How to Lay Sod Properly? Do it Yourself!

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It’s that moment when your grass turns mushy and brown. You want a change.

But growing grass from seeds feels like way too much work.

What can you do in that case?

Easy – you learn how to lay sod…

Sod is pretty much grass that has been dug up. It comes with roots and everything.

You can use sod to revamp your lawn COMPLETELY. No space will be left without a gorgeous turf.
And while the process is easy, you may need some help figuring out what to do (and what NOT to).

Here, we want to show you how to lay sod by yourself in just a few steps. Take a look!

Factors to Consider Before Laying Sod

Factors to Consider Before Laying Sod

We’re going to teach you the ins and outs of the process. And for that, we need to go over the essentials.

Here are some of the critical things to consider:

The Lawn Soil’s pH

Grasses aren’t any-soil-works plants. They have specific needs – just like any other species.

For grasses, you need to ensure levels between 6.0 and 7.0 pH.

So, you must test the soil’s pH before sodding. Then, you can decide whether to adjust before planting the sod or just straight-up laying it.

IN SHORT: Don’t plant any new sod until you know the soil has the ideal pH. Otherwise, the grass could struggle.

Get the Ideal Sod

Sod is grass. And grasses are many, of different species and types. Some of them work in warm areas in the south, while others prefer cold environments from the north.

Either way is critical to know which one is better for you before choosing. Here’s a list to consider:

  1. Bahia (warm)
  2. Bermuda (warm)
  3. Centipede (warm)
  4. Fine Fescue (cool)
  5. Kentucky Bluegrass (cool)
  6. Ryegrass (cool)
  7. St. Augustine (warm)
  8. Tall Fescue (cool)
  9. Zoysia (cool)

A general rule is to ask local gardeners and experts before buying any new sod. This will save you a lot of frustration in the short and long term.

GREAT TIP: Some lawns can handle human traffic, while others prefer to be left alone. Be sure to consider that as well.

Prepare for Quick Work

While grass is often resistant and can handle several days or even weeks without water – it’s not the same with sod.

Sod will perish quickly if you let it hanging for too long. In most cases, you will need to plant it RIGHT AWAY.

You need to lay it down as soon as it arrives home if you want to prevent issues like:

  1. Decomposition
  2. Dried roots
  3. Loss of shape
  4. Overheated grass that dies

In warm environments, sods last up to 36 hours outside. This extends to 72 hours in cold places.

But it’s best not to test how much the sod will last before being laid. You better install it ASAP.

CONSIDER THIS: Preparing the area before the sod arrives at home will make it easier to install the sod right away (without any watering or conditioning).

How to Lay Sod: Step-by-Step DIY Guide

With the basics out of the way, let’s teach you our ways.

Follow these steps if you want to lay sod properly:

Step 1. Remove the Old Grass

Remove the Old Grass

The obvious thing to do.

We recommend removing the entire lawn before your new sod arrives. Preferably remove it within 48 hours of the arrival so the soil doesn’t dry up while waiting (and you can prepare it).

Follow these tips to remove old grass:

  • Hire a sod cutter (REALLY)
  • Use a sod cutter with a long blade (to cut the roots)
  • Loosen the soil with water beforehand
  • Dig up at least 2 inches
  • Remove all the old roots

You will be left with all the strips and broken up topsoil with grass. It may be helpful in compost piles, so don’t discard it right away.

WORTH KNOWING: Most grasses are tough to remove, especially in large lawns. If you can hire a sod cutter or grass-removing professional, you’ll be saving a lot of time and effort.

Step 2. Measure the Area to Sod

Now you can proceed to measure the place where you’re laying the sod… AS PRECISELY AS YOU CAN!

Most people’s struggles when laying new sod come not from their inability to plant it but from either ordering too little or too much.

You can prevent that by making the most accurate measurements possible.

How’s that? Follow a simple formula: measure the length, then measure the width.

Multiply them, and you’ll get how many square feet of sod you’ll need.

IMPORTANT: Consider buildings, structures, walls, fences, drives, walks, and other things that could affect the size.

Step 3. Purchase the New Sod

Call the closest garden center or landscape shop. Ask them for sod types and extra advice on what works.

