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  • Writer's picturechris maranto

10 Things to Think About Before Laying Sod

Laying sod is one of the most immediately gratifying lawn care projects, as you can go from a barren wasteland to a lush yard in a weekend. Though it’s satisfying to see the immediate results, laying sod can be pricey and time-consuming, so making sure you’ve covered all your bases before committing to it is critical.

Below are 10 things to think about before laying sod that’ll help you determine if it’s right for you and ensure you end up with a lush, green yard again.

Sod or Seed

When it’s time to replace your grass, you have a few options: sod or seed. Each choice has its pros and cons, which we covered in our sod versus seed post. Some things to consider when choosing between sod and seed include:

  • Installation time

  • How long it takes for the grass to be ready for traffic

  • Weed control

  • Maintenance

  • Grass type

Harvest-to-Delivery Time

When a sod farm harvests and rolls the sod, it puts stress on the sod. When rolled, the sod will release nitrogen, which creates heat and can start killing the sod within 12 hours.

So, when shopping for sod, ask the sod farm when they plan to harvest your sod. The farm should say the night before or the morning of the delivery. If they give a vague answer or anything more than 12-24 hours before your scheduled delivery, you may want to find a different source.

Even if the sod farm claims to ship within 24 hours, inspect any sod before accepting the shipment. Check for any wilting or discoloring. If this is present, it’s a sign the sod was dying when the farm harvested it or sat for too long after harvesting. Reject the shipment and contact the sod farm for a replacement shipment.

Installation Time

As we mentioned above, your sod is dying from the moment the farm harvests and rolls it. This damage continues until the moment you unroll and install it. This means you must prepare a block of time to install the sod immediately after its delivery.

Because these deliveries can be a little late or weather issues could delay your work, build a little flexibility into your schedule. Instead of planning to lay your sod over the weekend, plan an extra day or two to allow for weather issues, delays, and other potential slowdowns.

Keep it Moist

Laying sod can be a long process, and we’ve already established that rolled-up sod can cause serious issues. The issues are amplified if it’s hot outside or the sod is in direct sunlight. You can help slow this process by periodically wetting the sod with a hose and covering it with a thin blanket.

This will cool off the sod and help slow its decomposition and discoloration, and keep the soil attached to the roots moist so it’s easier to unroll.

Grass Type

When ordering sod, the farm will likely only have species that grow in your local climate. However, some homeowners choose to import sod from other areas to save money or get a specific look. If you install this imported sod, you may end up with instant thatch, as the lower portion of the sod may almost immediately die, creating a layer of dead material. This thatch can cause your freshly installed sod to die.

Some examples of improper sod may include full-sun grass in shady areas, cool-season grass in the deep south, warm-season grass in the north, or non-drought-resistant sod in desert climates.

Even if you buy sod intended for your local climate, keep in mind that not all sod is created equal. You’ll want to consider the type of lawn you have, the amount of maintenance you want to put into it, and the cost when choosing a grass type.

If you just want to get out of the project with minimal cost, you can opt for bahiagrass or other inexpensive species. However, this may involve regular overseeding or sod replacement to keep it vibrant.

If you don’t mind spending a little more, you can get a higher-quality St. Augustine grass, zoysiagrass, or bermudagrass. These grasses cost more upfront but require little more than regular fertilization to keep them lush and green. They are also self-healing thanks to their horizontal-growing stolons that fill in bare spots.

Consider Sunlight

Grass needs three key things to thrive: nutrition, water, and sunlight. Take away any of those three, and your grass will struggle to grow and likely get overtaken by weeds or die.

The amount of sunlight your grass gets is easy to overlook, but it can make all your hard work meaningless if your grass dies due to too much shade.

Before ordering your sod, spend time monitoring the sunlight’s path throughout your yard. This will give you a good idea of where there are areas that are shady the majority of the day. In these areas, you want to maximize the available sunlight and install shade-tolerant grass.

Alternatively, you can convert a shady area into a decorative space with no grass, like a mulched sitting area or a water feature.

Measure With Care

If you’ve ever built a puzzle, you know how frustrating it can be to lose one or two pieces. Sure, those pieces are only a small fraction of the entire picture, but missing them will make you crazy after all that hard work.

The same goes for laying sod. The last thing you want is brand-new grass covering 95% of your yard and an unsightly brown patch standing out. Plus, you may struggle to find a sod farm willing to sell you just enough sod to cover that tiny patch.

This is why measuring your yard is so important. Once you complete your measurement, consider adding about 5-10% to account for trimming and other issues that may arise. It’s better to have too much sod than not enough.

Adjusting Landscaping and Pathways

When you’ve removed your old sod and are left with nothing but bare soil, this is the best time to adjust your landscaping, flowerbeds, and pathways. Plan for these adjustments ahead of time so you can make the adjustments when there’s no grass in your way.

Install, Test, and Adjust Your Irrigation System

Irrigation is critical to a healthy lawn, and the easiest way to install an irrigation system is when there’s no grass in your way. So, before starting your sod project, map out a new irrigation system. Once you’ve removed your old grass, install the new irrigation system.

You also want to test the system before installing the new sod. Allow your soil to dry a bit on the top, then turn on the irrigation system and set it to run through all zones. Watch the irrigation system as it goes through each zone and look check for dry sections of soil. If you find dry sections, adjust the sprinkler heads so the entire zone is wet.

Soil Preparation

Consider the pre-installation soil preparation too. There are several preparation steps to take before laying sod that ensure you’re satisfied with your work and boost your sod’s health.

The first preparatory step is grading your soil. This involves leveling the topsoil to remove any divots, holes or other defects. You also want to ensure your entire lawn slopes gently toward any drainage trenches to prevent fungi-attracting pools. Grading is intensive work, so you may want to consider hiring a professional for it.

The second preparatory step is to test and amend your soil. Stop by your local lawn and garden store and pick up a soil test kit that covers the three essential nutrients — nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus — and pH levels. Test your soil in several areas and adjust the pH or apply supplemental fertilizer as the test recommends.

The final preparatory step is laying a starter fertilizer. Starter fertilizer contains a balance of all three key nutrients to promote root growth. You can apply it directly to the topsoil so it’s close to the sod’s roots.

Ready, Set, Sod

Laying sod can be a pricey and time-consuming effort, but it’s also one of the most dramatic upgrades for your lawn. These 10 things to think about before laying sod will help in three ways:

  • Determine if laying sod is right for you

  • Streamline your installation

  • Ensure a satisfactory result

With these considerations accounted for, you’re ready to get started on your resodding project.

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