Planting Sod

Sod is turf that is grown commercially, cut into strips, and lifted intact along with a thin layer of soil held together by runners, roots or netting. It can be used to plant an entire lawn or to repair bare spots in an established lawn.

One advantage of sod is that it can be installed in places where a seed lawn may be difficult to establish, such as a heavily trafficked area or a slope that erodes easily. Another advantage is that it usually does not take a great deal of care to establish.

In addition, a sod lawn looks finished immediately, and can be functional in as little as three weeks (versus two months to two years with other planting methods), although there should be some restraint on its use until its roots have knitted properly with the soil beneath.

The major drawbacks of a sod lawn are the initial cost and labor, which are substantial compared with those of a seed lawn. Another disadvantage of sod is that its soil may not bond well with the soil in your yard.

The following basics will give you more information on using sod to patch rough spots. For complete instructions on installing a sod lawn, please see our step-by-step project on How To Install A Sod Lawn.

Buying sod

Both cool-season and warm-season grasses are sold as sod, although many more cool-season grasses are available in this form. If the sod is made up of a mixture of grasses, it usually includes both shade-tolerant and sun-loving types to allow leeway in planting.

The following are some tips to help you buy sod for your lawn:
  • Select a high-quality, healthy grass that is well adapted to your area and site. Some states have a sod certification program to ensure that sod is labeled correctly and is relatively free of insects, weeds, and diseases.
  • Sod that has been grown at a farm near you usually has a better chance of thriving, since it is accustomed to an environment similar to yours.
  • High-quality sod will be uniformly green and evenly thick from one end to the other. The grass blades should be dense and mowed to a uniform length. The edges should be cleanly cut so that they will fit evenly together.
  • Do not buy any sod that has poor color or yellowing areas. These may signal that the sod is not the freshest.
  • Sod should be planted within 24 hours of harvesting.
  • Buy from a reputable supplier who will accept the return of inferior sod.
  • The thickness of sod varies, but in general the layer of soil beneath the grass blades should measure 1/2 to 1 inch thick.
  • If the sod you purchase contains netting, make sure that the soil is completely level when you plant it. This will help prevent high spots from wearing thin and exposing the netting.

Order sod about one week before the planting date. This allows the grower time to schedule cutting, or the local nursery time to order the sod from its supplier.

It is not difficult to estimate the amount of sod to buy. Simply measure your lawn and calculate its square footage . The nursery or sod grower also can calculate how many rolls of sod you need. Buy that amount, plus 5 to 10 percent more to be sure you have enough.

Installing sod

Whereas timing is critical in seeding a lawn, a sod lawn can be installed at almost any time of the year as long as weather permits and water is available. Ideal times to install sod are in late summer, early fall, and early spring for cool-season grasses; late spring and early summer for warm- season grasses.

To patch bare spots in your lawn, first rake away the dead or dying grass. Next, moisten the soil and work it with a garden rake. Lay the sod over the area, and cut the edges to fit into the spot you wish to patch.

For sod installation instructions and advice, see our step-by-step project for How to Install a Sod Lawn.

Watering sod

Newly laid sod should be kept constantly moist so it doesn’t dry out. You need to water enough so that the sod and the soil underneath are moist. Once the lawn begins to knit with the soil, you can begin to approach a normal watering schedule.

An inch of water over the area is usually sufficient to wet the soil and the sod.

After 10 to 14 days of conscientious watering, the sod should have knitted to the soil below. Signs of this are growing grass and firm resistance when you tug at a corner of the lawn. Once the sod has taken hold, you may begin to reduce the watering time.

Fertilizing sod

To help new sod establish, you should make a fertilizer. It contains a high concentrate of phosphorous to help establish strong roots.

Approximately eight weeks later, you should make another application of fertilizer to your lawn.

Be ready to install sod by the time it’s delivered. In hot weather, sod shouldn’t stay rolled or stacked for more than one day. In cool weather, it can stay healthy for two to three days.