They SHOULD tell you EVERYTHING about what sod works better in the area, including its watering, sunlight, and fertilizing needs.

Ask as many questions as you have to cover all your doubts. Then you can proceed to purchase the amount of sod you need (according to the measurements you took).

The supplier will tell you when they can deliver it. Be aware they should deliver the sod within the first 24 hours of cutting it. Otherwise, find another supplier.

ADVICE: If you want to avoid issues, order about 5% more sod than the area you measured. This will help you cover small areas like curves, corners, etc.

Step 4. Prepare the Soil

Prepare the Soil

With the old grass out of the way and the new sod coming home, it’s time to prepare the soil.

You should have the soil ready within 24 hours from the arrival of the new soil. Waiting longer than that may dry up the soil or let other plants grow, which could make it harder for the sod to adapt.

Follow these tips for the preparation:

  • Loosen up about 6 inches of soil with a rototiller
  • Remove rocks and other debris
  • Get rid of organic matter like roots
  • Pour manure and topsoil in place
  • Level the soil and let it rest for a few hours
  • Soak the soil with a hose to finish

Once you’ve finished preparing the soil, it should look flat and level with the driveway, sidewalk, or any floor around. That means it’s ready to be sodded.

Step 5. Lay the Borders First

The sod you ordered will most likely arrive at home in squares or rectangles.

This makes it easier to lay it down in the place, as you can start laying down the soil in straight lines at the site’s edges.

It is essential to lay down things, so you don’t have to make too many fixes later on.

You can skip rounded areas (curves, corners, and the like) and focus on the straight ones. This will save you time and give more structure to the new sod.

Step 6. Lay the Rest of Sod

Keep laying the sod. For the rest (mainly the interior), you need to be a bit careful not to leave holes or gaps between pieces of sod.

As a recommendation, flatten out every portion of sod by hand. Cut angles and portions that are overlapping with a knife.

Try to make everything as flat and leveled as possible, so the grass looks neat. This also includes making seams invisible.

Finish by cutting holes for sprinklers and other small things you may have (like lights or trees). Then lay the sod over.

Step 7. Tidy Up Everything

Tidy Up Everything

You tried your best to install the sod as PERFECTLY as possible. But there are still a few things here and there that need fixing.

Consider these tips for the tidying up:

  • Fold the excess sod and cut it with a knife
  • Cut corners and curves as well (use hoses as a guide)
  • Add topsoil or any similar mix within gaps and unfilled seams
  • Use a lawn roller (preferably) or similar device to flatten up the newly laid sod.

This should tidy up the place – your new lawn will be looking fantastic.

Step 8. Water the New Sod

Water the New Sod

Your new sod is installed, and you can start enjoying its beauty.

But this is not enough – you need to help the roots settle so the grass can start growing as soon as possible.

For that, nothing will help you like watering EVERY DAY. At least 1 inch of water per week is necessary for the newly sodded grass to get accustomed to the new place and grow.

Follow this process for better watering:

  • Start by watering every day for a couple of minutes (the first week)
  • Water once every two days but for a few minutes (the second week)
  • Don’t water more than twice for several minutes (the third week)
  • Keep the same process for the first 6 weeks, then water as you deem necessary

Your grass should start growing like normal after the 6th week. When that happens, the watering will depend mainly on the environment.

For example, once a day in warm and dry places and twice a week for colder and more humid areas.

Final Step. Let it Grow

Now it’s just time to let it grow.

Your grass will start rooting deeply and producing new seedlings. It will begin to cover more space, and sooner than later, you’ll have to mow it off.

But it’s important to leave it ALONE.

Watering should be the ONLY THING you do to help. Avoid foot traffic and unnecessary stress in this period.

You should let it grow freely for up to 12 weeks. Sooner than later, your grass will be between 3 and 9 inches long. That means your grass is healthy, and you can stop worrying.

This also means you’ve successfully laid new sod on your lawn.

How to Take Care of Newly Laid Sod?

While the steps above will get you 75% of the way, it won’t be all you need to do.

