How to Install Sod the Right Way
The Ultimate Guide to Laying Sod
Laying sod is the fast track to a beautiful lawn. Unlike planting grass seed from scratch, which requires waiting for it to grow, sod is pre-grown grass that you can put right into your yard.
That said, the prep work, installation, and maintenance of fresh sod can be substantial, especially if you’re doing it on your own. Fortunately, we’re here to walk you through the entire sod installation process and answer your questions.
- When is the Best Time to Lay Sod
- How Much Sod Do I Need?
- How to Prep for Sod?
- How to Install Sod?
- How Much to Water New Sod
- How Long Does It Take Sod to Root?
- How Long Before You Can Walk on Sod?
- When to Mow New Sod
- When to Fertilize New Sod
It’s best to lay sod during the spring or fall because temperatures are cooler, and there is typically more precipitation, which will help the sod take root and grow. Never lay sod in the middle of summer, especially if temperatures are consistently rising above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, as the scorching sun and lack of moisture could kill the grass. Obviously, winter is a bad time too because the cold weather will prevent any growth.
The first step in your sod project is figuring out how much you need. To do that, calculate your yard’s square footage by multiplying the length of your yard by its width.
One trick for doing this is the “Step Method.” On average, each human step is roughly 3 feet.
- Count how many steps it takes you to walk the entire length of your yard and multiply by 3.
- Count how many steps it takes you to walk the entire width of your yard and multiply by 3.
- Multiply the length by the width to calculate the square footage.
Now you know how many rolls of sod to buy, which are typically sold by the pallet. The size of sod rolls can vary by grower, so you’ll need to figure that out once you pick your supplier.
Prepping the ground is the most important step in laying sod. If you have an existing lawn, you must destroy it. Otherwise, if you place the fresh sod over existing grass, the old grass will decompose and kill the fresh sod from underneath.
First, use herbicide to kill off the old lawn. It will take up to two weeks for the herbicide to take full effect. Then, uproot the old lawn with a sod cutter. Once this is complete and you’ve removed any rocks or debris, get your soil professionally tested to determine if you need a soil supplement.
Most people add 2-4 inches of aerated topsoil and compost, and some will add fertilizer, or even lime. It really comes down to how healthy your soil is to begin with. You may choose to add soil supplements just to be on the safe side.
After you’ve added topsoil, you need to level the soil so that the sod has a flat place to connect with the ground. Lastly, water the soil shortly before installation to prep it for sod.
NOTE: When laying sod, timing is everything. Don’t buy fresh sod and then let it sit for several days. Remember, sod is live grass, so it needs to go back in the ground fast. Ideally, order your sod to arrive on installation day.
Installing sod has been compared to laying tiles or bricks in the sense that the first strip you lay determines how smoothly the entire project will go.
First, identify the longest straight patch of land in your yard and lay the first roll of sod there. Then, move inwards and lay the sod so that the joints are staggered. In other words, you never want a straight line of joints across your yard. You can cut the sod with a utility knife as needed.
When laying the sod, close any gaps between strips as any exposure is an invitation for weeds to infiltrate your lawn. Pinch the joints together to ensure a tight fit. Also, avoid making any footsteps in the soil. If you do, use a rake to smooth them out before laying sod.
When you have finished laying sod, pat down any air gaps. Some people will use a lawn roller to press the sod firmly against the ground.
You should water your sod immediately after laying it down for about an hour. After that, water it 2-3 times per day for roughly 15-20 minutes during week one. Then, gradually start to pull back in weeks two and three. For example, you could water once per day every day, or twice per day every other day.
Ultimately, the amount and frequency of watering will be a judgement call. If you notice gaps between your sod forming or any discoloration, this could mean you’re not watering enough.
While sod needs a generous amount of water to form initial roots, never overwater to the point that you have puddles in your yard. Do not water in the evening because the grass won’t have time to sufficiently dry and may attract lawn fungi.
Sod will take anywhere from 2-6 weeks to take root in the ground. Shallow roots form after roughly two weeks, while deeper roots will take about 6 weeks. Roots grow in search of water, which is why it’s important to gradually increase intervals between watering sessions to encourage the roots to grow deep toward groundwater. It’s like taking off the watering training wheels over time.
It takes about 2 weeks before you can safely walk on your newly sodded grass. Before then, avoid any foot traffic that might interfere with the roots taking hold.
You can start mowing your lawn once it has established shallow roots after about 14-21 days. Keep the mower blades on their highest setting and don’t cut more than one-third of the grass. You don’t want to put too much stress on the new lawn until it has established deep roots. Use a walk-behind mower only during these early stages, as the sod won’t be able to handle the weight of a riding mower.
Before applying fertilizer, wait around 6 weeks until the sod has had enough time to establish deep roots. At this point, we can start calling it grass. If you laid the sod in the early Fall, wait until spring to apply fertilizer, as the grass will go dormant during winter anyway.
Learn more in our Ultimate Fertilizer Guide.
Enjoy Your Beautiful Lawn
Laying sod may be a lot of work, but the result is worth it. You don’t have to wait an entire season looking at bare dirt waiting for grass seeds to grow. For a beautiful lawn you can use quickly, choose to lay sod.
Main | Watering | Aerating | Dethatching | Fertilizing | Mowing | Planting Grass Seed | Laying Sod | Prepping for Winter | Fixing Brown Spots