along the left side of the area until you reach the end. Trim away any excess length from the last sod roll using a knife or trowel to cut straight across it.
Lay a second row of sod to the right of the first row. Position the edges of the sod so they sit firmly pressed against each other without overlapping. Alternate the shorter edges of the sod rolls in the second row with the shorter edges in the first row, similar to laying brick.
Continue to lay the sod rolls in parallel rows across the area, staggering the shorter edges with the edges from the previous row. Press the roots of the sod against the layer of topsoil by walking the roller over the sod, first in the lengthwise direction followed by a second pass in a crosswise pattern.
Set up the sprinkler over the sod so that the water spray reaches the entire area. Water the sod to a depth of 4 to 6 inches.
Keep the sod constantly moist for three days after installation. Reduce watering to 1 inch every two to three days until the sod becomes established. Pull on the edge of a roll of sod gently two to three weeks after installation to check its progress. If the sod resists the pressure and does not lift up, then the roots have expanded to the ground’s soil. Reduce watering after root establishment to 1 inch every seven days during regular periods of rainfall.
Things You Will Need
- Fill dirt
- Garden hose
- Knife or trowel
- Wear gloves while handling sod to protect your hands from scratches and scrapes.
- Do not mow your sod until it has firmly rooted. Clip only one-third of the grass’ length each time you mow.
How to Lay Sod Directly Over Grass | Home Guides
Rejuvenate your lawn and increase your property value by laying new sod.
Newly planted sod complements your landscape features, adds aesthetic appeal to your property and reduces lawn maintenance overall, as it has already undergone maintenance and care associated with seeding. Although installing new sod requires less care and maintenance procedures than seeding, the prep work required for laying it directly over grass is almost the same, as it must come in contact with freshly turned soil to take root. Ideally, you should lay new sod when the soil reaches a temperature of 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
Collect as much debris from your yard as possible, such as non-ornamental rocks, twigs and rubbish, and place it in a bin. Move all landscaping features away from the areas you will lay sod.
Pull as many weeds as possibly by hand. Apply an herbicide containing the active ingredients MCPP, dicamba or glyphosate to any remaining weeds.
Rake the yard thoroughly, collect all remaining debris and place it in the bin. Mark the area you will lay new sod with gardening paint. It’s ideal to start laying your new sod against a fixed surface, such as a sidewalk or a side of the house.
Till the soil to a depth of 6 inches with a mechanized tiller to break up the grass and its root system. Apply 10 pounds of 10-20-10 starter fertilizer per 1,000 square feet of tilled soil. Spread 1 inch of compost over the tilled soil and till to a depth of 4 inches to incorporate.
Position the tines of the heavy-duty tarmac rake next to a fixed surface of the lawn, such as a sidewalk or driveway. Rake the soil you will sod in a straight line from beginning to end of the marked area, increasing pressure on the rake as you approach the end of the row. The goal is to create a 2 percent slope in the sodded area to allow for water runoff. The ground should drop 1 foot every 50 feet to create a 2 percent slope.
Return to the starting point of the row, and rake again until the soil measures 1 inch below the level of the fixed surface. This allows the layer of sod to fit flush with the fixed surface.
Tamp down the area where the soil meets the fixed surfaces of the lawn with a hand tamper. Examine the yard for any depressions or holes, and fill them with soil as needed with a scoop shovel. Fill the lawn roller’s drum three-fourths full of water.
Position the yard roller where you began preparing the soil for the new sod. Run the lawn roller over the soil row by row, just as you prepped it, until uniform.
Water your lawn with 2 1/2 gallons of water per square foot, and allow the soil to settle for a week.
Moisten the soil lightly with a garden hose, and place the open end of the roll of sod where you started prepping the area. Unroll the sod down the row, starting a new roll as needed. Remove excess sod from the end of the row with the blade of a utility knife.
Unroll another roll of sod on the opposite side of the yard where you began, starting a new roll as needed and removing excess with a utility knife. Return to the side of the yard where you began.
Unroll another roll of sod down the row, this time cutting it 2 feet shorter to stagger the abutting layers. Finish laying the roll of sod, and return to the opposite side and repeat, cutting each abutting layer 2 feet shorter than the longer one next to it. Alternate between longer and shorter layers to create a brick-wall pattern.
Continue laying sod on opposite sides until it meets in the center of the yard. Fill in all seams with soil and tamp them down. If you have space in the center, cut sod lengthwise as needed to fill it in. If you notice unevenness in the height of the sod, place soil underneath the shorter layers to create uniformity in yard height.
Remove half of the water from the lawn roller, and go over the lawn again, row by row, to release air trapped underneath. Water the sod every day until it takes root in the soil.
Things You Will Need
- Gardening gloves
- Herbicide containing the active ingredients MCPP, dicamba or glyphosate
- Yard rake
- Gardening paint
- Mechanized tiller
- 10-20-10 fertilizer
- Heavy-duty tarmac rake
- Hand tamper
- Scoop shovel
- Lawn roller
- Garden hose
- Utility knife
- Wear gardening gloves when removing debris and pulling weeds from your lawn.
- Place the organic matter you collect from the yard when preparing it for sod in your compost pile.
- Adhere to the herbicide’s manufacturer’s instructions and safety precautions when applying herbicide.
- Check if your sod has taken root by gently tugging on it. If you feel resistance, the sod has taken root.
About the Author
A.J. Andrews’ work has appeared in Food and Wine, Fricote and «BBC Good Food.» He lives in Europe where he bakes with wild yeast, milks goats for cheese and prepares for the Court of Master Sommeliers level II exam. Andrews received formal training at Le Cordon Bleu.
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