Newly laid sod also requires general care to keep growing. This includes:

#1. Keeping it Under the Sun (AT ALL TIMES)

New turfs need consistent sunlight to thrive.

Otherwise, they will slowly fade away and DIE.

Well, it’s not exactly like that. The grass may last a bit more and maybe even thrive with shade.

But if you want the most vibrant green and healthiest-looking grass in your neighborhood, it’s essential to keep it under the sun.

The first few weeks (1st to 6th week) will be essential – so you should ensure as much sunlight as possible.

#2. Overseeding Shady Spots

Some spots in the newly sodded lawn may turn shady. That means no grass will grow there (or it will struggle) because no sun hits the place.

The best thing you can do to fix that is to seed new grass. There’s no alternative.

Seeding new grass will make it possible for new strands to grow and cover the space regardless of how much sun hits. Just make sure you’re using the right type of grass than the sod (or you may cause a bit of trouble).

#3. Fertilizing Consistently

Fertilizing Consistently

Grass won’t bear fruits or produce vegetables, but you still need to fertilize it. Like any other plant, grass thrives when it has enough nutrients to feed on.

For that, we recommend using nitrogen-rich lawn fertilizers. This will keep the grass growing for long and avoid any issue (like unbalanced pH from irregular fertilizers).

You should fertilize as soon as the grass is sodded. Then pour some more after 3 weeks of growth. Fertilize a last time after the 6th week.

Don’t forget to fertilize going forward. This should be at least once every 3 months. You can step up this to once every 2 months if your lawn soil is not too rich.

#4. Mowing When It’s Too Tall

 Mowing When It’s Too Tall

You will need to mow the grass sooner or later. It’s the way to go.

But the first mowing should happen as the grass reaches AT LEAST 3 inches high. Mowing before could cause a bit of trouble, as it’s probably not entirely settled by then.

The focus of mowing is to prevent weeds and other unwanted vegetation from growing in the place.

This also encourages further growth and strengthens the grassroots.

#5. Weeding Out

It’s not a secret that one of the main enemies of a beautiful lawn is the weed.

Weeds are immensely problematic, and not only because they look awful. They also cause all kinds of issues, like overgrowing the grass (killing it) and sometimes even bringing pests that may cause further damage.

To avoid that, use homemade weed killers and prevent weeds from growing by watering well, mowing, fertilizing, and NOT LETTING SMALL WEEDS GROW. Rip them off the soil as soon as you see them.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1. How much does laying sod cost?

It depends on whether you hire professionals for the job or do it yourself.

Cost of DIY sod laying: up to $500.

Cost of hiring an expert sod layer: anywhere from $500 to $5,000 depending on lawn size.

Q2. Can you lay sod over existing grass?

Yes. This is commonly done when the old grass is already fading out and there’s only soil left.

Q3. Can you lay sod over landscape fabric?

Yes. You can lay sod over landscape fabric as long as you pour some topsoil first. The topsoil is where the new sod will root, so it is essential.

Q4. Can you lay sod in the rain?

No. In case the day of sod delivery turns overcast, it’s always better to leave the laying to another day. Why? Because sod turns muddy, and thus almost impossible to lay.

Q5. Can you lay sod in the winter?

Yes. Most grasses will turn dormant in the winter, so they may a few more weeks to establish and grow. But as soon as temperatures warm up, it should normalize.

Q6. What temperature is too cold to lay sod?

The minimum temperature for sod would be 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything lower than that (especially if frozen) will make it impossible for the sod to establish.

Q7. When is the best time of year to lay sod?

Professionals always recommend laying new sod between spring and the last week of fall. This is because temperatures stay within 50- and 70-degrees Fahrenheit in most places, allowing for easier sodding.

Q8. How long to lay sod?

It depends on the size of the lawn. But as a general measurement, you can say one person can lay about 500 square feet of sod in an hour.

Conclusion

Now that you’ve learned how to lay sod, it’s time to put all that knowledge into practice.

Just remember the basics and our recommendations. They will make your experience a lot easier.

Then just wait a few months for the grass to establish entirely, and you’ll enjoy the most beautiful lawn.

So, what are you waiting for? Get that sod growing NOW!

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