Whether you need to reseed a lawn or create a brand new lawn, sod is an excellent alternative over traditional seeding. Sod is an effective way to get a beautiful, lush lawn year-round and has several advantages over other methods.
Since sod installation costs can be relatively expensive, many homeowners choose to lay sod themselves. Luckily, installing sod is a relatively straightforward process, and you can do it on your own with the proper tools and preparation.
What Tools Will I Need to Lay Sod?
Here is a quick list of the tools you absolutely will need to install sod.
- Hand trowel
- Tape measure
- Soil rake
- Garden hose
- Lawn edger
- Box cutter or carpet knife
If you have done lawn work before, you most likely have the above tools. While not strictly necessary, a few more tools might make the process go more smoothly.
- Lawn roller
- Push broom
You are most likely familiar with the majority of these tools, except for a rototiller. Rototillers use turning blades to churn and break up soil. While you do not have to rototill before laying sod, rototilling is the best method to loosen up the soil so that your new sod will take root quickly. You can either buy or rent a rototiller from your local hardware or home & garden store.
In addition to these tools, you will also need fertilizer and likely some topsoil. Now that you know which tools you will need, let’s talk about the process of installing sod.
Sod Installation: Step-By-Step Guide
Measure Your Lawn
The first thing to do is to measure your lawn. You want to get the dimensions as accurate as you can to know how much sod you will need to lay down. The good thing about sod is that you can cut it to fit your lawn’s dimensions. Sod is usually measured in sq. ft. so you will want to estimate the square footage of your yard.
Prepare Your Yard
The first thing you need to do is prepare your yard for laying down sod. Take the rake and turn over the top 6”-8” of soul, making sure to not go too deep. Once the top layer of soil has been churned, spread a layer of compost or fertilizer approximately 2-3 inches deep. You can also add a little bit of sand or clay to improve drainage.
You can do this part with a rake, but a rototiller will make things go more smoothly. Like you would with a soil rake, use the rototiller to churn the top 6”-8” of soil.
Next, using the rake again, smooth out your lawn, making sure to break up and larger clumps of dirt and remove any rocks. The smoother and more even your lawn is, the easier the sod will lay down.
Lay Down the First Roll of Sod
Starting from the side, place the edge of the sod and start to roll it out. You will want to start with your yard’s longest edge and work your way to the shorter edges. Make sure that you do not step on the sod during this process, and make sure to smooth out any footprints you leave in the dirt. Gently pat the sod pallets down so they make contact with the soil, and there are no air pockets or lumps (you will do this more later).
Lay The Next Rolls of Sod
Now it’s time to lay down the other sod rolls. You will want to cut the remaining sod rolls in half so you can stagger the seams like you would when laying bricks. This will make the seams less noticeable at the end. Be very careful to make sure the rolls line up with each other without overlapping. You do not want to leave any gaps because the edges can dry out and it will look bad.
You also may want to consider cutting a few small patches of sod so you can use them to fill any gaps left over. Use the lawn edger to cut the sod and fit it around any curves or fixtures in the middle, such as walkways, plants, or trees. It helps if you lay down a hose around curves and use that as a guide for edging. If you plan to put in a sprinkler system, make sure you cut small holes for the sprinkler heads.
Fill in Seams
Next, take the broadhead broom and gently brush some extra soil across the seams. Make sure that you do not loosen up the turf edges or mess up the seams. Also, make sure you smooth out any wrinkles that brushing may cause. You can do this part by hand, but a broom will make it much easier.
Flatten the Sod
Once you have the rolls laid down and all the corners edge, you need to thoroughly press the sod so it makes firm contact with the soil. Starting with the first roll you laid down, work your way across, and firmly press the sod down into the dirt, taking care to remove any air pockets.
You can do this part with your hands, but it will be much easier if you use a lawn roller. Like a rototiller, you can rent a lawn roller from your local hardware store or home & garden outlet if you do not already own one. Make sure that you do not step on any sod that has been rolled.
Now that your sod has been laid and pressed, it’s time to give it its first watering. Sod will initially require thorough watering so the roots can take hold in the soil. You should try to water at least once per day for the first 1-2 weeks unless it rains that day. After the first week or two, reduce watering to about once every other day. Try to minimize foot traffic on your lawn during these first few weeks, as any excess traffic can create bumps and ridges.
Mowing and Maintenance
After about 2-3 weeks, you can mow the sod for the first time. Wait until the grass is about 3 inches tall, and do not cut it to less than 1-2 inches high. Remove any clippings from this mowing session. Sod already has thatch built-in, so you do not want the thatch layer to be too thick. Too much thatch can prevent your lawn from getting the sunshine and nutrients it needs.
After about four weeks post-installation, you can return to regular lawn maintenance. Reduce watering to about twice a week and apply a 1-inch layer of fertilizer. Now sit back, and enjoy your beautiful, green lawn! You deserve it after all that hard work!