How to Lay Sod 

A lush green lawn is many homeowners’ dreams. Sadly, this dream can be difficult to achieve. The grass growing outside our homes can be moss or weed ridden. It may be uneven or threadbare. Sometimes it may only grow in patches. Fixing this issue can be difficult. Often your choice is between seeding a new lawn or learning how to lay sod. 

1 A lush green lawn can be the pride of your garden

A lush green lawn can be the pride of your garden. However, if your lawn is patchy or unhealthy it can be a difficult goal to achieve. One of the most effective ways to achieve a lush lawn is to learn how to lay sod. 

Seeding a lawn is incredibly time consuming. After preparing the base you need to wait for the seeds to germinate. During this period, which can take weeks, you can’t stand on the soil. You also need to protect the soil from birds and animals. 

Seeded lawns may grow patchily, requiring more work later on. They also require more watering while they are establishing themselves. In cooler areas seeds may be overtaken by weeds in the spring. 

In contrast if you choose to learn how to lay sod you will find that the process delivers near instant results.  A more expensive option, unlike seeded lawns gardeners in milder USDA zones can lay sod at any point during the year. In cooler climates you can lay turf from spring until fall. 

Learning how to lay sod correctly will take some time and effort. In return you will be able to create a dense, established, pest free lawn within a couple of weeks.

This guide will show you how to lay sod correctly. 

What You Need

The most important ingredient in learning how to lay sod is turf. This can be purchased from a turf farm or a garden center. The turf is usually a mixture of two or three different grasses. These are selected and blended depending on their texture, durability and color. 

Different types of grass are suited to different areas, soil bases and USDA zones. You will need to select a type that is suited to your growing conditions. You may also need a certain grass or mixture if your garden is in partial or full shade. Discuss this with your turf supplier. They are best placed to recommend a variety or combination to suit you and the local growing conditions. 

2 Turf is often cut at night for an early morning delivery
Turf is often cut at night for an early morning delivery. Aim to lay the turf as quickly as possible after taking delivery. This helps to prevent it from drying out and dying. Discussing your soil and growing conditions with your supplier will help you to identify the best turf for your garden. 

Before ordering, measure your yard. This enables you to work out how much turf you need. Sod is usually sold in square or rectangle shaped blocks. These are usually 1ft wide and 18 inches long. Rolls of turf are usually 60 inches long. However you should always check the measurements with your supplier before ordering. Remember to add a further 5% to the total. This gives you some extra turf if you need to cut around corners or fill tricky angles. 

The turf should be delivered within 24 hours of being cut. It should then be laid that day. 

Ideally this process will take two weekends. One weekend to prepare your soil and a second weekend to lay the sod. 

You will also need:

  • A sod cutter, this can be rented from a rental yard
  • A rototiller, again this can be rented from a rental yard
  • A sod-cutting knife, ideally with a 2 inch blade
  • A rake
  • Compost

Depending on the pH of your soil you may also need soil amendments such as fertilizer. 

Finally, you may also need someone to help you. While you can do this alone, it is easier with another set of helping hands. 

Preparing Your Base

The first step when learning how to lay sod is to prepare the soil. Turf likes to sit on a nutrient rich, well-aerated base. A soil pH between 6 and 7.5 is ideal. A soil testing kit will help you to reliably analyse your soil. You can then amend the soil before learning how to lay sod.  

If your garden already has turf down this needs to be removed. Some people like to cut the old turf as low as possible and lay fresh sod on top. However for a better finish I would recommend removing the old turf completely. This can be done with an application of a glyphosate chemical control such as Round Up. Spray the chemical onto the existing lawn will kill the grass. The dead grass can then be removed.  

A more natural way of killing the grass is solarisation. This method is also useful for clearing areas of weeds. 

Alternatively a tiller or a bedscaper can be used. This tills existing grass into the soil. A combination of chemical applications and tilling the dead grass will effectively clear your soil. 

The final approach is to dig out the old lawn with a shovel. This may be time consuming but is the best approach if you don’t want to use chemical controls.  

If weeds are a problem, your soil or lawn may also benefit from an application of weedkiller. Homemade weed killers are just as effective as commercial products. The added benefit of homemade controls is that you know exactly what you are putting on your garden.

Once removed run the rototiller over the soil. Aim to loosen the top 6-8 inches of the soil. 

