How to Lay Sod in 5 Simple Steps

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Person laying sod roll for new lawn - landscaping with lay sod.

Maintaining a lawn throughout the year can pose some challenges. When faced with weather conditions, like heatwaves or cold spells, your grass might perish without proper care. If you’re considering revitalizing your struggling lawn or establishing a grassy area in your yard, you have two choices – sowing grass seeds or laying down sod.

Opting for sod installation may come at a price compared to seeding and waiting for it to grow naturally. However, the advantages outweigh the expenses. Explore our guide to learn how to lay sod and cultivate a garden not just this spring but for the year ahead.

When Should You Start Laying Sod?

Spring or Fall are usually the best seasons for laying sod because of milder temperatures and higher moisture levels that improve growth. We recommend laying sod in Spring, so it has time to develop roots before the summer heat arrives. However, whether you choose Spring or Fall, be aware that laying sod in extreme heat or cold conditions can lead to stress factors and eventual death of the grass.

What Does it Cost to Lay Sod?

The cost to lay sod is calculated by square foot. The base price of sod (if you decide to lay it yourself) is around $0.30 to $0.85  for materials per square foot. Professional gardeners will lay the grass on your behalf, but you can expect to pay extra for sod installation costs which include prep work such as grass removal. This usually amounts to between $1 to $2 per square foot of sod.

The cost to install is high if you hire a professional. To save money, we recommend laying the sod yourself.

Planting seedling in soil for new lawn, lay sod landscaping.

5 Steps For How to Lay Sod This Spring

For more advice on how to save money, read on to discover how to lay sod yourself this spring and save on installation costs.

Prepare the Soil

Before starting, you will need to prepare your soil properly. This involves removing debris, rocks, and twigs so the surface area is level and ready for the grass. Soil tests are great ways to check pH levels and ensure the nutrient content is high enough to keep your grass well-fed.

Lime or sulphur will help you change your soil’s pH level naturally. Compost or peat moss will improve its fertility, so your sod will start quickly growing to its full potential.

Fill the Area with Topsoil

Preparing the soil gives your grass the best possible chance of establishing itself. Ensure you fix any uneven areas and that the surface is flat before laying.

Start by breaking up any clumps of soil larger than 2 inches so that the sod lays evenly and allows the roots to grow and establish. Find and fix any low-level spots in the soil which may hold onto water and restrict drainage. Compost or manure also adds essential nutrients to the soil and keeps roots strong and healthy. It will also improve the overall structure of the soil.

Smooth the Soil

The final step to prepare for laying sod is to make sure the surface is flat and even. This ensures you grow healthy grass and avoid uneven growth or poor water drainage.

Using a sturdy garden rake, carefully level the soil surface and smooth out any bumps or uneven spots. A smooth base helps with root development and sets the foundation for a uniform lawn. Gently compacting the soil with a lawn roller helps smooth the surface further.

Lay the Sod

Choosing the ideal day to install sod in your garden is crucial. The optimal conditions for planting grass are on cool and cloudy days, as roots find it easier to grow and establish. Avoid hot and dry weather, as the grass will very likely dehydrate and die off.

Moistening the soil’s surface before planting your grass helps the sod and soil integrate together. It will also speed up the ability of the roots to take up the necessary nutrients it needs to grow.

Try to arrange it in a staggered pattern so the grass looks seamless and receives maximum coverage. While laying, fit the pieces tightly together to avoid gaps and ensure the grass grows evenly.

Once you’ve finished, press out any air pockets using a sod roller.

Efficient garden sprinkler system waters lush lawn, lay sod installation, under sunny sky.

Water Regularly

To help the new sod successfully establish,  water it every day. Right after laying down the sod, give the whole area a good soak to help the soil settle and encourage the roots to grow. This initial watering sets up a suitable environment for the sod to take hold and creates a strong base so your grass thrives.

After the first watering, maintain a regular routine by giving the sod a daily drink.  Depending on rainfall, this might need to be adjusted. Ideally, keep the soil consistently damp down to about 4 inches deep. This helps prevent the sod from drying out and encourages deep root growth into the soil.

In about 2 to 3 weeks, you should feel some resistance when gently pulling at the edges of the sod pieces, indicating that they’ve successfully taken root in the ground.

Final Thoughts On How to Lay Sod

Learning how to lay sod in your garden is a fantastic option if you’re looking to improve the look and feel of your outdoor space instantly. It does cost more to lay down turf as opposed to seeding, but the benefits of having a healthy and lush lawn make it a worthwhile investment.

Before you think about laying down turf, consider the weather on the day of planting as well as the health of your soil, as this may affect how well your grass will grow. Poor soil and a lack of water drainage will prevent the turf’s roots from establishing, and you may waste your investment.

Properly caring for your lawn will allow it to thrive, enabling you to enjoy a beautiful lawn as you move into the hotter summer months.

A sprinkler spraying water on grass.

Frequently Asked Questions

Our most frequently asked questions laying sods.

1. How do I know if the grass has taken root?

You can check whether the sod has taken root about 2 to 3 weeks after laying it by pulling on its edges. If you feel a bit of resistance, it’s a good sign the grass has rooted well into the soil.

2. What are the benefits of using sod instead of seeding?

Laying sod instead of seeding the area has plenty of advantages, one of them being that you can see instant results. You also get consistent coverage with sod and much faster development. Seeding requires time for sprouting and can take months to grow fully.

3. How can I ensure my newly laid sod stays healthy in the long run?

Try to fertilize the area regularly and manage any weeds you come across. Looking at the moisture of the soil and making sure it drains properly are also key factors in keeping your lawn looking healthy.

4. Why is preparing soil necessary before laying down sod?

Always prepare the soil before laying down sod so that your new grass can establish itself properly. Remove any debris or weeds and check the soil’s pH levels to ensure the lawn gets the nutrients it needs.

5. What are the advantages of adding topsoil?

Adding topsoil helps establish a flat surface to lay your sod over. The topsoil is another supply of essential nutrients with the added benefit of improving the structure of the soil underneath. It improves the fertility of soil and water drainage so the sod grows well and has strong roots.

6. How does smoothing out the soil aid in successful sod installation?

Smoothing out the soil surface promotes uniform grass growth and prevents issues like unevenness and poor water drainage. By levelling the soil using a garden rake and compacting it with a lawn roller, you establish a solid base for the sod, supporting healthy root growth and consistent lawn coverage.

7. What steps should I take to care for newly laid sod?

After laying down grass, it’s important to maintain it to keep it healthy and promote continued strong growth. This involves mowing at the appropriate height, controlling weeds, and providing adequate fertilization for necessary nutrients.

Keep an eye on the grass’s health to prevent pests and diseases by dealing with any issues when first spotted. 

To maintain the quality of your laid grass, it’s best to avoid heavy foot traffic until it has fully settled to protect its root system. With care and attention, your fresh grass will give you a lush green lawn for many years.

8. How Should I Care for Grass That’s Walked on Regularly?

Select a variety of grass that can cope with the extra footfall, such as Bermuda or Zoysia grass.

These kinds of grasses have roots that can handle being walked on without getting damaged easily. Sticking to a maintenance routine is vital, including cutting, watering and fertilizing the grass so it stays vibrant and strong.

By providing care, the grass will be more resilient against foot traffic pressure and recover quickly from any harm. Regularly aerating the soil also helps to prevent it from becoming too compacted and promotes root growth.

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