Spread a 2 inch layer of homemade compost over the loose soil. If your soil is heave or claylike apply a 2-3 inch thick layer of sand. This will improve drainage, preventing your lawn from becoming boggy or waterlogged. Till in any amendments and fertilizer that your lawn requires. 

The amount of fertilizer you need to apply depends on the product you are using and the size of your lawn. Take the time to properly work out the amount before applying. 

3 One of the most important stages in learning how to lay sod is to properly prepare your base
One of the most important stages in learning how to lay sod is to properly prepare your base. As well as being enriched and weed free it should also be as level as possible. Rake mounds of soil down until they are flat. 

Once everything is applied, rake the soil. AIm to get it as level as possible. If the soil is next to a paved surface such as a path or drive the soil should sit 1 inch below the paved level. 

Lightly water the soil. You are aiming to dampen not soak the surface. 

How to Lay Sod

Begin by identifying your garden’s longest straight edge. This may be a line alongside a driveway, raised bed or a boundary fence

Unroll the first roll of sod along the straight line. Don’t stand on the sod whilst installing it. If you do stand on it, rake out any indents you accidentally make. 

Smooth loose areas down, patting away wrinkles and creases. When laid there should be no air pockets beneath the turf. 

Take the time to get the edging as neat as possible. A little extra time spent now will help your lawn to look great later on. 

Cut the next roll of turf in half. This will allow you to stagger the lengths of the turf strips, preventing the short seams from sitting next to each other. Staggering the edges makes dieback less likely. The effect is similar to the one achieved in bricklaying. 

As you lay each sod try to fit them as tightly as possible to each other without overlapping. 

Use the sharp knife to neatly trim the turf as you reach edges, such as paths. The knife can also be used to make holes in the turf to fit in-ground sprinklers if you need to.

Continue laying the turf until your soil is covered.  

If you are working to lay sod on a particularly hot day use a sprinkler to water one section while you lay the next. Turf is perishable and can quickly dry out. Using a sprinkler will help to keep the lawn hydrated.  

Aftercare

Correctly caring for freshly laid turf is just as important as learning how to lay sod properly. The most important thing is to thoroughly water the finished turf. For the first week water around an hour at least once a day. The morning is the best time, this allows the turf to remain hydrated during the day. On warmer days water a little bit more, moisture is lost more quickly in hot weather. Watering a little extra will enable the lawn to stay well hydrated. 

Bedding in a new lawn requires a lot of water. Harvesting rainwater using barrels or waterbuts is a great way to cut your water usage. The water gathered in the barrel can then be used to keep your plants and lawn well hydrated during dry spells. 

Don’t walk on the turf for at least a week. 

After the first week you can reduce watering to every other day. Slowly reduce watering, by the end of the third week you will be watering just twice a week. Continue to gradually reduce until you are watering just once a week. Lawns require about an inch of water a week, especially during hot dry periods. 

4 After a number of weeks of steady growth your grass will be at least 3 inches high
After a number of weeks of steady growth your grass will be at least 3 inches high. Use a walk-behind mower to cut it back to about 2 inches. Remember to collect the grass clippings as you go, these can be added to your compost heap. 

After about 4 weeks of steady growth apply a starter fertilizer. This replaces any nutrients washed away during the heavy watering. 

A soil probe can be used to monitor soil moisture levels. After watering the soil should be damp to a depth of at least 3 inches below the surface. 

Shady areas are more susceptible to disease than lawns that grow in full sun. This is because shady areas retain moisture for longer. To prevent disease, water particularly shady areas less frequently. Shady areas also require around 25% less fertilizer.  

Mow the grass when it reaches 3 inches in height. Cut it down by about an inch. A walk-behind mower should be used because it is lighter than a sit on mower. Heavy mowers can damage fragile lawns. Remember to collect the clippings as you mow, these can be placed on a compost heap

During the summer months allow the grass to grow a little higher. This will encourage the turf to develop a deep root system. Tall grass will also shade out weeds, helping to maintain your lawn’s healthy appearance. Should weeds appear a weed eater or an application of homemade weed killer will cure the problem. 

5 Learning how to lay sod is a labor intensive and possibly expensive processLearning how to lay sod is a labor intensive and possibly expensive process. However when done correctly your efforts will be rewarded with a lush green lawn that you can enjoy throughout the year. 

While this is an initially expensive option learning how to lay sod will allow you to quickly achieve the lawn of your dreams. 

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